LESSON FIVE: THE BEGINNING
For a lot of people the words outline and plot make them nauseous, but when writing a successful mystery, you need a plan.
All satisfying stories have a beginning, middle and end.
The beginning takes up about the first quarter of your story regardless of length. You introduce the reader to the “who, where and when” of your tale. (Lesson One) Plus you present the characters, the protagonist’s personal problems and the major conflicts that drive the story.
The story should start with an incident that will change the protagonist’s life forever and nothing will ever be the same. (Lesson Three) The beginning ends when the protagonist has an even more complicated problem thrust on them.
Protagonist's Inner Conflicts
What are your protagonist’s personal weaknesses or fears? These fears should affect their approach to life and how they deal with difficult situations. They are also details that they usually try to hide from the world. Even from their closest friends. By the end of your story, they should have learned to face these fears.
So. Are they afraid of dogs? Do they fear abandonment because everyone they’ve ever loved has left them? Are they afraid they’re going to die? Are they in denial?
Protagonist External Conflicts
Everyone has at least one difficult person to deal with in life. It could be their spouse, their mother or a bully at school. Or any number of others: police officer, bill collector, teacher, sibling, etc.
Your character needs at least one of these irritants to complicate their life. Remember, perfect people with perfect lives are boring. It creates a nice complication is if this irritant mirrors your character’s inner, unspoken fears.
The Inciting Incident (protagonist's connection to crime)
The inciting incident is thrust on you hero and will lead to the major story conflict. It’s a new problem - situation that sets up the rest of the story. In other words, this problem hints at what’s to come, but doesn’t spill the whole enchilada. NEW PROBLEM: A boy needs a car to impress friends. His father makes him gets a job to buy the car. Having to get a job is the new problem.
LATER STORY CONFLICT WILL HIT IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR STORY. The problem that is yet to come. . . His father loses his job and everything else and they end up living in the boy's car.
LIST YOUR PROTAGONIST'S INNER CONFLICTS.
LIST YOUR PROTAGONIST'S EXTERNAL CONFLICTS
LIST THE INCITING INCIDENT THAT THRUSTS YOUR PROTAGONIST INTO THE CRIME.
At this point, you should be itching to begin writing your story. It's the perfect time to start chapter one. You may find that once you start writing, your character will come alive and want a few changes in your plan. That's okay. In fact, you should expect this to happen. When you finish chapter one, go back to your list of planning notes and adjust. Delete the information that's no longer relevant. Add your new insights.
COME BACK NEXT WEEK FOR LESSON SIX
MISSED A PREVIOUS LESSON?
Click on the tab under the blog banner.
You can write a mystery: Free on-line writing workshop.