World’s Greatest Puzzle
How do so many authors roll out one mystery novel after another, every year or two? Plotting a mystery is one of the hardest puzzles I’ve ever tried to conquer. Granted, it’s not in the same category as human and relational matters, or organizing for social and political change, or health or spirit or physical feats. But as mental challenges go, creating a mystery plot ranks right up there.
Beyond the central crime, investigation, and solution, mysteries interweave subplots and red herrings, motives and dangers, missteps and misdirection. Multiple points of view must dovetail, even when only one is overt. Pacing must vary without letting up. Playing fair means giving readers all the essential clues without giving away the solution. Every mystery I read sets me trying to figure out not only, Who’s guilty? but, How did the author do that?
5/14/2018 09:42:31 am
Maybe the author was confused right to the end, and was revealing everything she/he thought important, but the answer wasn't yet obvious to them (you) until then?
Fascinating notion to have two different conclusions, depending. The author I chatted with on Saturday, at the Council for Wisconsin Writers luncheon, and I shared our amazement at the "pantsers" (write by seat of pants) who plunge into writing a mystery without knowing who committed the crime. He and I are both "plotters" who have the general plot laid out in advance, even though details will change and fill in along the way.
5/15/2018 08:34:34 am
That's how we commoners think it happens in writing — like it does for you. I guess I watch too many True Crime shows. Unlike the crime shows that are about the crime, and lawyer shows that are about the trial, these shows cover both. The person who was arrested doesn't always get convicted, for a variety of reasons. So how can you be sure until the end???!!! :)
When writing goes well, the reader doesn't know till the end, but the seeds must all be planted along the way, so the reader finally says in a tone of surprise, "Oh, of course!". Don't know how an author plants those seeds without knowing the outcome. Of course, there are suspense novels where you know who did what from the start, but you don't know how the detectives will figure it out in time to prevent another murder.
5/15/2018 04:05:40 pm
Ah ha. That explains it!
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.