Wednesday, January 30, 2019

How to find a plot hole in your mystery.


8 basic steps in a murder mystery

The Problem:

I've been writing book 4 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series. Doing well--I thought - until I reached about 18,000 words and realized. I had solid characters, lots of action, BUT no danger, no suspense, no tension and now where to go that was interesting in terms of a mystery story.
Major missing pieces.  **BIG SIGH**  

For the last two nights I watched old mystery series and crocheted, my go-to for keeping front mind busy so underneath can brainstorm. No real progress on the story ( did make 2 hats.)

Return to the drawing board:

This morning I decided to forget my location, action and characters and go back to the basics of a murder plot. In other words, backing up and looking at the big picture which needs to include these for starters.

Killing, killer, victim, discovery, reporting, sleuth and solution.

My brainstorming tool of choice:

 -- a mind map. (See Tony Buzan & Mind Mapping)

I started with the bodies, asked questions and fanned out around the central point. And bingo, I found my missing link and wrote down a BASIC plot line. (On left of diagram.) The long curvy arrow is the missing link.

What I found is not visible (x marks the spot) because that would be a spoiler for the book. (Came Home From the Grave -available on most digital sites & paper on Amazon)

 The Result: The Plot

1) finds bodies, 

2) investigates, 

3) learn secrets, 

4) gets found out by killer before telling secret, 

5) ends up in mortal danger , 

6) escapes OR is rescued or a bit of both

7) reveals and catches killer

8) gets reward

  Steps 3 and 4 were the missing pieces.

Now I know where to put all that action and character development and what to add to make things worse, to increase tension, and to enhance the mystery.

  What is your go-to tool for solving writing problems - plot, character or other?




  1. Excellent post! Whenever I'm stuck I like to take long country drives. When my mother was still living, I would visit her often in Sudbury (5-6 hour drive). I would solve many glitches during that time.

  2. I love watching how other writers figure out this stuff!
    My go-to tool is still the storyboard - done by hand.
    I collect pictures and spend a quiet afternoon cutting them out, moving them around on a posterboard and finally gluing them down.
    It's probably a bit like crocheting. :)

    1. Story boards end up too linear for me although I do like randomly temporarily stuck pictures on a board. There are times pencil and paper and cutouts trump all. I have opened a drawing book with blank pages (it has been on the shelf for years) and I'm doing mind maps as that is what my brain is currently responding to. Also just purchased Scapple and gave it a try -- I am going to like it a lot.

  3. What a good post! When I'm stuck I revert to paper and pencil. Don't ask me why a pencil, it just seems right. I jot notes and when things begin to gel, I underline them, then begin to put those in order and it usually works out that I then am back on track.

  4. Ta da ta da -a before there were typewriters (manual or electric, or word processors or computers or Ipads... there was the MIGHTY PENCIL - and it still rules the world of words.

  5. Great post Mahrie, TFS. I can't remember where I heard or read it but one of my biggest ah-ha moments for overcoming plot holes was when I was reminded that villains continue to go on about their lives while the sleuth and all the rest of the characters are trying to solve the mystery! A mistake many of us make is to put them into suspended animation right after they bump off the victim and hold them there while the investigation is pursued - causing a sagging middle. Then the author resuscitates them at the end -often with another flurry of action- when the case is solved. I use a more linear 'map' or timeline that shows where and what everyone is doing all along the plot line so that it reflects action /reaction between the sleuth and the villain all the way through. It catches my plot holes every time!

  6. Thanks for sharing about the villain, Brenda. It makes me think that time lines for the book should be created for all main characters and then they can be Braided together for an overall effect. Creating such time lines gives us as writers more material to plump up the middle of the book.

    1. Exactly. The timeline doesn't have to be about days or seasons necessarily; it can simply be about sequence of events.

  7. Many people like to read novels in their boring time. Murder mystery novels are popular and people like to read the mystery stories in such novels. These novels are written on murder and people can find pictures also in such novels.