Always have a good mystery hidden away in your story.

sneakyreader

THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT WORDS to remember when writing a novel are these:

The first word is imagination.

And the second word is imagination.

First, you must have the imagination it takes to conjure up a great story filled with gut-wrenching conflicts, nerve-rattling tension, and unforgettable characters.

That comes from deep within the recesses of your own brain, your own experiences, your own quest to find the mysteries that surround our past, our present, and our future.

And, believe me, any genre – from romance and mainstream fiction to thrillers, sci-fi, and historical fiction – has its share of mysteries and secrets.

Secondly, you must have the ability to take the story that you have built down in the hollows of your own psyche and transfer it into the imagination of your readers.

They have to believe in the story, the plot, and the characters as strongly as you do. If you are afraid to write the next scene, then they are probably just as afraid to read it. You have to make sure that your imagination crawls inside their imagination, and when it does, the magic of genuine story telling begins to happen.

I never write unless I have a good mystery tucked away.

It may not have anything to do with the main plot.

It may be a subplot or even a lesser plot.

But somewhere in the story, I like to introduce readers to the unknown, the unexplained, and, most of all, the unexpected. I have no idea when I’ll use it or why I’ll use it. But, for some reason, the mystery feels like it belongs.

It makes a reader wonder about what’s going to happen.

In a lot of cases, the writer is wondering the same thing.

He or she has no idea.

But out of the blue and when it’s least expected, the brain always seems to spill out the answer you’ve been waiting for. When it does, I always feel like I’ve found the one lone nugget in a pile of mud, and all of the digging was worth it.

I’ve finally figured out what happened.

That’s the beauty of a mystery, and the world is filled with good mysteries. Read the front page of any newspaper. Thumb through the pages of any magazine. Watch the History or Discovery channel on television.

They are packed to the brim with mysteries. Why did the Anasazi people vanish from the earth? What happened to the Rembrandt stolen from a London art museum? What caused the disappearance of an old sailing ship in the North Sea? How was the baby stolen from an upstairs bedroom window? Who smuggled the secrets out of the National Security Agency? Why did somebody hack into the CIA computers? Why can’t they find any evidence against a man who has been widowed four times by women younger than he? In his will, the old man said he possessed a secret that would change the world. Why did he take to his grave?

Great books have always been built around the resolution of a simple mystery.

Maybe more.

A writer’s mind and imagination can take the story in any direction it chooses. All you have to do is mix a few lies with a handful truth ripped from the headlines and come up with the final answer no one expects or can predict. It has been a winning formula in literature for a long time.

Night Side of Dark does have its mystery.

 

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  • People love to be on the IN side of a secret. Maybe it gives us higher odds in the survival wars.

    Most strong feelings humans have are hard-wired and come because those who didn’t have them didn’t survive and leave descendants.

    The trick is to USE that information to hint at a secret – and let the reader’s gut tell him he NEEDS to know.

    I love this gig: I get to manipulate people’s feelings – at their request.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      That’s a great way to put it, Alicia. Keep the secret tight and dark, and only offer a glimpse from time time until you’re ready to let it explode.

  • Darlene Jones

    Sometimes the mystery catches us by surprise as we write and our story takes a direction we didn’t anticipate – bonus for us and for the reader.

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