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  1. #1
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    Question to Stan

    How do you go about writing your mysteries? I love reading mysteries, but when I attempt to write them, I always find them lacking in something - usually a plausible twist, lol. So do you plan everything out beforehand where you know the climax and everything before you even start writing the beginning, or do you make it up as you go along so to speak, and use your natural powers of logic and pursuasion to complete the story?

    I particularly love the short story form to mysteries including Sherlock Holmes & Hercule Poirot. They are very formulaic but they do deliver their punchline - every time.



  2. #2
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    Re: Question to Stan

    I'm not Stan, but I've written some mysteries. Personally, I start out with a situation and a good idea of how I want the story to turn out and start writing. Characters, plot twists and subplots come to me day by day as I write, and I've never yet had one that didn't end up with things in it I'd never expected. Of course, that's how I write all my novels, because I don't like planning them out too exactly before hand.

    To see why, read some of Tim Powers' books. He plots out everything in advance, works out an outline of how the book's going to go and then writes to the outline. The books are good, mind you, but the characters never really come to life because he won't change his plans once he's started writing even if his plan doesn't fit the characters any longer.

  3. #3
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    Re: Question to Stan

    Hi. My name is Stan. And I'm not a mystery writer. I tried. Oh lord, I tried. But I gave up. And found that I did a creditable job with thrillers.

    The difference? Mysteries start with a murder. If the book is about the solving of that murder, with the BG (bad guy) not revealed until the end, it's mystery.

    If the murderer is known, but it's unclear if the murderer will kill the GG (good guy) before the end, and if there's lots of running around looking for clues, but no explosions, it's suspense.

    If the GG barely escapes fiery explosions, gunshots, snakebites, the odd knife wound, and ends up outsmarting the BG, it's thriller.

    Since there's no way to outline anything like that, I don't even try. Like Joe, I start with a bare-bones summary of a plot and let it unfold itself as I write it. Do I end up with a lot of incomplete versions? Yep. But it hangs together, and lets the characters do things they never would have thought about if they had to stick to an outline.

    If you don't want to tie yourself into the strait-jacket of a mystery plot (and they do have to be tightly plotted), then try suspense or thriller. They're fun to write.
    Stan

  4. #4
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    Re: Question to Stan

    I must disagree with you, Stan: mysteries don't have to start with, or even include a murder. As examples, the first three short stories about Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Redheaded League and A Case of Identity contain a grand total of zero murders. So far, I've completed two novels that could be classed as mysteries, and neither of them revolves around a murder, and I'm more-or-less working on two more. And, there are any number of crime/detective/mystery shows on TV that don't always include murder.

  5. #5
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    Re: Question to Stan

    Hey Joe, I think he was generalising - He meant that a mystery starts off with the ???, a suspense builds up toward the ??? & a thriller has the ??? thrown in somewhere around the middle. I like that distinction. Never thought of it that way. And you're right, a mystery doesn't have to include murder at all for it to be a mystery - but neither does a suspense or thriller - murder is just the most gratifying for blood hungry readers

    Funny how both of you prefer the make it up as you go along method. I used to do that too, but recently, I'm leaning toward the plot it all before you start method - doesn't mean I won't compromise & won't change should character traits or situational circumstance within the story demand it, it just means that I don't have to freak out about my story being (potentially) never ending. It has helped me to make my writing a lot more succinct where as I used to just waffle and I had no idea where my waffle would end up

    I love a scandal in bohemia - best holmes story ever, & not just coz he lost (oops should have given a spoiler warning)

  6. #6
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    Re: Question to Stan

    Joe,
    I was speaking metaphorically. Whatever the inciting event, a mystery revolves around a series of clues that lead the reader to the climax. Some aspect of the inciting event must remain hidden until the very end. Suspense and thriller can do that, but it's not the primary focus of the story. For thriller, it's the slam-bang ride to the king-hell explosion at the end (to use a bit of thriller-blurb verbiage).
    Stan

  7. #7
    Senior Member Herman Munster's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Writing, after a fashion!

    I have no idea what I do!

    Stan has suffered thru some passages of mine, he hasn't told me anything about if they are any good or complete trash. Actually, I am not overly worried either way.
    I write cos I want to and enjoy doing it.
    I have people who say they are "page turners". That is dangerous, it encourages me.

    I am not, nor ever have been, a Stan, BUT, I have a story to tell!

    I can't remember back to Nov 08 when I started. There is a thread in the Smoko Room, i it still exists, where i came and asked for a "real writer" to write the ending to my 80k word "good story". I was confident.
    \
    A man told me: They are YOUR characters, it is YOUR story, only you can write the ending!

    I sulked for 24 hours, got mad for 12 more and then wrote the 44k ending.
    Stan edited it back to 86k words. Infod8mp is not a word you want to be accustomed to recieving in emails!
    Eh Stan?

    So let's talk about 36 hours ago.
    I got an idea. Drugs, Taliban, 90% of the worlds opium poppies are in S Afghanistan, hence the worlds supply or heroin.
    I have 68 Covert Special Operatives in a room, with a new old man, who are due to leave on a C5 or C17 at 17:00, tonight.
    I am at 19k now and do need sleep, it could be nearer 48 hours, come to think of it.
    Oh yeah, that was a point I wanted tyo make. If I THINK about a plot or book too long I will think up another one and then go and write that b4 I forget.

    Drugs is labeled 0036. I have 14 or more in the bag, and 20+ unfinished from 1k words to 75k words, take your pick.

    Sample on the new Mil/Esp thread on New Genre Forums.
    Comments are welcome, if they are too scathing, sit on it Fonzie, I don't need your approval that much. Besides, i shall keep writing as long as I feel like it.

    IF

    someone wants to read them and enjoy them, GREAT, if there is a quid [dollar] in it, all the better. I live on welfare now thru serious illhealth, I managed for 16 years on it, I don't NEED money to keep using this machine until it blows up.

    As the others say above, do what appeals to you, we do.
    I am a complete automatic writer, going downhill with no brakes!

    Hey, did you know that the gene pool is open and there is no LIFEGUARD in attendance??

    Suck on that grandma!

  8. #8
    If you're writing a mystery, check out Hallie Ephron's excellent book Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. Here's an Amazon link:

    http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Sellin...5132255&sr=8-1

  9. #9
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    I'm not Stan either. I bought a "how to" book for mysteries, did what it told me to do, and came up with a great 9-page outline/roadmap. Then I realized I had already written the book at that point and it no longer interested me. No more outlines. I have to wonder what will happen next too.

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