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Writing a Mystery

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by

Josi Kilpack

on 11 June 2016

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Transcript of Writing a Mystery

Josi S. Kilpack
Mouthwatering Mystery
Preparation:
Ingredients:
Instructions:
Type
Detective
Puzzle
Clues & Red Herrings
Villain
Conclusion
Combine
Mix
Bake
Police Detective or other Crime Professional
investigative process is central
works with a group
unusual/deviant crimes
often multiple crimes
gritty
plot driven
Police Procedural:
Hard-Boiled Detective:
Private Investigator; often male
Gritty realism
Pessimistic
Action packed
Violent crimes
Urban
Tough-guy
Plot driven
Soft-Boiled Detective:
Private Investigator; often female
Action
Realism
Optimistic
Wry humor
Violent crimes but not overly graphic
Plot and character driven
Cozy
Amateur sleuth; usually female
Non-graphic crimes
Thematic
Humorous
Character driven
Police Procedural or Hard Boiled
+ Bleak Despair
_____________________
Noir
Audience
Audience:
Detective:
Gender
Age
Occupation
Personal Motivation beyond $$
*Type of mystery and audience will influence what type of detective you put into your book.
Unique
Motivated
Justified
Background
Complex
Villain:
Important
Complex
Unique
Murder
First 50 pages
Puzzle:
Clues:
Red Herrings:
Character: with a secret, guilty of something other than the bigger crime, with a motive, with opportunity = could be the killer.
believable
Diversion from the true villain
logical
Provides a clue toward the truth
Seemingly unimportant
Multiple interpretations
Force the Hero to think
Combine together into larger clues
"By George, I've got it!"
"By George, I've got it"
You're hero has to put the pieces together
Use the hero's special abilities
Unusual
Logical
Believable
Satisfying


Conclusion:
Unanswered questions are answered
Sup-plots revealed
Good has conquered evil
Happily Ever After vs. "We set out to save the Shire, Sam, and it has been saved - but not for me."
Keep it short
Start with your main character; develop their backstory, reason for initial involvement, and setting. Outlining is optional. Add a murder within 3 chapters or 50 pages, whichever comes first.
1) Gather your supplies:
2) Combine ingredients:
Establish their reason to pursue this, take them inside. Sift through clues, distract with Red Herrings, explore a theme, and continue to mix well.
3) Mix well:
As Red Herrings are revealed, raise the stakes and increase pressure on main character to solve the crime or else.
4) Bake:
Main character connects the dots and solves the mystery via a climactic scene where their special skill is revealed/utilized.
5) Cool:
Tie up all loose ends and reassure the reader that the world is now a better place (except if writing a Noir, then there is no need)
Age
Gender
Tolerance

*Different audiences like different types of storylines, fit your genre to who you expect to read your book.
6) Revise, revise, revise
Middle Grade
:
Mystery that matters = Threat to happiness
Not too scary a threat.
Full transcript