Jump to content



Writing a smaller murder mystery within the scope of a larger story

  • Please log in to reply
1 reply to this topic

#1 CM_Fick


    Veteran Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 206 posts
  • Literary Status:published, self-published, unagented
  • LocationCanada
  • Publishing Experience:Mark of Fate, Bad Caveman Publishing, 2011

    Self published works:
    Burden of Fate, 2012
    Legacy of Fate, 2016
    When the Dead Rise: Series 1, 2016

Posted 27 March 2017 - 03:28 PM

Hi all, 


I'm hoping some experienced mystery writers could give me a few pointers for a new project I've begun work on. It is a story that is squarely in the sci-fi genre - generation-type space ship headed off to colonize a new world. What I'm hoping to pull off is I'd like to include a small murder mystery into the larger plot. 


I do read and enjoy mystery novels - although I'm quite selective as to which ones pique my interest. I have done research on how to properly craft and outline a good mystery - one that will leave just enough breadcrumbs so that when revealed, the murderer is a surprise but the reader doesn't feel like it's outside their scope of understanding.


Being that my mystery is within a larger, non-mystery story, I'm looking for suggestions as to the best way to plot it so it doesn't feel tacked on. 


I have my murderer and victim. I have the important murder info also plotted (motive, opportunity, and the actual event). I have 3 suspects, all with reason to be suspected and lie about their true alibi and their red herring clues, but it feels like I'm missing an element or a step for it to be complete.


I'm hesitant to move much further into the story until I've figured out what's missing, so I don't have to go back and revise because of a glaring oversight.


Any insight is greatly appreciated! Thank you in advance!   



#2 Tom Preece

Tom Preece

    Word Warrior

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,040 posts
  • Literary Status:unagented
  • LocationUS Northwest
  • Publishing Experience:Virtually none. Long long ago in college I was published in a couple of student magazines

Posted 27 July 2017 - 11:36 PM

Yes i have published one.  I think the thing to remember always is that a mystery is rather like a magician's trick.  The salient facts need to be accounted for in a different narrative than one of the murder.  There must be a reason to believe the other story - either over all or for each of your suspects.


I'll happily tell you here the structure of my own narrative.  My narrator hero Duvall has convinced himself that his friend Tuco committed a murder long ago in combat in Vietnam.  Tuco has disappeared after a body has turned up,but Duvall is convinced he disappearred because there appears to be a new Army witch hunt about the now antique murder.


Duvall never explicitly reveals this to the reader, until the story is almost over.  His belief's and expectations explain for the reader all of the plot so far, and explain actions Duvall has taken that aren't otherwise clearly explained.  Duvall tells you exactly why Tuco and only Tuco could have committed the murder (in his opinion.)  The reader has absolutely no reason to believe other wise except for a single line of dialogue that is appropriate in context.


As so often is the case, the murderer reveals himself when he tries to kill Duvall, Duvall's wife, and Tuco, in order to conceal his own guilt.


All of this is classic magician's misdirection.  Here is the real story, the narrator says - convincing the reader - and then suddenly he is confronted by the truth in the actions of others.


Hope that helps.


Here's a link to my novel on Amazon if you want to look.  The Kindle version is only $2.99. 



In a real way you have an advantage.  You have an overall story to bury the real mystery story in.  So long as you don't put the mystery too much toward the front you can bury the facts in the other over all story in narratives that seem to entirely account for them.  Go for it.

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users