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  Mystery Writing:
Keep Your Audience Intoxicated

By Patrick Davis

A mystery, a compelling love story, a darkened enigma, and fragments of the past are elements of secrets. Secrets are powerful. Gossip is devious. A dark secret whispered through gossiping lips unleashes its intoxicating spell that will, for the moment, seize the hearers. Gossip, as powerful as it is, buys the attention of those listening. But if you harness the intoxicating power of secrets that reside within the pages of a captivating story, you have the potential of buying yourself the attention of the vast, book-reading population.

Blending your secret in with the story's setting

If you are thinking of writing of mystery novel but are not sure how, this is what you may want to consider. Within the opening pages of your novel, introduce your readers to a captivating secret. Allow this "hidden incident" be a fragment of a love story from another era. This will quickly lure your audience to read more. Or your secret may be an old discarded tool, but later discovered that it was a murder weapon. Or perhaps, there's something recorded within the pages of a diary containing a secret about someone else. Or suppose the diary belonged to a young lady during the Victorian era who knew of a secret romance that was forbidden. Perhaps this secret romance involved someone who was dear to her. And perhaps the author of the diary had no strength to destroy her personal journal; and it was too painful for her to keep it. So she entombed it within a secret hold residing in her lavished home with hopes that no one would ever find it.

Decades later, the old house with its mystic character is on the market again, only to attract a modern-day couple who have dreams of making the mini mansion into their home. But within the shadows of the darkened cavity lies this secret that will soon be discovered. And perhaps the diary reveals untold history related to the neighborhood that otherwise would have never been known.

The idea here is to expose the secret to your audience but keep it hid from your main character(s) until the right moment. This method evokes more tension, more suspense. And the moment that the secret is revealed may be a chapter away.

An example to this would be:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith were going to be proud owners of their century-old home, but little did they know that their home came with dark secrets that would soon haunt them.

Back story - Originating from the Past

Before you reveal the hidden relic to your character, perhaps you will first want to transport your audience back to the past and show them just how the romance got started, or how the sterling silver cake knife became a murder weapon, or how the diary came into play. But don't reveal too much. Just show a few sequence-of-events. It will keep your audience engaged. Later on, your character will conduct a search that will lead to clues pointing to the past again.

Leading to the Discovery

After your audience is introduced to your story's setting, (followed by a glimpse of the past) lead them to the scene where your main character makes the discovery of the old relic/heirloom. Don't take too long leading your audience. Otherwise the suspense will diffuse some. From there, the mind-twisting turns of the growing mystery will take your audience through the story, like a roller coaster ride in the black of night.

An example would be a novel that opens with an old discarded piano that contains a daunting secret, a tale of a beautiful pianist, (Elsa) who, in her era, struggled to chose courtship over her first love-music. But her own fate is about to be discovered when an antique collector, Maria Weisman, rescues the aging piano from an auction nearly a century later.

Maria's passion to connect to a bygone era comes with hopes of uncovering stories related to her collection of relics.

Sadly, and very unexpectedly, young Maria becomes terminally ill. Husband (John Weisman) and daughter (Melissa) face the inevitable as they watch their beloved Maria slowly loose her grip on life. This untimely crisis, having collided with John's fast-paced world brings his career into a slow, downward spin. Months later, Maria departs. It's a dark time for both of them. Yet, the story secretly hiding in the old instrument that Maria was to hunt for was now left for John to find.

The setting exposes the secret to the audience, but keeps it hid from the character.

Soon thereafter, the audience will be lead to the scene where the discovery is made.

The Mystery Ensnares the Readers...

The secret, once discovered, reveals fragments of a hidden courtship from eight decades earlier. This is the place where the widower's life begins to change - depression begins to lift. "But why would a pianist lock elements of her cherished romance in the lower compartment of her piano?" John wondered.

Fragments of mystery couple leads to questions.

Questions demands answers that can only be obtained through a search. A search introduces new characters (into the story) who can reveal only pieces of the puzzle.

When fragments of truth are revealed, a new side of the mystery comes to light. This is where John Weisman discovers that the girl's father interfered with the affairs of his daughter's life when she fell in love.

Therefore, speculations about the mystery that were first presumed now dissipate. The search goes deeper, even beckons John to embark upon an 800 mile journey in pursuit of answers he must find. The pianist's home town is his destination.

As a stranger in a town unfamiliar to him, John runs into resistance with another individual. But he pushes forward.

Book keepers of convalescent homes, cemetery archives, and internet death records shed little light on new truths. New truths turn cold. The mystery of the piano becomes more baffling.

Without answers, the search becomes hopeless. This is where John Weisman faces a black hole of unknowns. He realizes what first seemed to be a charming romance story has turned into a darkened enigma. Exhausted, weakened, and defeated, this is where the widower gives up and prepares to go home.

Suddenly, the audience reacts: "Nooo, keep going!" Then, at this point, (during the climax) a turn in the story takes the audience by surprise. Something happens that leads John to a one-hundred and six-year-old woman, who, when asked by him, what happened, Elsa, at the end of her frail life, tells the rest of her love story. The readers become shocked when the truth is revealed.

All questions are answered.

The ride through the story was incredible and gives hope to romantics.

Patrick Davis (
http://www.squidoo.com/thesilentnote/) was first introduced to the magic of storytelling through filmmaking. Knowing the Dynamics of Story Structure, his inspiration and talent is admired in his first novel, The Silent Note. Patrick is a mentor to other writers. He lives in San Diego, California. To learn more go to http://www.silentnotethebook.com


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    Novel Writing tips for fiction writers