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How To Plot Your Mystery Novel Like A Screenplay

You’ve decided to write a mystery novel, now you need to learn how to plot your mystery novel.

After the endorphin rush of starting a novel wears off, you are left with a blank screen, or a blank sheet of paper, and a sense of fear and overwhelm.

Where do you start?

Character? Crime? Plot?

Maybe you’ve got a vague idea of who your detective or sleuth is going to be, maybe some supporting characters, maybe a crime or murder, so now we need to start putting them all together on the page, or in this case, the stage.

For this post, we’re going to assume that you want to start with plotting your book, and we only have to look as far as its kissing cousin, the screenplay, for a hint on how to accomplish this.

You Don’t Have To Reinvent The Wheel

When you decide to start plotting your mystery novel, you’ve made a decision, but it’s just one of thousands that you will make during this journey, and with each decision, you polish a facet of the diamond that is your novel.

It can be overwhelming, but if we use the screenplay as a guideline toward plotting our novel, it can take a great deal of the pressure off of you.  It’s a tried and true structure, one that has been used by thousands of screenwriters and novelists, and you can use it too.

It’s going to be okay, I promise.

When you decide to write a mystery novel, that's just the first decision you will make on the journey. Each decision starts to bring your story into focus, like the shine on a brilliant diamond. Start polishing the story that only you can… Click To Tweet

Use An Ancient Structure

Over at the Do Some Damage blog, mystery writer Holly West lays out the exact plot points, or beats that you will need to come up with to get your mystery novel off to a good start.

The screenplay has a standard Three Act Structure, and so will your mystery novel.

There are certain plot points that the standard murder mystery will need to include.

We need a sleuth, or detective.  We need a murderer, or a criminal.  We need a crime.  We need the sleuth to have a reason for wanting to solve this murder, even though it might just be his job to do these things.

You’ll need to start at the 10,000 foot view and decide what these things are, and then start going deeper and lower and start to make decisions for each act, then decisions for each chapter.

West does a great job in breaking everything down, and gets bonus points for mentioning Alex Sokoloff, who has written a wonderful book for novelists looking to steal screenwriting secrets to use in their novel.

Go Forth And Plot!

I want you to head over to the Do Some Damage blog and check out Holly’s article and get started on plotting that mystery novel that you want to write.

Holly West – Do Some Damage blog – How I Plot A Mystery Novel.

Don’t be scared, don’t be overwhelmed, just put each plot point on an index card and make a few notes for each. Start thinking like a novelist, start thinking like a mystery writer, start thinking like a screenwriter – think in terms of story and what needs to happen to whom, and you’re on your way, no worries.



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