This week’s question winner, is Jessica Jorn. Her question is: “Do you plot out your mysteries beforehand, knowing the perpetrator and the motive for the crime? Are you ever surprised by how the story ends?”
Jessica’s won a copy of Cozy Food, a collection of recipes from 126 cozy mystery writers.
Since I’m a ‘seat of the pants’ writer, people are surprised to find that I do plot out some parts of my novels before I start. I begin with a central idea, then expand it a bit. Then I populate the story with characters I think will catch the imagination of my readers. Here’s what I came up with for my latest book, Miracle Drug:
The infection wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. The treatment was supposed to take care of it, but it didn’t. The stakes were high because the patients were the former President of the United States and a nurse with whom Josh was falling in love.
I know roughly how the hero/heroine will triumph (they always win), but often don’t decide on who the villain is until close to the end of the book. Until then, I try to keep options open and drop enough clues that everyone seems to be a suspect.
Richard L. Mabry, MD
For any book--mystery or suspense (and there is a difference) or romance--I plot out the book. I learned to create a chapter synopsis while writing for Heartsong Presents. Basically, that lets the editor know what happens in each chapter. Now writing for Love Inspired Suspense, I must give them a detailed synopsis. But I often veer off the beaten path as I write the story and I am often surprised by the ending. I have the freedom to change things up if the story requires. The Camera Never Lies, a romantic cozy mystery, was the 2nd book I'd ever written. The night before I was to write the big reveal scene of whodunnit, I decided to change who the killer was. I had written the whole book with this one character in mind, and then I changed it. That worked out beautifully for the story because readers were also surprised and Camera won the 2011 Carol Awards in the mystery category.
Mine are always plotted to the detail. Despite that, I always get a surprise at some point. Sometimes I think of it as a reminder that we can set our expectations all we want, but God will have His way.
I try to have a pretty good idea of my story before I begin writing, but I’ve never completely plotted any book ahead of time. As my
story unfolds, I see new ways to go, and I learn things about my characters. I like to have the freedom to follow new twists that present themselves. About halfway through, I begin to do some serious plotting – and certainly as I near the end I decide how I want to bring the novel to a close. And yes, my endings have sometimes surprised me. In my upcoming book, RISING DARKNESS, an idea suddenly occurred to me that would bring down my bad guy – and add some fun with a character that’s near and dear to my heart. (And Kim Vogel Sawyer’s too! LOL!)
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