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.
This month we're talking about crime, and the questions that crime-writing raises for authors. One of the big challenges writing mystery is how to make the story airtight while keeping the reader guessing. This exercise forces you to examine the crime from all angles and make sure you've got alibis where you need 'em and clever clues where you don't!
Describe all that your main character knows about the crime at hand through dialogue, as if s/he were being cross-examined in court. What are the basic facts from their point of view? What doesn't the MC know? What might s/he be overlooking and for what reason?
Next, put your other suspects on the stand and submit them to questioning. What are their excuses? How do they defend themselves? What makes them suspicious?
Look at the crime itself. How was it executed? Was it premeditated? What was the motivation? What about a getaway? Any accomplices? How did the real criminal get away with it?
Is there a detective on the scene? Any experts you can call in that could weave evidence together? What are the clues that lead the sleuth to figuring out the truth?
Now, give your closing remarks to your "jury" (think picky editors and agents!). How does the story hang together? What logical leaps are you expecting from the reader? What needs more explanation?