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Author Topic: Help with Plotting/Structuring a Fantasy Murder Mystery  (Read 6644 times)

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  • Cub
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Help with Plotting/Structuring a Fantasy Murder Mystery
« on: October 31, 2016, 11:32:24 AM »

Hi, new here. I'm looking for some advice/opinions on the plotting of what I'm considering a gothic-fantasy murder mystery. The problem I'm having is in melding the fantasy elements, especially the murderer, with a satisfying mystery structure.

To give you an idea, the story I want to write will be a bit like the Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake (sort of a gothic fantasy, but heavier on the fantasy than Peake) mixed with something like And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (a murder mystery with an ensemble cast of characters). I definitely want to include mystery elements, but I don't want it to be a formulaic, procedural sort of thing. And like I said, I think I want it to be more of an ensemble, without one true protagonist, so no typical detective character. At least one, possibly multiple characters separately, will be trying to figure out what's going on, but they will be a bit out of their depth (more Harry Potter than Hercule Poirot), and may not successfully solve the mystery on their own before it's revealed to them.

Now, while I'm fully comfortable venturing away from traditional structure, I want the mystery elements to be satisfying to a reader who enjoys a mystery. The set up is basically that a group of people are stuck in a castle when murders start to occur. It is a fairly traditional start, but my problem is the eventual reveal. The villain is sort of part person, part monster--a person who's become sort of a paranormal creature. He's known to at least one of the other character (the owner of the castle) as it's someone from his past. The murderer is someone thought to be long dead, but who has returned. I have an idea that something one of the characters does awakens this villain, but they don't realize it right away. And that's what starts the murders happening. No one really knows this villain has returned until close to the end of the book.

Is it unfair to the reader if the murderer isn't a member of the ensemble at the start of the story? In a classic whodunit, I know that the reader is supposed to have a fair shot at solving the thing, so the killer should be presented to them early on. But what if my reader is presented with clues and backstory over time that eventually paint a picture of what is really going on? Because the backstory to what is happening is almost as much of a mystery as the murders themselves. I don't necessarily want my story to have a typical whodunit feel. It's more that they've walked into a mysteryious situation, and they're trying to figure out what is happening and why. And the answer to those questions involves discovering a lot about the past, and realizing we walked into a very different situation than we thought we did. These sort of ritualistic murders start happening, and the characters uncover the truth of what's happening gradually until the murderer is revealed as this creature from the past, who was unknown to them at the start of the book.

Is that okay? Am I writing more of a suspense story than a mystery? Am I worrying too much? I'm also considering having the killer actually be one of the ensemble from the start, but he's disguised or unrecognizable. But then I lose the idea of someone awakening him, and I have to figure out why he showed up there now, as opposed to years ago.

Does it help if the villain is discussed throughout the book, and we hear about the legend of this villain, but we're told he's dead, and he's not presented as a possible suspect?

Sorry if this question is a bit of a mess. My thought on this are kind of all over the place, and I'm trying to sort them out.


  • Cub
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Re: Help with Plotting/Structuring a Fantasy Murder Mystery
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2016, 03:51:45 PM »

Consider yourself the master viewpoint character and that ever element develops and unfolds from your thoughts and sensory perceptions which you transfer the the Main Protagonist who now becomes the Main Viewpoint Character throughout the story. Also the Main Protagonist and Main Antagonist have their own ideas how the plot shall develop and unfold and both have their own set of supporting characters - Main, Major, Minor and Mentioned. A narrative hook sets the foundation for the story. Ed believed Vera the perfect wife until he discovered arsenic in his food. This hook is the entire story. The plot reveals the the big "H" and 5 "W's".

See scenes in your imagination - write what you see - hear characters speak - write what they said - pretend yourself every character.

review -

Let me know if my blah, blah helped you.


  • Cub
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Re: Help with Plotting/Structuring a Fantasy Murder Mystery
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2017, 08:10:40 AM »

 Before I start the writing process, I assign a flashcard for each of my primary characters and make a note of their respective traits/backstories on other sides of flashcards. It helps me get under the skin of the character and understand the emotions behind the motives that drive their actions.


  • Hack
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Re: Help with Plotting/Structuring a Fantasy Murder Mystery
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2017, 04:07:06 PM »

You do not have to stick with the mystery formula. Let the story unfold the way you want it to unfold. Just write the book you would want to read. You can decide its label later.
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