Discovery and Your Sleuth
create a picture of the victim’s world.
The picture your sleuth develops is like the blind men and the elephant. Each person he interviews has their own version of who the victim was and how the victim operated in the world. As a writer, you lead your reader through a maze of conflicting perceptions about the victim.
In a mystery novel, the discovery process occurs in the first half of the middle up to the midpoint. Your sleuth collects evidence and attempts to sort out the victim’s life through interviews with the people attached to the victim, the suspects.
The main way your sleuth interacts with those suspects is through dialogue. This is your opportunity to play.
Dialogue in Discovery
Your sleuth, and your readers, must interpret what each suspect says to discover the truth. Your job as a writer is to make each suspect as suspicious as possible. What they say and how they act toward the sleuth creates the suspicion.
You have several avenues to use in dialogue to heighten the suspicion.
- Subtext – the unspoken thoughts and motives of characters — what they really think and believe. Subtext is a powerful method to convey a suspect’s prevarication. Subtext leaves what is said
open to interpretation. It’s up to your sleuth to decide. What he decides in the discovery process can change later when he reviews what he learned from each suspect.
- Lie – A deliberate lie gives your sleuth the wrong impression. Until he discovers that the suspect told an untruth, your sleuth bases his actions on false information. Plant the lie now to expose it later in the story.
- Cooperation – The suspect openly answers every question posed by the sleuth without hesitation. It’s up to you to decide if one of those answers is a lie. If you’ve set up your characters in your character bible, each suspect has a secret and a lie they tell to hide the secret.
Enhance your suspect’s dialogue by giving each suspect a unique voice. Social position, craft or occupation, family heritage, and personality influence how they speak. Color the dialogue with the suspect’s unique attributes. Doing so, you will minimize your need to add dialogue tags. The reader will know who is speaking.
A Middle Without A Sag
Each scene with a new suspect is a chance to plant doubt in your reader’s mind. Dialogue with each suspect reveals more of the victim’s world as your sleuth tries to understand the victim and why they were killed
. As you raise questions in the reader’s mind, you build conflict for the sleuth and keep readers turning pages.
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