Ingredients for Mystery Soup

No two stories are alike. Each story is different and unique from another. Sure, there are cliches in the world of writing, but each outcome is different from the one before it. The possibilities are endless.

Yet, there are some things that each story have in common with each other: Elements. Or, ingredients as I like to call it.

It’s what makes a story a story.

Ingrediants for Mystery Soup Rachel Poli

All stories need five elements in order to make it a true, compelling tale.

1. Characters — The main person (or animal, alien, robot, what have you) the story revolves around. Plus, supporting characters to help or hinder the protagonist along.
2. Setting — The place where the story takes place.
3. Plot — A series of events and actions done by the character(s) that center around the conflict.
4. Conflict — The main struggle of the story. Usually, there are two sides to the conflict, good and bad, where your character is on one side.
5. Theme — The main idea or moral of the whole story.

Sounds easy enough, right? Sure.

But what does this mean when you’re writing a mystery novel? I’ll tell you what sort of ingredients you’ll need in order for you readers to beg you for dessert.

Characters

There are four main types of characters you’ll need for a mystery novel.

1. Detectives — Who is solving the crime here? No, you’re “detective” does not have to be part of the law enforcement. Your detective could be a young adult investigating on his or her own trying to figure out what truly caused their parents’ car accident.

2. Victims — Did they die? If so, I’m sure they had friends and family. Were they robbed? They need to be around to report the crime and give their statement. Maybe they have their own suspicions of who did it.

3. Suspects — Someone has to be the culprit. A crime doesn’t commit itself. Then again, your protagonist can’t catch the bad guy on their first go. There should be more than one suspect.

4. Witnesses — Someone might have seen something or at least heard something. Someone has to call the police. Maybe they’re the one who walked in on the dead body. Who knows?

Setting

Just like any other story, the setting is important. You want your readers to have a good sense of where they are and what’s going on, right?

Did your crime take place in a large city where crime happens multiple times a day? Or maybe a small, secluded town where the population is five and crime almost never happens there. Invite the reader to these places.

Someone, most likely the protagonist, will have to investigate the crime scene, right? Let’s assume there’s a dead body in the room… where is the body? Does it look clean? Does the scene have blood splattered everywhere? Is the place a mess (signs of a struggle) or pretty clean?

Give your readers some clues as your protagonist finds them. Give your readers a chance to investigate with your characters and possibly figure it out before them.

Plot

Most mystery plots come in the form of questions. These questions need to be answered by the end of the story or you’ll have some pretty angry readers.

Mystery plots can include:

  • A problem or puzzle that needs solving
  • Something that is difficult to explain
  • Secrets, the unknown
  • Something or someone that is missing
  • A crime that’s committed (robbery, murder, etc.)

Conflict

As stated before, a conflict is mainly between two sides. For mystery, the sides would be the good guys trying to solve the crime and the other side would be the bad guys running and hiding so they don’t get caught. Or the bad guys have a reason for what they did, but your main character doesn’t believe in their theories.

For conflict in a mystery, you need…

1. A crime — Basically the plot of the story. Who, what, where, when, why, when, and how?

2. Clues and evidence — Help your readers solve the crime alongside your protagonist. Give them “a-ha!” moments when they find a new clue and piece it together with evidence. No one is going to get anywhere solving the crime without any clues.

3. Red-herrings — Red-herrings are distractions, false evidence, dead-ends, whatever you want to call it. No one can solve a crime perfectly on their first try. They may view a clue the wrong way. Maybe a witness led them astray, whether done on purpose or not is up to you.

Theme

Well. This one is pretty much up to you. You decide what moral lesson you want your characters to teach your readers.

Well, now that we have all the ingredients to make our mystery novel, let’s mix it all together and begin!

Pre-heat the Oven

The beginning of your mystery novel should introduce everything. The characters, the setting, the plot. Your characters should figure out there is a problem and begin to learn how to solve it.

Bake

The middle of the story will include your characters finding clues, piecing together evidence, investigating crime scenes, interrogating key witnesses, making mistakes, making breakthroughs. Finally, they’ll have their “a-ha!” moment.

Time to eat!

The ending is where everything gets wrapped up. Your investigator explains the whole crime from beginning to end making sure there are no loose ends for your reader, no more questions asked. The culprit is then taken away and everyone else can celebrate.

