Thank you again for having me Bobbi. I will be awarding two lucky people who comment, each a paperback of their choice. The choices are, Murder Most Foul, Wicked Intentions, Twisted Love, The Crime of the Century, Flagitious, Loves, Myths, and Monsters, or Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between. Its your choice.
Before writing a word, take some time to jot down key story points. As you’re writing, the story will want to take on a life of its own. Having a handy reference of key points will help keep your story on track and you from pulling your hair out. A list of key points is also helpful when outlining the story plot. You may very well find that the story begins to unfold as you’re writing down the key points. If this happens…let it! Write down any ideas or details that come to you, they’ll come in handy later.
Some key points to consider are; what is the mystery? This is the underlying theme to the entire story so be as in-depth as possible (has there been a murder or a theft or a kidnapping? If so, how and where was it committed?).
Hunt for the culprit. Every good story has at least one antagonist, but what steps must the hero or heroine take to find him/her? How will the villain evade the hero? How is the mystery solved? In mystery writing there are a lot of twists and turns. Write down your initial thoughts for plot twists, red herrings to throw the readers off the trail of the true villain, and of course the final stages of how the good guy will prevail…or does he? You need to decide whether or not the hero or the villain wins in the end. Many hero’s die trying to solve their case. Many are involved in physical altercations with other characters. You must decide how many altercations, the number of characters involved, and what weapons if any are used. It is not a good idea to only engage your characters with fist fighting. Throw in some knives, chains, falling from windows, or my favorite, a poisoning, and other nasty assaults.
Every great story has well rounded characters. We read fiction because we want to be entertained and develop a connection with the characters. Outlining items such as personality traits, physical features, and quirks can help bring your characters to life; a speech impediment, or limp, or a nervous twitch.
For the Protagonist, decide the name, age, where does he/she live, does he/she have a family or pets, what is their driving goal for taking on this particular case? Is the hero a police officer, a person sworn to honesty, pride, and valor. Or is the good guy a private detective being paid to find a certain someone. Or your main character could be a parent or sibling searching for a missing loved one.
For the Antagonist, decide the name, age, where does he/she live, is there an underlying reason for being the antagonist? Perhaps this person is a career criminal. On the other hand, maybe he/she is a good person that suffered an unjust and turned to crime out of bitterness and despair.
Then you have your support characters, who are the color of the story. They provide depth to the story whether good or bad. A support character could be as simple as a loud mouth hot dog vendor standing on a street corner or as in-depth as the villain’s partner in crime. In writing a mystery story, support characters can take on a life of their own with the reader, so make them interesting. Just because they are labeled support characters does not mean they are any less important than the main characters.
Next is the location of the story. When and where is the story set? These two key elements are what bring your story to life. Mystery story writing is a broad genre and could be set in any time period and in any place. When working with actual locations it is a good idea to do research on the location first. Readers want to feel as though they are there with the characters, so being able to accurately describe a location is vital. Time periods are no exception. If the story is set in 1940’s New Orleans, the reader will want to see their surroundings, not just be told the story is taking place in a speakeasy or church. Be descriptive!
A mystery story is not a story without a solid well thought out plot. Some things to consider when developing the story plot: What is the driving force of the mystery? To solve a murder, or rescue a kidnap victim? What does the villain do to thwart the hero? Does the villain get his goons on the hero? Is the hero being set up by the villain and now he is being hunted by police. What other obstacles get in the way of solving the mystery?
One of the most important elements of writing a mystery story is suspense. Giving away too much too soon will bore the reader. It is best if the suspense is sprinkled throughout the story; bring the mystery to light within the first few chapters, then as the story progresses add a clue here and there without revealing the outcome until the final chapter. Do not be afraid to add a “red herring” or false clue, within the stories context. Readers love nothing better than to think they have everything figured out only to find in the end they were mistaken the entire time.
The final few chapters of the story should hold the climax of the conflict and resolution between the hero and villain, including how all of the clues scattered throughout the story cumulatively solves the mystery. A good conclusion gives the reader a sense of closure in finding out how the hero solved the mystery. Remember that not all mysteries have to be completely solved or have a “happy” ending. If you are writing a series of stories, the villain may get away at the end of story #1 with the hero using clues from story #1 to track down the villain in story #2. In mystery story writing, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Blurbs for “Flagitious” a four crime/mystery anthology
“Too Solve His Mother’s Murder”
After his Air Force career was interrupted by his mother’s untimely murder, Steven Moore, returned home. Met with a cold reception of lies, secrets, and threats, he is determined too find Wanda’s killer, even at the cost of his own life. Was Wanda a victim of the legendary Hatchet Man? Was this loving and devoted mother killed because of her shady past, or for her inheritance? Between finding the truth and falling in love, Steven stops at nothing, too solve his mother’s murder.
“The Other Couple’s Child”
Charlotte had it all. A loving and devoted husband. Supportive family and friends, and a house full of beautiful children. Everything was perfect for this Super Mom, until a medical procedure turns her life upside down, and spirals into a child abduction case. Time is running out. Will police arrive in time to save Charlotte and the other couple’s child?
