Time To Write: Picture Prompt 17 [Creative Writing Prompt – Mystery Month]

Last week’s writing prompt was a general exercise. Check out some great pieces by fellow writers:

Now onto this week’s writing prompt:

Creative Writing Prompt | Picture Prompt | Creative Writing | Writing Exercise | RachelPoli.com

Write a story based on the picture above.

If you use this prompt, please leave a link to your post in the comments below and I’ll share it next week. Please be sure to link back to my blog so your readers know where you got the prompt!

Happy Writing!

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How To Use Red Herrings To Your Advantage [Mystery Month]

Red herrings are fake clues that are left around – either by accident or on purpose – to through an investigator off the trail when solving a crime.

They’re a lot of fun to throw into your mystery novel to throw the readers off track as well. Or maybe they know the truth and they can get frustrated with the investigator when they get thrown off. Either way, they’re fun to write and can sometimes be used to keep the readers on their toes and turning the pages.

How to use red herrings to your advantage | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | Crime | Thriller | Suspense | RachelPoli.com

What Can Red Herrings Be?

Anything that’s a noun can be a red herring – a people, place, or thing.

Sometimes criminals can leave an object as a “clue” such as a fake weapon. Or, they can murder someone in their home and move the body elsewhere making it seem like it took place somewhere else. That also allows them to sometimes change how the death occurred as well.

Red herrings can also be a person as the culprit can try to frame someone or they may have been a person at the wrong place in the wrong time.

Real Red Herrings and Fake Red Herrings

Of course, I just explained that red herrings are “fake” clues that drop throughout the story. So, how can you have a real one? What I mean is you can have a fake-fake clue or a real-fake clue. In other words, by accident or on purpose.

Real Red Herrings

A real red herring can be a fake clue left on purpose. This can typically be done by the culprit to throw the investigators off their trail. They might move the body after they’ve killed the victim to make it seem like the crime scene was a different spot. They may frame a different person for the crime. Some criminals are crafty, others are not.

Fake Red Herrings

This is an accidental red herring. A clue might be brought in due to lack of judgement or poor deducing skills on an investigator. They might think something about the crime scene is off when, in fact, it’s nothing at all.

How Can You Use This To Your Advantage?

This allows the culprit a little more time to get away. Do we want that? No. But does it add great tension? Yes. Although, it is okay to let the bad guy get away once in a while. Unfortunately, that happens in real life and it’ll really make your readers think.

Using real red herrings is a great way to throw your readers off along with the investigator in the story. It’ll make them think. The same goes for the fake red herrings, though depending on what kind of information you give to your readers, they may know the truth and will yelling at the book wishing the characters could hear them.

Red herrings add a little extra to the story. It really gets the tension high when the protagonist chases after a clue only for it to turn out to be nothing. It wasn’t their time and time is important – especially when you’re looking for a missing persons, for example.

Why Are Fake Clues Called Red Herrings?

I have no idea. If anyone knows the answer to that, please let me know. I’m curious.

Do you use red herrings often? How do you usually go about it? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Writing The Mystery Short Story [Mystery Month]

Writing a mystery is hard, but writing a mystery short story is even harder. Mysteries can take a lot out of you – between the crime taking place, the long investigation process, and so on. It easier to pack that into a longer novel than it is to jam into a short story.

Still, it’s a pretty good feat if you’re able to jam all that information into a short story.

But how do you make sure you don’t leave out any important information? How do you make sure you don’t make the story go too fast?

Writing the Mystery Short Story | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | Mystery Writing | RachelPoli.com

Every story is written in the same general way. The exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and finally the resolution. Writing a short story is no different than that, it’s just condensed.

So, how do you go about trying to condense it all?

1. Find the problem
2. Access the problem
3. Figure it out
4. Conclusion

Start with the problem

Throw your characters into the action right away. Have them start at the crime scene already and throw in a little background if need be. It adds tension to the story right away and cuts out a little time. Sometimes you don’t need to show how your characters came across the problem. They can explain it throughout the story if they have to, but that information doesn’t always need to be known.

Access the problem

This can go hand in hand with the first and third points I listed above. Accessing the problem can be done during the discovery of the problem and also during the investigation. Things have a way of falling into place.

Figure it out

This is obviously easier said than done and, in a short story, this may be your longest part.

Drop the clues carefully and allow your protagonist – or whoever is investigating – to deduce with logic in an attempt to figure things out in a timely manner for the plot, but faster for the word count of the story.

Conclusion

This would be the big reveal. The investigator explains the problem, how it came to be, and why. Someone is arrested or accused.

See? Easy-peasy. I mean, not really… but then again, I can’t exactly go about telling you how to write your own short story. Still, this is a good start.

