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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Create with Mystery

Questions are hardwired into us from the time we grasp communication. Spend a day with a toddler and the main conversation is surrounded around “Why?” And knowing the answer can still be insufficient. “How” often comes next.

The mystery genre takes the desire to uncover motives ranging from a cozy pleasant afternoon adventure of  “who, when, and where” to complicated psychological puzzles. The mystery writer must plan out every detail to hold the story’s interest. However other genres need the curious just as much. The clues become imbedded in the plot.

Wrong turns, false trails and coincidental characters are the enticement that we follow like breadcrumbs to find the answer.  “What” will happen next?

When we create with mystery regardless of genre, we add an additional layer of depth to our storyline. Even if we know, or think we know, the outcome we’re more than willing to engage in the adventure. We are ready to discover the path that gets us from here to there. And the more tangled the better.

For example, in the movie Penelope, the diligent journalist Lemon follows his clues thoroughly. All his primary facts are right. However since his assumptions are slightly off kilter they not only mislead him but also his co-characters and the audience. In addition the error creates a long thread of subplot points adding to the story tension and resolution. At each junction the lure “why” creates more curiosity. When finally the beginning situation is revealed all the threads unravel into a clear understanding.

Journal Prompt:

It’s not only mysteries that can provide red herrings. Choose a conversation your protagonist has with someone important to her. Now take each line of conversation and choose a way it could be misunderstood.  Do a silly, comedic version and a serious confrontational version.

Choose the one that best fits your theme. Plot out a sequence of decisions that could result from that error in communication. Can you incorporate them as tension points in your novel?

Share: Share a movie or a novel that when the twist came you couldn’t believe you didn’t recognize it. And it fit perfectly into the story.

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