Missy Jenkins Musical Mysteries
|Posted on September 7, 2019 at 5:40 PM||comments (459)|
Remember that a good plot twist can't be thrown in at the end just to fool the reader. You have to play fair. When readers look back, they should be able to see all the clues and realize that everything fits into place. With a perfect twist ending, the reader ought to smack their forehead and say, "Wow, what a great ending! I should have seem that coming."
If you kept the reader guessing until the final confrontation, your twist was exceptional. Here are some tips to help achieve that goal:
These are my suggestions to create well-written, emotionally satisfying plot twists. If you properly set up your reader's expectations, even when he doesn't get what he anticipated, he'll realize it's still what he wanted.
I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS 5-PART SERIES, "PLOTTING A MYSTERY." READ ALL 5 PARTS IN MY BLOG POSTS, OR IF YOU WOULD LIKE A COPY OF THE ENTIRE SERIES, EMAIL A REQUEST TO [email protected]
|Posted on July 11, 2019 at 4:22 PM||comments (107)|
Every mystery is filled with the usual suspects to keep the reader guessing "whodunit" until the end. Have at least four characters in your novel who have possible motives to commit the crime. They will be hiding secrets, lying to your protagonist, and acting suspiciously throughout the book; they each may have a reason to want the victim dead. But only one is lying about being the killer. Your job as the author is to trick the reader into believing right up until the final disclosure--that any one of those suspects could be guilty. Here are some ways to do that:
Always remember - each one of your "usual suspects" should have a solid motive so that the reader can believe, right up to the end, any one of them could be the killer!
Coming soon - PART FOUR: BUILDING SUSPENSE
|Posted on June 19, 2019 at 7:42 PM||comments (105)|
PLOTTING A MYSTERY, PART TWO: PLANTING CLUES AND RED HERRINGS
There are several techniques to use for dropping clues and hiding secrets. You can divert attention from a clue with an action or a joke; you can drop clues in dreams; you can hide clues in lists of interesting things; or you can use dialogue for misdirection.
Coming soon - PART THREE: "THE USUAL SUSPECTS--WHAT'S THEIR MOTIVE?"
|Posted on June 12, 2019 at 8:17 PM||comments (99)|
How does a mystery writer go about planting clues and red herrings, fill the book with the usual suspects and the right amount of foreshadowing, enough conflict and suspense to keep the reader guessing whodunit, with a twist at the end? Follow along on the series of blogs, coming up in the next several weeks, to see what worked for me.
This week's blog is titled "Outline or Not, but Have a Plan."
Whether you're a plotter or a "pantser," when writing a mystery you can't leave everything to chance. Let me be honest. I don't always know the end of the story when I start writing. I don't always write in any particular order. In fact, I write sketchy outlines after my first draft and even then, I'm bound to change them later. Still, I know I need at least somewhat of a plan.
For my first novel, Terror in Double Time, the historical subplot was the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident, so my mystery had to fall within a certain timeline. That gave me an outline I could follow. Certain events in the mystery had to happen on certain days of the disaster.
In the second book in the series, Death in 3/4 Time, I based the plot on an unsolved true crime, and took the ending in my own what if? direction. So I knew the ending (whodunit), even though I didn't know all the details of how I'd get to the end. So, no outline, no real plot, but a beginning and an end, so I did have a plan.
When I started writing Killing in Quarter Time, book three, all I had was an idea. I didn't plot; I just started writing and hoped the characters would show me the way. After all, I had lived with the main characters through two other books, I knew them as well as I knew myself! The characters showed me the way, all right--they took me in a totally different direction than where I was going in the first half. I had to go back and re-write. finding and changing all the clues I had already planted.
That novel made me re-think my way of writing. I still like the quote from E.L. Doctorow: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see so far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." That works for my short stories, but maybe it's not such a good idea for a traditional whodunit.
