Monday, December 26, 2011

Mystery Monday #13

It's Mystery Monday!
Welcome to our regular Monday feature, where you'll find different kinds of writing prompts and exercises. Each week, we'll give you something to help exercise your mystery-writing muscles.

Dialogue is crucial to all stories, and in mysteries what characters say (or choose not to say) can be revealing. For writers, dialogue can sometimes surprise us as we write it—my character said that?—and, in so doing, take a story in a whole new direction. Great dialogue can also liven up the writing and add humor or intrigue to the proceedings. There's no better example of this than in the Film Noir genre of movies, the mystery films that almost always have a droll, fast-paced exchange of words between characters.

Since this is the (un)lucky thirteenth edition of Mystery Monday, I thought I would give you thirteen different prompts, each of which are lines from Film Noir movies (see key below). Choose one (or more) of theses lines, and imagine the speaker and the situation they're in. At what point in the story would this line occur? Who are they speaking to? How might another character respond? Write a few paragraphs to set up the story around the dialogue.

1) "It was his story against mine, but of course I told my story better."

2) "I suspect no one and I suspect everyone."

3) "If I knew you were coming, I'd have set fire to the place."

4) "The best goodbyes are short. Adieu."

5) "I have the perfect weapon right here. These two hands."

6) "I want you to do something. I want you to get yourself out of bed and get over to the window and scream as loud as you can. Otherwise you only have three minutes to live."

7) "Money. You know what that is. The stuff you never have enough of. Little green things with George Washington's picture that men slave for, commit crimes for, die for. It's the stuff that's caused more trouble in the world than anything else invented, simply because there's too little of it."

8) "You're like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another."

9) "You couldn't plant enough flowers to hide the smell."

10) "Carlotta was the kind of town where they spell trouble T-R-U-B-I-L and if you try to correct them, they kill you.

11) "I don't think you understand, Bigelow. You've been murdered."

12) "You're dumber than you think I think you are."

13) "Next time we'll have a foolproof coffin."

Key: 1) In a Lonely Place 2) Laura 3) The Killers 4) The Maltese Falcon 5) Strangers on a Train 6) Sorry Wrong Number 7) Detour 8) Out of the Past 9) The Big Heat 10) Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid 11) The Big Sleep 12) Chinatown 13) The Third Man

Elisa Ludwig's debut young adult novel PRETTY CROOKED (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins), will be released in March 2012. Her all-time favorite film noir flick is The Big Sleep. Elisa lives in Philadelphia with her husband Jesse and cat Beau a.k.a. Bread. When she's not writing for teens, she's cooking and/or writing about food for The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications. Elisa is a proud member of The Apocalypsies.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a helpful -- and clever -- prompt! Thanks for this.


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