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8

EDIT: In reconsidering this question and a conversation I had with a colleague the other day I believe I have something to add on this. He mentioned reading about the way Agatha Christie used to construct her stories. He made the assertion that she used to write the whole thing without actually knowing who the murderer was, then analyse what she had written ...


7

Up front, I must say "I am not a lawyer." Heed the advice given above and consult a lawyer specializing in copyright law. That said, it seems clear to me right now that publishing in the UK should be fine, but you could open yourself to a legal challenge from the Conan Doyle estate if you publish your work in the United States and do not contact the estate ...


7

The way to play this depends heavily on what you're trying to achieve with your antagonist's secret goal. The key concept here is that every major thread should have some set-up and introduction in the first act; how precisely to accomplish that for the "antagonist's goal" thread depends on the specifics of your story. So, what are your goals for this ...


6

I have been working on exactly the same problem. What I've found so far are below. I've only just got these books, so I can't tell you how good they are apart from first impressions, but here goes: 1) The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery Which is a step-by-step program to help you develop your characters, your murder, your plot and everything else. Looks ...


5

There is a balance between maintaining point of view, and maintaining suspense, which can crop up whenever your protagonist or your POV (point-of-view) character is planning ahead in any detail. The difficulty is this: If in your story your POV character is making plans and preparations, and then afterwards he puts those plans and preparations into action, ...


4

The two biggest insights I've had into plotting a mystery are: Think about the mystery as two stories: the crime and the detection. Obviously, these are tightly intertwined, but I've found that thinking of them as discrete stories helps spark better ideas. If you just plot the detection story, then every aspect of the crime ends up being a straight ...


4

I don't know of any online resources, but I would offer a couple of my own suggestions: 1) Before you begin the story, you MUST know how the crime was actually committed. This is because stories of this type can require complex choreography to get the various characters into the correct positions. If you realize too late that you have to change the ...


4

The murder mystery is generally a mystery for four reasons: who did it, how did they do it, how are they caught, and why did they do it. If you only focus on "who did it", then I believe you have no choice but to accept that the reader is going to try and figure out who did it the whole way. This is because that is the whole purpose of your story. You've ...


4

I would say that the conclusions are not necessarily the problem, rather the delivery. You don't have to spell some things out so matter of factly, you can infer them through conversation. Also, you should be more specific with your delivery, rather than being vague. For an example consider the first part of what you've written: John sighed, and thought ...


4

Maybe not a real person, but with a little storytelling sleight of hand, Arthur Conan Doyle made Sherlock Holmes do that stuff all the time. You'll probably have to explain the chain of logic for the reader at some point, perhaps by having John explain it to a bewildered onlooker (a la Watson).


4

Be very careful with this. A new writer submitted such a story to my writer's group. The main character, referred to as "she," took a drink, picked up her trunk, and a few other things. In the end we discover she is an elephant. The writer's intention was to amuse us by exposing our assumptions. Unfortunately, not a single one of the half dozen ...


3

I think it's going to depend on what the reasons are. If the antagonist (Andrew) is framing the protagonist (Peter), then Andrew wants Peter to take the blame for something which Peter didn't do. But then Andrew is going to help Peter out of the mess which Andrew created. So does that mean Andrew wants Peter to owe him? Does Peter know Andrew framed him in ...


3

He who lives by the trope, dies by the trope. If your readers are trying to use metaplot to solve your mystery, they're setting themselves up for a lot of toying with, if you choose to alter the rules they're familiar with. The first step to playing with tropes and conventions is to become a master of them yourself. Make a list of mystery tropes you are ...


2

A popular variant of the whodunit structure is the howdunit or the howcatchem, in which the question isn't who committed the crime - it's how he managed to pull it off, and/or how the detective succeeded in conclusively proving the culprit's guilt. I find that this neatly sidesteps the problem, because the reader is no longer guessing which of a list of ...


2

I think the dual goals have a lot to do with the purpose of the antagonist. Just like Lauren said, what does Andrew want out of Peter? If you show the readers Andrew's goals in the start, it doesn't necessarily show the reader his intentions, they can always deviate from the expected. My suggestion: show his goal early, let the reader build an image and ...


2

In Role Play we call this "meta-gaming": analysing information as if it is slave to convention as opposed to being part of a fresh and thrilling new narrative. There are two methods of combating cynical audience members who employ this tactic. Write the words "All Bets Are Off" on a piece of paper. Affix this somewhere you will see it whenever you pause ...


2

It's not at all cheating. The narrative "camera" can't be in all places at all times or your book will be a thousand pages long and only cover an hour. In fact, part of the joy of a mystery is that the reader doesn't know what Person A did offscreen, and has to work it out. The detective/cop/agent/etc. (whoever is solving the mystery) can't be in all ...


1

Truth be told, that is one of the hardest things ever. Definitely give him a title as a reference point. Sometimes a title works just as well as an actual name. For example: "The Dark-Haired man" could refer to a specific character whose name we don't know. Something like that. Be very careful to be specific and make it as obvious as possible who is ...


1

I'd primarily avoid having the characters do anything that a human couldn't do, or wouldn't naturally do. No tail-wagging, licking of a character's own butt, etc.-- but also no swinging from tree to tree, flinging poo, or things of that nature, if you want to avoid any question. A way to actively conceal the characters' species would be to find examples of ...


1

Maybe you can look into how Memento was written and use that as a framework? Stefano Ghislotti wrote an article in Film Anthology which discusses how Nolan provides the viewer with the clues necessary to decode sujet/plotline as we watch and help us understand the fabula/story from it. The color sequences include a brief overlap to help ...


1

Specifically on Tapply's Elements of Mystery Fiction, I bought the book, and was disappointed to find almost nothing concerning the plotting issues I raised in the question. Alas.


1

A) There is no resource in the world that will make you a writer like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, or Isaac Asimov. You are going to be the writer that YOU are going to be. Being inspired by the greats is fine and a good thing. B) The best resource anywhere for tropes is tvtropes.org, and specific mystery tropes may be found at ...



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