“3381 Market Street”
Katherine Sims, a young widow working for a brokerage firm in a small southeastern town, is tired of the excuses concerning Charlie’s absence. She knows something terrible must have happened to her favorite nephew with the sad blue-eyes. After exposing the killer, Katherine’s life is turned upside down and she finds herself fighting for her life. Filled with maniacal suspects, a Satanic Cult, and danger around each corner, this story depicts one woman’s courage too avenge a child’s murder, while finding unexpected love.
“The Tarot Card Murders”
New Detective, and ex-navel man, twenty-six-year-old Nick Difozzio, returns to his small county determined too abolish crime. Not until death knocked on his door, did he know the face of evil. Will the decorated veteran destroy the Lycanthropes, or will he succumb to their murderess desires and become one of them? He took an oath too protect, honor, and uphold the law, but can he defy the lust, riches, and power offered, or are the ‘dark forces’ stronger than his will?
Excerpt from “To Solve His Mother’s Murder”
Already en route to her place, Steven saw the first smoke, and knew Vivien was in trouble. Using his cell phone, he dialed 911 for the fire department and gunned his engine. Screaming into the stable’s driveway, he arrived just as the arsonist sped away on a dirt bike, but heard the sounds of screaming horses. Vivien and the horses took priority. Running to the nearby water trough, he dove in headfirst then raced inside the smoke-filled structure to meet Vivien limping toward him.
“Steven save the animals,” she begged, and passed out.
Once he had Vivien safely outside, he re-entered the building and, hooding them, ran out the horses. Inside one of the stalls, he found Willy, dead, killed by the arsonist. Then the wails of fire trucks, came over the hills.
Steven patted Vivien’s soiled and bruised face with cool water until she slowly opened her eyes, and whispered. “Hi.”
“Hi, to you, too, darling.” He tenderly kissed her forehead. “You really scared me.”
“Are the horses safe?” she asked.
“As safe as you are now,” he said, while the firemen worked on the fire.
Paramedics patched up Vivien before placing her on a stretcher and transporting her to the local hospital. “I’ll be there shortly, I promise,” he answered with a goodbye kiss.
Once she was on her way, Steven turned to the Fire Chief. “We know it’s arson, but Vivien didn’t recognize the intruder’s voice.”
“Who do you think set the blaze?” the Fire Chief asked. “We don’t have random arsons. You must suspect someone?”
“I’ll have you a list by the morning,” he replied, boarding his truck and hauling ass for the hospital.
On the way, he drove past a hole-in-the-wall beer joint. Parked outside was a bike exactly matching the pyromaniac’s ride. Making a quick U-turn on the gravel road, loud enough to be heard in the next county, he pulled into the parking lot, driving right over the bike. After jumping from the truck and admiring his handiwork, he gleefully said, “Yep. Flat as a pancake.”
When Steven entered the dark musty bar, he gained the attention of all seven patrons at once by shouting, “I’m looking for the son-of-a-bitch driving that piece-of-shit bike sitting outside.”
He met sullen silence. Slouching slowly across the sawdust covering the rickety floor, he eyed, in turn, each of the five men at length wondering. Was the creep who almost killed the woman I love, that toothless old grandpa slurping beer from a mug? Or was it the scrawny thirty-year-old with the dirty work boots?
Gradually, his eyes adjusted to the small room. He scanned the interior. Typical. Walls decorated with cheap, outdated neon beer signs and sleazy posters of big-breasted women perched suggestively on an assortment of bikes. To this assembly, Steven repeated, “I said, who owns that bike I just ran over?”
“I do,” yelled twenty-eight-year-old Heath Hopstetter. Coming out of his chair like a ground-to-air missile, he swung his beer bottle at Steven’s head.
Ducking, Steven returned the favor with a round-house punch to Heath’s big, soft and prominent stomach, knocking the wind out of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Slowly, Heath sank to the filthy floor.
“Now, mister, we don’t want no trouble in here.” The worn-looking and plumb middle-aged barmaid said and held up her hands.
“This guy ain’t gonna be no trouble at all.” Steven jerked Heath to his feet and thumped him again. This time, his blow sent Heath into the antique jukebox, shattering glass. Nearby patrons grabbed their drinks and ducked.
JoAnne has been a long-time resident of southeastern Ohio, and worked in the blue-collar industry most of her life. Besides having seven novels under her belt, JoAnne canvas paints. When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, JoAnne spends time with relatives, her dog Jasmine, and volunteers her time within the community.
JoAnne is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Savvy Authors, Coffee Time Romance, Paranormal Romance Guild, True Romance Studios, National Writers Association, the Hocking Hill’s Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center.
JoAnne believes in family values and following your dreams. Her original canvas paintings, can be found at: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com
Other books by JoAnne:
“WICKED INTENTIONS” a paranormal/mystery anthology
“LOVES’, MYTHS’ AND MONSTERS’,” a fantasy anthology
“THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY,” a biography true-crime
“POEMS ABOUT LIFE, LOVE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN”
“TWISTED LOVE,” a true-crime anthology
“MURDER MOST FOUL,” a detective/mystery