Tips on Plotting
- Start with an end and work toward a beginning.
- The beginning must be possible even if highly improbable in order to reach the end.
- Thoroughly research every plot rabbit hole before you start to write.
- Include a compelling character-driven subplot.
- Plan the big plot twists and red herrings to coincide with the book structure, use to set the pace.
- Start with an opening sentence that will “grab” the reader.
- Keep the reader guessing what will happen next.
- The ending must fit the story.
Classic 12-Chapter Mystery Formula
- Disclose the crime and mystery to be solved
- Reveal early clues that suggest both physical and psychological aspects of the initial crime.
- Clues should point to suspects and motive.
- Some clues point in the right direction, others may not be obvious or recognized as clues until later in the story.
- Introduce the sleuth
- Clarify the time and place where the crime occurs
- Begin with a dramatic event.
- Set the sleuth on the path toward solving the mystery
- Offer plausible suspects
- Turning Point: something should occur that makes it clear to the reader that the crime is more complicated
- Introduce the sub-plot to carry the theme.
- Sub-plots can come from a crisis in the sleuth’s private life, or in facing a dilemma involving a matter of character (courage or honesty).
- The resolution of the sub-plot will demonstrate change or growth of the protagonist.
- Reveal facts about suspects, through interrogation and discovery of clues.
- Flight or disappearance of one or more suspects.
- Develop a sense of urgency, raise the stakes.
- The investigation broadens to put suspicion on other characters.
- Information gathered points toward the solution, although the relevance may not be apparent.
- The sleuth’s background is revealed as the sub-plot is developed.
- Learn what drives the protagonist, what haunts or is missing in his life.
- Clarify that the sleuth has a personal stake in the outcome somehow.
- Reveal hidden motives, formerly secret relationships come to light.
- Such as business arrangements, romantic involvements, secrets to be settled, veiled kinships.
- Develop and expose meanings of matters about the earlier clues.
- The sleuth reveals results of the investigation.
- Review what is known and assess the possibilities.
- The solution of the crime appears to be impossible; the sleuth is stymied.
- Misinterpretation of clues or mistaken conclusions lead him in the wrong direction.
- The sleuth reviews the case to determine where he went wrong.
- Reveal the chain of events which provoked the crime.
- The crucial evidence is something overlooked earlier, has taken on new meaning now.
- The sleuth weighs the evidence and information gleaned from the other characters.
- The sleuth seeks positive proof to back up the yet undisclosed conclusion.
- Resolution of the sub-plot.
- The protagonist, having been tested by his private ordeal, is strengthened for the final action leading to the actual solution of the mystery.
- Climax: The dramatic confrontation between the sleuth and the perpetrator in which the sleuth prevails.
- Resolution: Revelation of clues and the deductive process which lead to the solution.