Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mystery Stories

One of the most difficult parts of writing a mystery stories is planting the clues, at least I think so. I love mysteries and procedurals on television. I love to speculate about whodunit and I love to put the pieces together. I’m pretty good at picking up on the offhand clue that gets thrown about here and there. But as a writer, you really need to know whodunit long before you start writing and that’s why writing mysteries can be tough for me as a pantster.

While on vacation at Disney World, I found myself plotting out a mystery, the different clues I’d want my characters to find as well as recognizing whodunit. Usually, when I plot out a book, I get bored with it. But in this case, I’m not plotting the book, I’m plotting the mystery. This is just one element of the book, but for a ‘mystery’ it’s the most important part.

Inspiration for Mystery Stories

When in doubt about a genre or how to do something in a genre, you should read books or watch movies that fall into the genre you are writing. Great mystery stories that provide me with inspiration include:

J.D. Robb’s In Death series offers me a wide variety of mystery elements. First and foremost, the main character Eve Dallas is a homicide cop. She is often at the center of a mystery because she investigates homicides. Procedurals, by their nature, are mystery stories because you have to go through all the motions of crime scene investigation, interviewing witnesses, following leads and eventually cracking the case. In most novels, the case is always solved while in life, that is not always the case.

The television series Bones is arguably a procedural that relies heavily on science to solve cases where the bodies are either completely reduced to the bones or extremely old. One episode that stands out for me occurred during the first season when they found the skeletal remains of a man in a bomb shelter. They solved the mystery of his murder through deduction and science of his clothes, what he had in his brief case and the contents of his pockets as well as the physical evidence of how he died.

I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, but it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie that taught me to really appreciate the nuances of solving a mystery whether it was a missing item, a missing person, a murder or even a spy. From watching them on television to reading them in novels, mysteries fascinate me.

Clues Among Us

So I thought it would be fun to tease a little of the mystery story that was born while I was at the Magic Kingdom. I talked about it some in my Behind the Scenes series over at Novel Spot. So be sure to check it out. By the way, if you put together enough of these clues and send me the solution before I am done writing the book (by email) then I will enter you in a drawing to win a free copy when its done.

First Mystery (The Setting)

George Donovan is heading to Orlando, Florida for some much needed rest and relaxation. He’s been running on empty for months. A former homicide detective, George left the NYPD in 2008. For ten months, he’s been making a living as a private investigator slash bodyguard. An army brat, George was born in Germany and traveled all over the world before he turned 18. He attended the City University of New York, earning a degree in Law from City University Law College in Queens. He joined New York’s finest on September 1, 2001. Ten days later, he lost his innocence, his first partner and his fiancĂ©.

Two hours after checking into the All Star Sports Resort and Hotel in Magic Kingdom, George heads on over to this park. Which park does he visit first?

Come back next Tuesday for clue number two. What are you favorite types of mysteries?

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of the Cozy. But I like hte new modern version I'm seeing - cozies with sizzle and sex.

    There is nothing I like more than an amateur sleuth - you know the young single female who just can't stop herself from finding out what's going on.

    Love those stories more than having an investigator/cop do them. I think the invest/cops work better for me in thrillers than mysteries.