The Writing Files: Clue



Today I write on the film noir aspect of writing: mysteries. Black-and-white murder films, old time radio programs. Read on:

My current project is working on Samuel Woodlock: Star of Egypt, a mystery novel whose main character is based off of Dan Holiday, Alan Ladd’s character in the radio show Box 13. Since writing the short prologue that intrigued my Pop, I’ve been working to finish the book.

Unfortunately, I’ve run across the problem that I think most mystery writers would face: laying out the clues. Come on, you think. It’s not so hard.  Jimmy the thief likes peanut butter sandwiches, so leave one laying around at the crime scene. The only problem is, every other clue must be explored and must have a reason why it points to that person. Other times, it has to be a red herring, and you still have  to explore it. So what’s the best way to leave clues?

Well, something that I’ve started to do is to draw a clue map. This could be done mentally or physically, if you can remember how the clue map goes. Here’s how to draw one:  write  down the suspects’ names at the bottom of the page and then at the top of the page write the word ‘clues.’ Then begin to draw a structure that will taper down to the villain’s name. Go ahead and let some of the branches waver towards the others, but remember, they have to go to the villain. Then begin to fill in clues that the protagonist finds. Say a pipe, or a poem, or even a song that someone whistled! Write these down, making sure that they’re in the right road leading to the person who matches the clue. In the end, you should have a path of clues that can appear in any order to help or to confuse, the detective. Voila!

Time to chime in: Do you write mysteries? If so, how do you write them?

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1 Response to The Writing Files: Clue

  1. Great tip! I find that’s the same with character maps, especially in historical books. You have to map out who’s who, and who did what in the context of actual historical events, and family lineages. Tracing the various historical figures back to your character, etc.

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