Mystery is all about puzzle. Deeper characters provide more puzzling challenges to your sleuth. Your sleuth is challenged
by the obstacles the other characters throw his way. One of the best ways to create a puzzle for your sleuth is to give each character a secret and a lie. Or more than one.
Secrets and the lies characters use to preserve the secret add a human dimension to characters. Whether it’s the villain or a suspect each character has things they don’t want others to know.
Your sleuth is challenged by diving through the lies to get to the truth that lies underneath. Ultimately, he must separate the various truths to get to the one that reveals the killer.
How to Create the Secret
As you create background details for each character in your character bible, add two sections. One for the secret and one for the lies the character tells to hide the secret.
Along with the character’s context in the story, his ability to lie to hide a personal secret is a device you can use to confound your sleuth.
The lie doesn’t have to be about the murder. It can be anything that particular character wants to hide from public knowledge. An affair, a gambling habit, a fear of public speaking are all fair game.
You’ll need to know about your character’s personality and their role in the story to come up with a suitable lie that fits the character. Creating a strong character background is essential to create a believable lie that fits the character.
I like to think of it as casting the best characters possible to make the story work.
The Two Lies Each Character Tells
Once you identify the character’s secret, you need to devise the lies he tells to cover up the secret. The lies are at two different levels.
You can add another layer or two of lies, especially if the character is a main suspect. Your sleuth will keep pushing, and you want those defenses ready.
Humanize Your Characters
Everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden. Adding secrets and lies to your characters gives them depth as characters in your mystery as well as
obstacles for your sleuth.
Photo by Alexandru Zdrobău 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.