Make Your Sleuth Reach for a Solution
Creating a great mystery for readers depends on page turning events in your story. Create tension with challenges to your sleuth. Each time you create a challenge your reader keeps reading to see how your sleuth gets past a stopping point. That point may be a small as a suspect hesitant to answer questions to a life-threatening event with the opponent.
The events may vary in intensity depending on the sub-genre of your mystery, but every story needs challenges to the protagonist. Your challenge as a writer is to create hurdles in your storyline. The more the better. Make your sleuth work for the final resolution.
Complications, Roadblocks, and Reversals
Three plot devices for giving your sleuth a tough time are complications, roadblocks, and reversals. In your story-crafting process brainstorm as many ways as you can to frustrate your sleuth.
A complication is an event or factor that slows your detective’s progress. As your sleuth attempts to discover the villain things get in the way.
These complications are often daily events that happen at an inconvenient time, but the result is you’ve delayed the sleuth’s progress..
Roadblocks are just that, they stop your sleuth. Roadblocks are impediments to your sleuth’s progress. These are points in your story where your sleuth has to change direction. They occur at major plot points in the story.
Once your sleuth encounters the roadblock, you take your reader in a new direction.
A reversal alters your sleuth’s course into the opposite direction. If she is gaining traction, a new circumstance shows she needs to rethink everything. A reversal increases the stakes and sends the story in a completely new direction.
Emotional reversals create a clash between the protagonist’s inner goal and the outer goal in a disastrous way.
Your Obstacle Course as a Mystery Writer
Your aim in creating an intriguing mystery is to create obstacles for your sleuth. As your story moves forward, create obstacles that increase in difficulty and challenge for your protagonist.
Complications, roadblocks, and reversals create story tension. That tension complicates the mystery solving puzzle
. There’s no set order of how to use your obstacles. At each stage of your story think of the worst outcome your sleuth could have for their current course and set the challenge. Your readers will thank you.
PRO TIP: Each scene is a mini-story that requires an obstacle. For example, if you have a chapter with three scenes, each of those scenes will present a hurdle for your sleuth. By the end of the chapter, you’ve created three different obstacles. Keep them coming.
Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.