Author Topic: Plotting mystery novels - tips?  (Read 2923 times)  

Offline Decon

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips, software?
« Reply #50 on: July 12, 2017, 07:48:49 AM »
Tips... I've recently finished a mystery and at Chapter 62 I had my twist ending.  I had six suspects with strong motive and it was none of them. However I wasn't satisfied and went on to write an unplanned further 2 chapters and an epilogue to add a further final twist to the ending and to tie up loose ends.

There must be many other examples of the double twist I'm sure, but I can't find them.

I've had someone reading it on Wattpad and it was so rewarding for me when the arrived at chapter 62 and said "That was one hell of a twist. Wow. I didn't see that coming. Very good" Maybe I should have stopped there, but at the epilogue which tied up all the loose ends and final twist reveal, they wrote. "Great story. Interesting twists and wrap up"

So I guess it was mission accomplished. I'm only saying this because, as good as your twist is, I don't like to leave loose ends that would distract from the pleasure of the read.

Loose ends are only any good if it is planned as important to pick up in the next book in a series. At least that's my take.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 07:51:46 AM by Decon »


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Offline Casper Bogart

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips, software?
« Reply #51 on: July 12, 2017, 09:05:16 AM »
Start with an interesting detective, and an unusual method of murder. At least I did in my story THE CASE OF THE PINK LADY. My detective is none other than Richard Nixon, (yes, THAT Nixon) right after he loses the race for Governor of California. He's in the political wilderness,washed up, depressed, angry, frustrated, flawed--which makes him interesting.

Once I find the detective, I search for the crime, and the murderer, and like others, I write out what actually happened--and the motive.

Then, I just build a clue trail. In the case of the above story, it's a short, so there aren't a great deal of suspects. The fun is in going back and forth between Nixon's inner turmoil and his brilliant mind in solving a crime that he's close too. Amateur sleuth stuff, almost a cozy-like. Certainly elements of humor. It can't be considered an actual cozy, so I think of his stories as hard-boiled spoofs, with some elements of political intrigue. Fun to write.

Anyway, that was my method.

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Offline MClayton

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips, software?
« Reply #52 on: July 12, 2017, 10:11:23 AM »
Ah, but did you know they make a pen and paper set that you can use in the shower?  A friend of mine bought it for me, and it has come in quite handy on occasion.

I had heard that - I need to go order one.  :)

Or just put your phone in a waterproof case and use OneNote.

I'd drown in there before I ever finished typing my thought. Phones and I don't do well together - thumbs are too clumsy!

Offline RobCornell

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips, software?
« Reply #53 on: July 12, 2017, 01:49:23 PM »
Two books I think are great for mystery writers:



and

Writing the Modern Mystery by Barbara Norville, which is out of print, but available used. https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Mystery-Norville-Barbara-published/dp/B00EKYJL4S/

The latter is really one of the best to break down the plotting process for a mystery novel I've seen. It's a shame it's out of print, but it is pretty old.

P.S. Larry Beinhart is a "pantser," so you might get some insight from his book on that score.

Offline ceejay13

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips, software?
« Reply #54 on: July 16, 2017, 11:57:32 AM »
I have a completely outlined and partially finished mystery on the backburner while I write my historical trilogy. This how-to by Hallie Ephron - Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel -  is great. I think it's recently been updated by the author. Hallie's book is very practical, has exercises at the end of each chapter, and a blueprint for planning a mystery novel. You might find it helpful too.

Re-reading novels by that master plotter Agatha Christie helped me plot mine. I'm also an avid mystery reader and I like watching crime dramas on tv.

Online Konolly

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips?
« Reply #55 on: July 17, 2017, 08:20:04 AM »
I just wanted to give a big, belated thank you to everyone who replied to me - it's been a mad week and I'm just getting a chance to have a good look at this thread now. I've realised the word 'software' in my title was odd so I've taken it out - I think I meant things like Excel spreadsheets, like beat sheets etc :S.

Just for clarification, I do intend to plot my (cozy) mystery rather than pants it but I'm finding the process surprisingly overwhelming. I have my amateur sleuth and the setting figured out fine, it's the actual murder/mystery part that I've been struggling with (if only it were the other way around!). Part of the problem, I think is that I'm used to writing character-led stories rather than anything particularly plot-heavy. But the main issue is that I quickly end up talking myself out of the murder weapon/suspects/clues I come up with - either something is too obvious, too contrived or too 'out there'. It's a confidence issue as much as anything, but it annoyingly puts me off writing the mysteries I actually really want to write!

Anyway, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron is winging its way to me now, and I'm going to have another read through this thread and then get back to the drawing board!

Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips?
« Reply #56 on: July 17, 2017, 09:41:58 AM »
You may have already done this, but I try to get into my suspect's heads and define their characters, too.  What drives them?  Why are they in this situation?  Would they be willing to commit the murder, but someone else beat them to it?  Why are they a suspect?  Is another character framing them?

This really helped me write my mystery since I knew some of the characters would be in the next book.  If you plan to write more than one cozy, some characters will probably be back and one might even be the next murderer. 

Many great books have been recommended, but one of my favorite mystery movies is Laura from 1944.  A classic film noir with lots of great twists and amazing characters, who almost all make good suspects. :)

« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 09:46:41 AM by Lorri Moulton »

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Offline ceejay13

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips?
« Reply #57 on: July 17, 2017, 01:14:35 PM »
Konolly, delighted that you ordered Hallie Ephron's book. I think you'll find it very helpful; I know I did, esp the blueprint, which I recreated in a Word doc. I forgot to add this in my previous post but Elizabeth Spann Craig has a series of short articles about writing cozies on her website, which also may be helpful to you. 

Online LifesHumor

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Re: Plotting mystery novels - tips?
« Reply #58 on: July 17, 2017, 08:27:59 PM »
I'm starting to plot a thriller that has cozy elements, but I wouldn't categorize it as a cozy. Thanks for starting this thread. There are some great suggestions.
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