There are tons of great mystery authors out there who write fantastic mysteries. Some of my favorites are: Lorna Barrett, Elizabeth Peters (Nobody beats the Emersons!!)/Barbara Michaels (as Barbara Michaels she’s also brilliant. Stitches in Time is one of my favorite books), Janet Evanovich, Juliet Blackwell, Charlaine Harris, Carolyn Hart, PD James, David Baldacci (I love his Sean King and Michelle Maxwell series), and Diane Mott Davidson (though there are countless others). I’m not sure who plots and who doesn’t, but they all know how to craft a wonderful mystery.
When I start a book I plot out the major events, write the first chapter to see how the story is going to “feel”, then proceed with writing out my entire story in the form of an outline. After I do this, I know the important details of my book:
- Who the killer is
- Who the suspects are
- How the murder was committed
- Who the victim/s are
After I know all of these things I’m ready to jump in with both feet!
At this stage, one of two things happen:
- Write a first draft without the sub-plots (they’ll be incorporated into the story in the 2nd draft)
- Write the first draft with the sub-plots
I prefer method 1. I like to write out my entire story without the addition of the sub-plot.
Although I’ve written my sub-plot into my outline, the process of writing may reveal necessary changes. I prefer to make major changes before I’ve written in the sub-plots. That way, when I do write them in, they’re more likely to flow better with the story.
But back to my main point. Having the story outlined will aid me in creating better, more relevant sub-plots. For example, the end of the story reveals that the killer killed his first victim to acquire a priceless work of art that the victim owned. The following 2 victims were killed because they “knew too much!” (The “knew too much” victims are excellent tools in confusing the reader and keeping them from finding out who the killer is!!) So, knowing art is at the center of the mystery, I create a sub-plot that has the heroine forced into the local art community because her flighty sister has suddenly decided she’s an artist. The heroine is busy and doesn’t have time to add art functions into her schedule, unfortunately, loving her sister leaves her without a choice. She has to be supportive of her sister. She also hopes that this time, this is a career that will stick. What she doesn’t realize–until the end of the book–is that her unplanned involvement in the local art community is what enables her to solve this mystery.
This example isn’t the best, but you get the drift. Plotting is huge when it comes to planning sub-plots. A bit of plotting goes a long way to writing an excellent mystery that’ll keep your readers on the edge of their seats until the big reveal at the end!