Many mystery authors start at the end of the story and work their way to the beginning from there, because it’s helpful if you know who the killer is before you start to write. But this sort of reverse storytelling can be taxing…especially when the idea well is running dry.
The Mystery of the Good Idea
Where do you get your ideas? This is a question every author is going to have to answer, and sometimes the answer is I don’t know. Ideas come out of nowhere for many authors. A TV show, a song, even a single word might spark something and suddenly, a whole world is springing up in your head. The reverse side of this power is clear: sometimes, those ideas don’t come. Sometimes, you’re going to have to go searching for them.
When your next great idea is taking too long to arrive, try a few tricks to get the creative juices flowing again. Mystery authors are in a unique position, because they can pull inspiration from many more places than authors who focus on other genres. As a mystery author, you can take advantage of the wide, multi-faceted world of true crime.
If you can’t find inspiration from reality, you can’t find it anywhere. Go to your favorite search engine and try a few scary searches. I like phrases like strange murders, unsolved murders, unsolved disappearances, weird murder stories and strange crimes. Restrict your searches to news or blog posts if you’re getting too many useless results. Reading about weird crimes and unsolved cases might give you lots of inspiration to craft your own intriguing mysteries.
Yes, it sounds a little crazy but it works. When you need some good ideas for a mystery story, turn on the TV or open up Netflix and start looking for one of those made-for-TV movies based on someone stalking someone or some murder in a pleasant subdivision…you’ve seen them before. Start watching, and start getting some ideas.
Manner of Death
Many great mystery novels revolve around a mysterious death. So when you need ideas, start thinking about death (it’s not morbid if you’re a writer, I promise). Write down any manner of death that comes to mind, from the mundane (heart attack) to the extreme (shark attack).
If writing about death doesn’t start giving you some ideas for stories, try to focus on the killer instead. Single out just one element of the story and put your focus here until more ideas start to come. Good ideas don’t always come at random. Sometimes, you’ve got to force them into existence.
About the Author
Jade Varden writes young adult novels for teen readers. When she’s not crafting mysteries in
her books, Jade also blogs practical writing tips for authors who self-publish. Follow her on Twitter @JadeVarden
. Visit Jade’s blog
for reviews, writing tips, self-publishing advice and everything else you ever wanted to know about reading and writing books.
Jade is the author of the Deck of Lies series
, the story of a girl whose entire identity is ripped apart by lies, money and family secrets that won’t stay buried.
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