How do you go about writing a mystery short story? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Short Story Sunday 213: Number One Suspect [Part 3 – Mystery Month]

Short Story: "Number One Suspect" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com
DID YOU READ PART ONE AND PART TWO?

            George held open the door for Lilah as soon as they made it Prevalli’s Restaurant. Lilah walked in first and then stepped to the side to let George walk in front of her. She figured now would be a good time to let him handle all the talking.

“Hello, how are you?” the hostess greeted them right away.

“I’m doing well, how are you?” George replied with a polite smile.

“Great,” she said a little too enthusiastically in Lilah’s opinion. She picked up two menus and looked back up at George. “Table for two? Would you like a booth?”

“No, thank you. We’re not here to eat.” George declined. “Is your manager around?”

The hostess paused for a moment before she finally nodded her head. Her voice shaking she said, “Oh, sure. Let me… Just let me go get him.”

“Please don’t worry,” George squinted at her name tag, “Maria. We’re only here to ask some follow up questions about Jayden Bell.”

Maria let out a small sigh of relief. “Oh, right… Sure, I’ll page him right away.”

“Thank you,” George dipped his head in thanks and then stepped back to give him some space. Lilah followed closely behind.

“So,” she whispered to him, “What exactly is your plan?”

“I want to know what he thinks about Jayden’s death. I want to know whether or not he believes Steven is the killer.” George said simply.

Lilah shook her head. “Why do we care about what he thinks, though? Anyone who would be involved with this case, the money going missing as well as the murder, would be Jayden herself, Steven, and the bank.”

“Lilah, did you ever have a job before you came to me?” George asked.

“I worked at the bookstore part time at my college. Does that count?” she replied.

George nodded. “Now, tell me, did you ever talk behind another employee’s back when they weren’t on duty? Or did you talk about your boss to your co-workers? Maybe you complained about a couple of customers?”

“Of course,” Lilah shrugged. “Doesn’t everyone?”

“And through that gossip, you get close to your co-workers, right? You get to know each other a little better, especially about what’s going on in your life.”

Lilah groaned. “Can you just tell me straight up what you’re trying to say instead of going around the bush?”

“It’s beating around the bush,”

“Whatever,”

“Anyway,” George cleared his throat, “If something stressful is going on in your personal, most people go to work and talk about it. Their co-workers don’t know anything about them outside of work. They’re not friends or relatives with the people you know outside of work. Before I became a police officer I used to talk about the happenings in my family all the time; the good and the bad. Then when I became an officer, I only talked about other things. Everyone knew Barney and my other siblings because we’re all in the same field. I can’t gossip about them at work because it would get back to them. Do you see what I’m trying to say?”

Lilah nodded with a bored sigh. “Yes. It was very long-winded, but yes. I get it. So you think Jayden’s co-workers might know more of what happened because she might have talked about it at work?”

“Exactly,” George nodded.

“Well, that’s stupid.”

George raised an eyebrow looking down at her. “Now what?”

“If Jayden was stealing money from her own bank account, from her own husband, why would she boast about it at work?” Lilah asked.

George chuckled. “Because she didn’t think she would ever get caught… Also, she didn’t think she’d get killed for it. You have to always be careful who you say things to, Lilah. Remember that.”

“You’re being cryptic again…” Lilah said through gritted teeth.

George ignored her and smiled at someone else. Lilah turned her head to see a tall man in a fancy suit walking towards them. His shoulders were so broad she thought they were going to rip right through his suit jacket.

“I’m Noah Lang, the manager here. How can I help you?” the man said as he approached. He stuck out his hand towards George and he shook it.

“George Florence, private investigator.” He said and then pointed to Lilah. “This is my assistant, Lilah Williams.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Noah smiled at Lilah as he shook her hand. She smiled politely back, but Noah had turned his attention back to George before she could say anything to him.

“Private investigator, huh?” he said stroking his chin. “Is everything okay?”

“We just came here to ask a few questions pertaining to Jayden Bell’s death. Is it okay if we speak in a more private place?” George asked.

“Of course,” Noah agreed willingly.

He led them down through the entire restaurant. Lilah was impressed at how crowded it was, even though it was only lunchtime. The lights were dim, the tables and chairs were in great shape, and even the carpet underneath her feet was fancy. It looked so plush she had to do everything in her power to not bend down to stroke it with her hands. Or, better yet, take off her shoes and pretend she was at the beach.

She had never been in this restaurant before. Mostly because it was a little too fancy for her taste and it was also really expensive. Still, as they walked by the kitchen, Lilah got a whiff of a steak and her mouth began to water.

“Here we are. This is my office. Please feel free to make yourself at home.” Noah opened the door and allowed George and Lilah to enter first.

Lilah followed George in and the two of them took a seat on the other side of Noah’s desk.

