Friday, August 6, 2010

Guest Blogger - Dorothy Howell


A MYSTERY WRITER’S ROAD MAP

            The road to a completed novel is a long one.  There can be lots of stops and starts, many side trips, dozens of road blocks.  But, like any journey, the trip will be quicker if you know your destination – and drive straight to it. 
            Mapping out your route to a completed manuscript is vital.  Knowing where you’re going – and how to get there – will save you time, money, and mental energy. 
            Here are three ways to help you do that:

Develop your character
            What sort of mystery are you writing?  Hard-boiled?  Cozy?  Private detective?  Police procedural?  Amateur sleuth?
            The type of story you choose to write will dictate the life your protagonist will lead.  What strengths and weaknesses will your main character have?  Decide who his/her friends will be, what sort of characters will make up his/her support system.  Who are his enemies?  His frienemies?  Where will the story take place?  How will all of these factors affect plotting and pacing?
            Write down all the facts about your main character’s life, everything from birth to present day.  Find out what makes him/her tick.  Keep at it until you see him or her as a person, not a character. 
Plan the crime
            Before you write one word of your manuscript, decide who gets killed, why, and by whom.  Come up with a list of suspects and the reasons they could have committed the murder.  Figure out what clues are needed that will allow your protagonist to solve the crime.   This will give the middle of your story exciting hairpin turns and daring switchback thrills – plus save you a great deal of back-tracking.

Write an outline
            Writers are either outliners, or non-outliners.  Both groups have good reasons for their writing methods and are equally successful. 
            As I see it, outlining is essential when writing a mystery.  Clues and red herrings must fall into place at precise spots in the manuscript that will allow the protagonist to solve the murder.  Remember, the reader is trying to figure out whodunit also.  Don’t disappoint by not giving them that opportunity. 

            As with any road trip, it’s not the destination that’s most important, it’s the journey.  Readers want to take that trip through your novel and savor every twist and turn.  You, as the author, should feel the same way. 
Enjoy the ride!
Happy reading!
Dorothy


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