Look for my next installment: "The Usual Suspects--What's Their Motive?"
|Posted on June 3, 2018 at 8:08 PM||comments (133)|
ARE YOU A PLOTTER OR A PANTSER?
What does that mean? To a writer, it describes how you go about your writing process.
A “plotter” means that the writer starts by making an outline before the first sentence of the novel is written. She knows how the story starts, where it’s going and she knows the ending. She knows every character, what they’re going to do, where they’re going and when. Sure, once and a while she might change her mind and stray from her outline—she’s not inflexible, after all—but there will still be a revised outline and a clear ending in mind. For some people, that works. For some, that’s too restrictive.
A “pantser” is a writer who “flies by the seat of her pants.” She has an idea for a story, starts writing, and lets the characters and the story take her where they will. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it works. Most of the time. Sometimes you can write yourself into a corner. Sometimes you can go off on tangents. But the creative freedom the pantser enjoys far outweighs, for them, the plotting and organizing that the plotter goes through prior to putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Whichever type of writer you are, each has its merits and there are excellent authors from both camps. As writers, we all have our preferences, and we all agree—whatever process works for you is the right (write) one!
|Posted on January 23, 2018 at 5:41 PM||comments (85)|
Call it flow, pacing, or movement—your scenes, chapters, paragraphs, and sentences should be varied in length and technique. As a musician, I prefer to call it rhythm.
Short, choppy sentences and fragments add tension to a scene. In real life, sentences tend to grow shorter as we become more upset. We speak in fragments, sometimes uttering single words at a time. Especially when used in dialogue, this can add a sense of reality to a scene.
Add beats to your dialogue—bits of action interspersed through the scene. Replace the “he said, she said” tags with action or physical gestures to make your writing more interesting. Interior monologue can also be considered a sort of interior beat. Beats serve a variety of purposes, such as allowing you to vary the pace of your dialogue.
Frequent paragraphing gives dialogue extra snap and adds tension to a scene. It’s like the staccato sound of a musical instrument: sharp, crisp, quick. Also try to avoid paragraphs that run more than half a page in length. Unbroken chunks of written material are off-putting to many of today’s readers. Some white space on the page is visually inviting and can make your writing more engaging. Brief scenes and even short chapters can add to your story’s tension as well.
The opposite approach also applies. If your style is a narrative, more relaxed approach—in musician’s terms, legato—you need a more leisurely rhythm to your writing. Longer sentences and paragraphs can soothe the reader, and that’s okay if your goal is literary prose, narration, description or introspection. Just remember—sentences and paragraphs should still vary in length so as not to bore or confuse the reader.
Sometimes a slow chapter nestled into an action-packed story can lull the reader into a false sense of security before the next tension-filled scene. The important thing to remember is that the rhythm of your writing must have variety. If you’re writing a mostly high octane story—thriller, adventure or mystery—you need a few scenes or chapters to let your characters decompress, slow down, relax, regroup. If you’re writing a slower-paced, narrative story, remember you still need some tension—your protagonist still has a goal and problems to solve.
|Posted on December 29, 2017 at 10:12 PM||comments (131)|
THE POWER OF PROOFREADING
Never underestimate the importance of the time you spend on proofreading your work. It’s the final, and most crucial, step in the writing process. Face it, we’ve all fallen victim to the occasional typo, misspelling, and grammar or punctuation errors that might even change the meaning of your text.
Time, or more accurately, the lack of time, is the main reason proofreading tasks are ignored. But if you take the time to proofread carefully, you show your reader that you care enough about them to pay attention to details. Find a solid block of uninterrupted time to concentrate on proofreading.
Whether you’re writing business documents, advertising material, personal letters or email, correct information is crucial. And don’t overlook those errors of omission! And if you make your living as a writer, you can’t expect a publisher to correct your manuscript. Their editor’s job is to edit content, not clean up your mistakes. You want professional-looking copy before your work is sent out.
Here are ten Proofreading Tips that I use. Try them to create your own error-free document.