Mystery Factory

THE ULTIMATE MYSTERY RESOURCE

HOW TO WRITE MYSTERY Plots

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Suspense = Can’t stop reading aka a ‘page turner’.

 

 

Mystery Writing rules – 1928

In 1928, Father Ronald Arbuthnott Knox  (1888 – 1957) priest and crime writer,  created a “Ten Commandments” of plot devices that more or less codified the rules of the Fair-play whodunnit. A few of them are vastly outdated now, but still, fun to look over and appreciate in principal:

    • The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early on, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
    • All supernatural solutions are ruled out.
    • No more than one secret room or passage is allowable, and must be appropriate.
    • No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
    • No Chinaman must figure in the story. ( A case of unsophisticated anti-racism, given the Yellow Peril figures prevalent in dodgy crime fiction at the time.)
    • No accidents or lucky intuition must ever help the detective.
    • The detective must not himself commit the crime.
    • The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
    • The detective and his sidekick must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind.
    • Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been prepared for them.

Mysteries are Really Two Stories

One story is What Appeared to Happen, and the second story, which everyone is trying to figure out, is What Really Happened. as the meme below clearly illustrates.
What happened

 

 

 

 

Technique & Miscellaneous Advice

nibpenJoseph Hansen
“Don’t just say it’s raining – make us feel the sodden weight of a wall of water driven by winds at sixty miles an hour.”

Looking for a good way to dispose of the remains?

nibpen“There is nothing quite so good as burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating.” Alfred Hitchcock (English Film Director, 1899 – 1980)

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2 Comments

    1. Hello Mystery Lover!
      A mystery has two components; ‘what actually happened’ and ‘what appeared to have happened’. You tell the story of ‘what appeared to have happened’ and your detective or protagonist figures out ‘what actually happened’. This is often accomplished by telling the story out of chronological sequence. Know what actually happened before you start, break it down into pieces and then toss them out there for your sleuth to find and put back together.
      A mystery doesn’t have to be a murder, in fact it doesn’t even have to be a crime. A ‘whodunnit’ simply means that an unknown person performed an action – no matter if the action is a murder, a theft, or the baking of a cake. Basically you want to have your theft have the motive, the method and the opportunity (The Mystery Bones) to have committed the theft and then create the clues to prove that he had, indeed, each of those three things. You will also need to create clues to show that other people also had one or two of the Bones (motive, method or opportunity) otherwise there is nothing to solve. You can get a bit of help with the clues here.
      Put the crime, or a piece of intrigue leading up to the crime, at the beginning of the story. You want to grab the reader and have them asking questions right away. Keep the action going right up until the end. ‘Give hope. Take hope away. Give hope. Take hope away.’ Let your detective make wrong assumptions and then figure out what a clue really means at the last minute. If you enjoy writing your mystery then others will enjoy reading it.