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Plotting a Mystery Novel: The Secret’s in the Secrets
An essential truth about mystery novels is that characters harbor secrets. They lie, exaggerate, cover up—and it’s not always to hide their own guilt. In this workshop, we’ll outline the overall structure of a mystery novel, and how to use the revelation of secrets to fuel the plot. We’ll discuss:
- How secrets and lies can be used to fuel a mystery
- Using misdirection to implicate and exonerate
- The main character’s secrets; the victim’s secrets; the villain’s secrets
- Unreliable narrators
- Diaries, transcripts, and other devices to hide the truth
- How to strategically reveal secrets to keep readers turning pages
- The Believability Test
Hallie Ephron is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven suspense novels, including Careful What You Wish For, due out in August from William Morrow. Critics have called her books “deliciously creepy” works that integrate mystery genre with women’s fiction. She wrote Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel.