The A - Z Challenge is over. Congratulations to everyone who made it through. Today is the first Monday in May and the Plot Series is back. We will celebrate by show casing the riddle. The following quote is in the book and is so well spoken that it bears repeating.
The mystery story is really two stories in one: the story of what happened and the story of what appeared to happen. -Mary Roberts Rinehart.
In that quote is the first clue. Okay…I'm not so great with clues and that's why I'm not a mystery writer. Maybe someday I'll tackle this difficult plot but rest assured it will be hidden in a fantasy.
Quote: A riddle is a deliberately enigmatic or ambiguous question. -Ronald B. Tobias, 20 Master Plots and how to build them.
The Riddle plot has been with us since ancient times. It is a part of many fairy tales (in simple form); it dates back to ancient Greece like so many plots. The most famous riddle is: the Sphinx asks Oedipus. "What has one voice and walks on four legs in the morning, on two at midday, and on three legs in the evening?" the Sphinx asks. If you get it wrong the Sphinx will eat you. That's great motivation. Of course Oedipus gets it right and becomes king after the Sphinx falls into depression and commits suicide. The answer is: "A man, who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two feet when grown, and leans on a cane when aged."
In this plot, the mind is challenged not the body. The more difficult the riddle the more the reader is tested.
Edgar Allen Poe is credited with the first short story and the first modern mystery which features a detective to solve a crime in; The Purloined Letter.
So, you want to be a mystery writer? Your challenge is to incorporate numerous clues woven into the fabric of your story. They must hint at the identity of the killer, the how, where and why to the crime. The answer is there for the reader to pull out, hidden in plain sight. Readers today want a challenge. I think this type of writing must be more and more difficult as science advances. At the same time, as writers, we can manipulate all those scientific break thoughts to leave legitimate clues and red herrings. If Sherlock Holmes were alive today, he could dust for fingerprints, photograph bloody foot prints, run DNA samples through a computer, so on and so forth. If it is the little old lady who lives next door to Sherlock, she could challenge his logic and confuse him in order to mislead or be the one who solves the crime. Exciting stuff.
Like so many plots, the riddle comes in three phases:
1. There's a murder.
2. There's an investigation with lots of clues and scary adventure.
3. The killer is identified and may or may not be caught, killed, imprisoned…fill in the blank. It's your book not mine.
In the end, your story must satisfy the reader. They must feel challenged and then rewarded by your conclusion. There's nothing worse than having an ending that is obvious in a mystery. Are you up to the challenge?
Next week our master plot is: Rivalry
For more plots and a much deeper overview of each plot you can purchase; 20 Master Plots and how to build them, by Ronald B. Tobias. It is worth your money. Amazon link.