Psst! Want to know a secret?
At a recent Twitter #mglitchat focusing on middle-grade mysteries, moderator Elissa Cruz asked the group to identify the elements of any good mystery. Although answers varied, most of them seemed to center around the notion of surprise and secrets — of when to withhold information and when to reveal it. Ben H. Winters pointed out that, really, the elements of a good mystery are the elements of any good book. As we read, there’s a secret we want to unlock. How that secret affects the characters makes up the bulk of the plot.
With this in mind, today’s Mystery Monday prompt revolves around secrets. What is the darkest one you can imagine? The most destructive? What about the most embarrassing? One that a character would do anything rather than reveal?
For an individual:
Set a time for 5 minutes and list every possible secret that comes to your mind, no matter how absurd or trivial.
Now, choose one of these secrets. What type of character would harbor this secret and why? Once you have an idea, now think about who needs or wants to know this secret. Put the two together in a scene and write for at least twenty minutes. Chances are you’ll have a seed for a great story!
For a group/class of students:
After a brief class discussion about secrets, ask each student write a possible secret on a slip of paper and put them into a hat. Students can then draw from the hat and follow the instructions above.