What makes a mystery pt 1 - The hidden plot

When I decided to get serious about writing *and finishing* a novel, I knew it would be a mystery. Partly, because I read so many, partly because I liked that the story had a built in engine - solve the crime.

What I didn't realize when I started was the "hidden plot" that goes into mysteries. Not a secondary plot, or a subplot, but a plot I kept guarded in shadows.

I'd analyzed all sorts of things about books - I was a lit major for heaven's sake - I could squeeze more meaning out of a book than the author ever intended. But structure was new to me.

So I just started writing. Then, about 20 pages in, I realized that I needed to figure out the hidden plot. I needed to know who the killer was (always helpful!), what his motivations were, how he pulled off what he did, where he was at all times - then I had to not tell the reader. Instead, I had to lay it underneath the obvious plot of the book and let it show through.

It reminded me of when I made my Christmas cards and had one image peeking out from behind the vellum on top. I needed to show bits of the hidden plot to the readers all the way through the book, and then reveal it in the end in a way that will make them say "Ah, I see! It was there all along!"

That has been my big push during this second draft of the book, making sure that plot was solid, and seen but not seen too much. Like hiding easter eggs in the living room - or in Lost. ;)

2 comments:

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm trying to do the same thing with my fantasy novel, which is a sort of fantasy mystery novel, or to be more precise, a fantasy espionage novel. In this case, my spy must stop the enemy from carrying out their plans. Mysteries solve crimes after the fact, but an espionage novel must solve it before it happens. Its tricky. That's why I'm rereading everything I have so far so I can brainstorm exactly how to end this thing.

June 30, 2007 at 1:05 PM
Mystery Robin said...

Oh, that does sound tricky! I'm less familiar with espionage - other than Le Carre. So you have to have the bad guys plot all worked out, have the good guys figure it out, and foil it before it actually happens, don't you!

Best wishes with the editing and ending! I've ended mine many different ways - it's hard!

July 1, 2007 at 9:40 AM

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