In a recent post, I wrote about my first writers conference. I attended three sessions which were extremely engaging, and I promised I’d share with you what I learned. So here goes…this is a short outline of what I was taught by Vic DiGenti in my first session of the day, “How to Write Killer Fiction – an Introduction to Mystery Writing.”
Elements of a Mystery
- Well-rounded character with human flaws
- Give your sleuth a goal, a need, a desire
- Characters are driven by revenge, reward, and relief
- Murder (crimes that need solving)
- Clues and characters
- Suspense, conflict, tension
Creating Your Sleuth
- Build a resume (name, age, birthday, physical description, etc)
- “put your characters on a couch” and ask questions
- Who are you?
- What do you fear?
- What are your hopes/dreams?
Creating a Crime Scenario – the Victim
- Define the crime – who, how, and where
- Is the victim tied to the plot?
- How does the victim lead the sleuth to the villain?
Creating a Villain
- Must test your sleuth
- Equal to sleuth in intelligence/creativity
- Give the villain some humanity
Be a Troublemaker
- Make the protagonist’s mission more difficult
- “throw rocks” at the protagonist
- Take away advantages
- Remember the “bomb under the table”
- Let the audience in on what might happen
- Suspense is created when the audience anticipates
- Turn up the sensory detail
- Bait and switch
- Increase tension, cut away
- Use short, declarative sentences
Ask “suppose?” and “what if?” to complete the premise of your mystery.
Remember your audience.
Do your research, and be accurate!
Vic DiGenti’s Recommended Books:
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel – Hallie Ephron
How to Write Killer Fiction – Carolyn Wheaton
Murder and Mayhem – D.P. Lyle, M.D.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating – Steven Kerry Brown
A Writer’s Guide to Private Investigators – Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet & John Landreth
A Writer’s Guide to How Private Citizens Solve Crimes – Elaine Raco Chase & Anne Wingate
Don’t Murder Your Mystery – Chris Roerden
Writing Mysteries – Jan Burke
On Writing – Stephen King