“So,” Noah began as he sat down, “If you don’t mind my asking, why is there a private investigator involved with this case? The police had already come to question me about Jayden’s death and I’ve heard that they already caught the killer.”

“Well, that’s why we’re here. Steven Bell, the suspect and Jayden’s husband, hired us to help him out.” George stated.

Lilah cautiously turned her head to look at George. She didn’t want to be too obvious that she had no idea what he was talking about. As far as she knew, Steven never hired them.

Then again, this must have been one of those “rules” George was talking about earlier that they were allowed to break.

Noah snorted as he leaned back in his chair and made himself more comfortable. “Well, good luck to you on that one. I’m pretty sure that’s a loss cause.”

“What makes you say that?” George asked.

Lilah turned her attention to Noah surprised. She took out her notebook from her bag and clicked open her pen ready to jot down anything and everything this man said.

Noah shrugged his shoulders. “Jayden was going to divorce Steven and he wasn’t happy about it. I’m pretty sure he killed her because if he couldn’t have her, no one could. It’s happened before.”

Lilah wrote the word “divorce” in capital letters. Divorce had never come up in the case before. Whether Barney knew about it or not, Lilah wasn’t sure.

“Was Jayden afraid of him? Is that why she talked about her divorce?” George asked.

Noah glanced up at the ceiling thinking of an answer. “I wouldn’t say she was afraid of him. She seemed more annoyed with him than anything else.”

“Why did she want to divorce him?”

“She…” Noah sighed. “Well, I don’t know if I should be saying anything at all.”

“Please. Every piece of information helps.” Lilah said.

Noah groaned. “Jayden was cheating on Steven with someone else. She was feeling guilty about it and wanted to divorce him.”

“Do you know the man who she was having an affair with?” George asked.

Noah shrugged. “She never mentioned his name.”

“Excuse me,” Maria knocked on the door and poked her head in. “I’m really sorry to interrupt, but we have some unsatisfied customers. They’re not very happy and demand to speak with you.”

“I’m coming,” Noah stood up from his chair and buttoned his jacket. He rolled his eyes at George. “Time to go put a smile… Please excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

“Of course, take your time.” George replied.

Noah left the office and Maria smiled apologetically to them. “I tried to hold them off, I knew he was busy talking to the police. I’m sorry.”

“He’s at work right now. We understand.” George said giving her a reassuming smile.

Maria nodded and ducked out of the office closing the door behind her.

Lilah jumped out of her seat and walked around to the other side of the desk.

“What are you doing?” George demanded.

“I’m snooping.”

“You can’t snoop!”

“Well, it’s not snooping… It’s peeking.”

“What…?”

Lilah groaned. “While Noah was explaining something to you, I noticed this slip of paper here.” She pointed to a small notepad on the side of his desk.

“Don’t touch that,” George warned.

“I’m not,” Lilah said sternly. “But there’s a number on it.” She started copying the number down in her own notebook.

“What kind of number?” George craned his neck to see.

Lilah ran around the other side of the desk and sat back down in her seat closing her notebook. She stuffed it back inside her bag and whispered, “A bank account number.”

As if on cue, Noah opened the door to his office. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Someone’s steak was a little dry and they have to involve me instead of just sending it back to the cook. You know, we put steak sauce on the table for a reason. No cook is perfect and neither are the cows.”

At the same time, George and Lilah stood from their chairs.

“Some people are just rude, what can you do?” Lilah chuckled.

“Well, thank you for chatting with us, Noah. If we have any follow up questions, we’ll be sure to get in touch.” George extended his hand for a goodbye shake.

Noah took it and looked at George suspiciously. “Oh? That’s it?”

“That’s it,”

“Okay, well… have a nice rest of your day.”

George returned the gesture and, after letting Lilah walk in front of him, the two exited the restaurant.

Words: 1,733

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Time To Write: Red Herring [Creative Writing Prompt – Mystery Month]

Last week’s writing prompt was a Random Words exercise. Check out some great pieces by fellow writers:

Now onto this week’s writing prompt:

Creative Writing Prompt: Red Herring | Creative Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com

Write a story based on the word above.

If you use this prompt, please leave a link to your post in the comments below and I’ll share it next week. Please be sure to link back to my blog so your readers know where you got the prompt!

Happy Writing!

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The Best Way To Plan A Crime In Your Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

I’ve written this post a couple times now. Every time I do, it’s always so popular so I like to rewrite it each year for Mystery Month.

Keeping track of a crime when writing a mystery novel can be hard. There’s a lot to remember – clues and evidence, witnesses and suspects, the overall timeline, and more.

The best way to figure it all out and keep track of it is to answer some important, but fairly simple questions.