At that point, you should go bake yourself a cake in real life. Because that’s when the editing begins.

rachel poli sign off

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Small Changes

From my post yesterday, you would think there would be some huge changes to my blog, right? Well, I thought so too.

My plan was to change the URL and buy the domain name (which I did–yay!) and also to change the layout, fix some pages/posts, and make the blog look more like a website than an actual blog.

So my blog officially has a new title and a new URL which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. Layout-wise, it’s more or less the same. I have done some subtle changes and I’m still thinking about other little changes, but they haven’t been put into effect yet.

In order to customize my theme I need to pay WordPress a certain amount per year. Believe me, the amount isn’t bad at all. However, I just bought the domain name and buying a new layout isn’t just something I feel like I can do at the moment. Maybe next year I will.

In the meantime, the notepad theme is going to stay. Besides, you’re all here for the content of my blog, right? …Right?

With that being said, I am super excited to have a new URL. It makes me feel as though this blog is officially mine. I can’t wait to slowly work at slight layout changes that I can make for free… like I said, I have a few other ideas on how to make the blog look “newer.”

Sorry to disappoint anyone who expected “big changes” like I said there would be because I was expecting big changes, as well. However, I’m happy with what I’ve done for the blog so far.

Here’s to a lot of posting in the New Year!

Relaxation

I Got Nothing Done Today…

 

Well, I have been on a roll writing for at least one hour every day. However, I didn’t write at all today. But I did say that I was going to try to post on here every day, so here I am. I have no news, but I am posting!

The reason as to why I didn’t write today was because I was busy with my websites. For example, Stars Vs. Gems, Gaia Ranch, and Spilled Ink. Spilled Ink is a writing website that my sister and I are working on together. We already have one up right now, but we completely re-did the whole website. So that’s why I didn’t give you the link because it’s not open yet. However, we  are planning on opening it on Columbus Day…maybe sooner. I’ll explain more about the website when it opens.

Once I finished working on our websites for the day, I thought about getting some writing done, but when I looked at the time I realized that I wasn’t going to have enough time. Although, now that I think about it, I could have written a little bit. Getting a little something done is better than nothing. But oh, well. What’s done is done.

I had a very busy day today because of church. Everyone knows that I’m the co-director of the Sunday school, correct? Well, today the Bishop came for a visit. Plus the Sunday school were performing something in the middle of the service. Also, we had a luncheon for the ladies who run the Thrift Shop to say thank you for everything they do for the church. Usually, I’m at church from 9:30 to 12:00. Today, because of the Bishop’s schedule, the service was 2 to 3. But because of the thing the Sunday School did in the service, we needed to practice it. So we told everyone to come at one, which meant that I was there before one. Then after the service, we had the luncheon and, well…I was at church today from 12:45 to 6:00. It wasn’t a bad time, but I just didn’t want to be there for that amount of time as well as it being smack in the middle of the day.

Anyway, when I got home, I was starving (there wasn’t any food I liked at the luncheon) so my sister and I got Panera and we’ve been watching TV ever since. I’ve been too tired to do anything else. Although, I think I might go plan out the novel a little bit.

The Blank Page has three novels in it and I thought that I should plan those out. Not fully, but just enough so that when I have my characters writing them, they all make sense. So I may do that, but as far as actual writing goes…I’m not going to be boosting my word count tonight.

Speaking of planning out the novels, though, I found this really cool app on my iPod. It’s called “A Novel Idea.” It breaks everything down. You can click on “novels” and will ask you the title, setting, theme, tone, POV, premise, plot, and group. The group is something you make up. You can group certain things together. For example, when I plugged in The Blank Page, I put it under the Writers Group group. The other sections are “scenes,” “characters,” “locations,” and “ideas.” It’s very detailed and organized. I added The Blank Page as a novel and added Dominic, Justin, and Adair as characters. Then it allowed me to attach the novel to each character. It also allowed me to give Dominic, Adair, and Justin relations to each other. It really keeps you organized. I think I may use this to plan out the three novels that aren’t real. Then I might know enough information about them so Dominic, Justin, and Adair can write them efficiently in The Blank Page.

If you like to write and have an iPod, iPhone, iPad, or anything along those lines, then you should download this app. It’s really useful and it was free. I highly recommend it.

2013: 11,010 Words