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Monthly Archives: November 2014

If you want to write a ‘fairplay’ mystery – where your reader has all the clues to solve the mystery- the earlier you plant the clue that will give away the solution the better. Below is a case in point. Good old Sherlock!

Sherlock StarsSherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they were exhausted and went to sleep.
Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.
“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”
“What does that tell you?” Holmes said Watson pondered for a minute.
“Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Timewise, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that The lord is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have, a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”
Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. “Watson, you idiot, Some ——- has stolen our tent.”

The very first piece of information you were given is that they were camping. But after the good meal, the bottle of wine and the lengthy discussion about the meaning of the universe, you forgot that. Ta Da.

Mysteries are incredibly flexible. They can bend and twist to fit any circumstances or situation. If you are writing an interactive question cube4mystery event, you just have to know what you have to work with in the beginning to save yourself the work of adjusting elements later on. If you are writing a book, you have much more freedom – but you still need to know where you are going to end up. One of the great joys of being a writer is being able to lay the infrastructure so that it supports all the twists and turns you are going to pull your reader through on their way to solving the crime.

This does not mean you are married to a rigid outline or structure. Yes, you do have to make one, but if along the way a better idea pops up, follow it as far as you reasonable can. If this bright new idea is asking you to rearrange just about everything – it’s probably a different book. If you can easily tweak existing ideas to support the new twist – by all means follow it if it improves the story.