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Three Ways To Create Mystery

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From Steve Alcorn today in my Inbox.

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Of course, “mystery” is a whole genre. But mystery is also a technique you can use in all other genres, such as young adult, romance, adventure . . . in fact almost every type of fiction can benefit from an element of mystery.

Here are three of our favorite techniques for creating mystery.

  1. Raise Story Questions
    Story questions hook readers, compelling them to read on to discover answers. A story question isn’t a literal question, like “What will she do next?” It’s a question that arises in your readers’ mind as a result of the situation.
  2. Omit Information
    A variation of the story question is omitted information. Leaving out some important fact can keep readers interested, even if they aren’t aware that you’ve intentionally omitted it.
  3. Misdirect Us
    Readers enjoy surprises, and the best way to surprise them is to focus their attention on one thing while something much more important is happening elsewhere. This is the mainstay of mystery writing, but it’s equally useful in all forms of fiction.

The viewpoint you tell your story from impacts how well these techniques work. Omitting information in a first-person story is easy. If your protagonist doesn’t know something, neither do your readers! But if the story is being told from an omniscient point of view, readers may feel you, as the author, unfairly withheld information from them.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I find that deleting all the nouns in a chapter is an effective way to create mystery. It also raises huge story questions:

 

1) Who edited this junk?

 

2) Why didn't grammarly complain?

 

3) Did the NSA redact it?

 

Some writers prefer to delete all the verbs. Deleting adjectives and adverbs is no good because it has the side effect of improving the prose. Using lots of made up words works too. It proves you are a linguist, and linguists write great mysteries, they just call them something else, like "cluefershnuggen".

 

- Paul

Edited by paulchernoch
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4 hours ago, paulchernoch said:

deleting all the nouns in a chapter is an effective way to create mystery

It also writes faster! Do you include/exclude the pronouns too?

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