EXCERPT from "Ruining Everything: Tips for Plotting a Mystery" by Victoria Thompson in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
Plotting your first mystery can seem like an overwhelming prospect. Keeping suspects and clues and red herrings straight is like juggling squirrels. Here is a strategy to help you get all your suspects and clues to line up neatly and perform for you. It won’t give you a great idea, but it will help you turn that great idea into a viable mystery.
First thing you need to do is create your “Mystery Eternal Triangle,” which is different from the romantic one. This triangle consists of the victim, the killer and the sleuth. You can start with any of them, but for this exercise, let’s start with the victim.
Victoria Thompson writes the Edgar-nominated Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt and detective Frank Malloy. Her latest book in the series is Murder on Lexington Avenue. She is also the author of 20 historical romances. A popular speaker, Victoria has taught at Penn State University and currently teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She is online at http://victoriathompson.com.