The best way to plan a crime for your mystery novel | Mystery | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Who

The who can be a number of people. Ask yourself, Who is the…

  • Victim
  • Culprit
  • Accomplice(s)
  • Witness(es)
  • Suspect(s)
  • Detectives, officers, assistants, anyone solving the crime
  • Friends and family of the victim
  • Friends and family of the culprit
  • Person who discovered the crime

What

The what is the general term for the crime and anything else going on. Some things may not be known right away, but they’ll come to light eventually.

  • What happened? (What is the crime – murder, robbery, etc.)
  • What are the key items? (murder weapon, evidence, etc.)
  • What was the motive?
  • What happened before the crime occurred?
  • What happened after the crime occurred?

Where

Location is everything and sometimes it’s not where it seems.

  • Where does the story take place?
  • Where does the crime take place?
  • Where was the crime found? (Sometimes, bodies are moved to trick investigators into thinking the murder happened in a different place.)
  • Where were the clues and evidence hidden?
  • Where was the culprit hiding?
  • Where were the witnesses when the crime occurred?
  • Where was the victim when the crime occurred? (If a robbery, where did they go?)

When

Timing is everything. When it comes to a solving a crime, figuring out the timeline of events is important.

  • When did the crime occur?
  • When was the crime discovered?
  • When did the authorities arrive at the scene? When were they called?
  • When do the investigators find the clues? Piece together the evidence?
  • When does the culprit get caught? When does the crime wrap up?

Why

The motive is the driving force behind the crime. If there’s no motive, then you pretty much have a flop of a crime.

  • Why did the culprit commit the crime?
  • Why did the culprit choose their victim?
  • Why is the investigator the best one to solve the case?
  • Why does the investigator agree to solve the case in the first place?
  • Why does the crime take so long – or short – to solve?

How

How everything is constructed makes it believable and aids the timeline. It answers last minute questions that anyone may have in and out of the story.

  • How long was the investigation?
  • How did the culprit plan it out? How did they commit it?
  • How was the culprit caught? (Or get away?)
  • How did other characters react to the crime?
  • How did the investigator figure it all out?

A lot of the questions are similar to each other or pretty much mean the exact same thing, but I always find it helpful to comb through it all multiple times and make sure you’re consistent with yourself.

How do you plan the crimes in your mystery novels? What are some other questions you’d ask? Let me know in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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12 Ways To Kill Off Your Fictional Characters [Mystery Month]

I never thought I’d write a post like this, but… Here we are.

12 ways to kill off your fictional characters | Mystery | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

There are so many ways for people to die. There are four main categories that I personally put them into.

  • Murder
  • Suicide
  • Accidental
  • Natural

I’m only going to list 12 ways you can kill off your fictional characters, but there are many variations of these 12 ways. Not to mention there’s a lot more than these 12 ways.

(I’ll be honest, I was aiming for a longer list, but some of the research I did for this made my stomach turn, so use your imagination, people.)

1. Gun

This is probably the most common, but also the loudest. You can shoot to wound or shoot to kill. It all depends on where your character aims (or how well they aim). This can be used in murders, suicide, or even accidental.

2. Knife

Similar to a gun, you can stab to wound or stab to kill. It’s not exactly as loud as a gunshot, but it’s pretty messy. This would work well for murder, maybe suicide and accidental too.

3. Poison

Silent but deadly – for the most part. Poison can be administered in a number of ways. It can be ingested or administered with a needle and more. Poisons can come from just about anything too – drugs, household items and smells, plants and food… it’s kind of crazy, actually. Depending on the poison too, it might have an immediate effect or the victim might get sick first. Sometimes it could take days, weeks, or months for it to kill too.

4. Overdose

This can go along with poison, but drugs are a problem and can be used in a suicide or it came be an accidental overdose.

5. Hanging

Murder, suicide, execution. I guess it could be accidental too depending on the situation… I mean, it happened in Disney’s Tarzan.

6. Suffocation

I don’t think I need to explain suffocating someone. I don’t know if this has ever been used in suicides, but murders definitely and accidental as well.

7. Drowning

I think this is more accidental than anything else, but it could be used for murder.

8. Starvation

This would take a while if you were trying to kill someone by cutting off their food, but I’m sure it’s doable.

9. Hit and Run or car crash

Usually, this is an accident, but it’s often used as a murder method in movies. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it used as a suicide method on the news in real life. This could be one of the easier ways to cover up a murder too.

10. Natural Disasters

Floods, fire, and the like are known for taking many lives. All of it is the work of mother nature, but fire, for example, can be used as a murder method. It’s called arson.

11. Illness

Sometimes our bodies turn against us or aren’t strong enough to fight off an illness and in turn, it kills us.

12. Old Age

It’s the circle of life.

This was the most uncomfortable post I’ve ever written. It’s also the most morbid. But there you go. 12 ways to kill your darlings.

Do you have a go-to way to kill your fictional characters? Let me know in the comments below and if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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