I’ll discuss my NaNoWriMo project as I write it. There will be spoilers.
My NaNoWriMo project is a mix of familiar and new territory for me. It’s a fantasy; that’s familiar. Urban fantasy, but that’s not a big leap. There’s also a romance (subplot), and I enjoy writing romance. So far so good.
I decided to add a mystery (subplot). My MC’s dad and mom were both murdered. He knows who killed his mom (his wicked stepfather), but not how his dad died. Later, he finds out that his father was accused of murdering all the Knights of the Year, and in order to exonerate his dad, the MC has to find the real murderer.
I’ve never written a mystery before. In fact, I tried to work in a mystery subplot into The Unfinished Song books 4-6, and it was so awful I had to scrap the mystery part and take that whole subplot in a different direction. It caused me many painful hours of head-scratching and re-writing.
One of my goals with this project is to master the mystery format at a simple level, so if I ever want to try it in a more complex story (like my multivolume epic where so much more is going on), I’ll be less lost.
The first step for me was to read a bunch of mysteries (and watch more on Netflix) and then buy a bunch of How To Write Mystery books. If you want to learn to do something, study how others do it, don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s been incredibly helpful, and I wish I had done this a year ago. Better late, and all that.
The thing which the How To books really emphasized is that you need to know the murderer’s story first. After all, the murder (at least the first one) has already taken place before the detective investigates, it only makes sense to write that part first.
I know who was killed. Thirteen people…the twelve Knights and the MC’s father. (I decided the Knights are all teens, so the dad, although once a Knight, could not be in that position at the time of the murders.) Besides, thirteen murders makes a better number for Halloween, which of course, is when they were killed.
In addition to the murderer, I need a bunch of other possible murderers. The MC’s dad is one. He’s the one implicated by all the initial evidence. Even the MC will begin wonder if he was guilty. (Spoiler: He’s not.) But who, then? And why?
In fact, all the serious suspects need a motivation. I’m looking at my plot, figuring out who my supporting characters will be, since this is the first place to stash suspects.