1. john11
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    john11 Member

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    chapter sequences

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by john11, Jun 16, 2013.

    Hi and thanks for reading this post.

    Can you tell me how to structure paragraphs in a mystery novel.

    I was told by a writer who has had work published that the first chapter should be fast and exciting to hook the reader and introduce the mystery.

    The second chapter should be a flashback to explain and introduce people, previous events and the mystery.

    How should the rest of the chapters go, is there a particular way mystery novels should run.

    Many thanks in advance. John.
     
  2. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    There's no set format and any answer is open to interpretation. How do successful mystery authors fare? Start there and you'll see what works.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A first chapter has to hook the reader in any genre, so solid advice there. As for the rest, I agree with SwampDog - read widely in the genre. But to that I would add, read widely and take note of the differences in approach more than the similarities.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with starting off strong. You need to hook the reader quickly, or you risk not hooking the reader at all.

    as for the second paragraph providing background, I strongly disagree. Keep the reader in the now, allow him or her to know the characters an to get a feel for the setting. Get the reader committed to the story. There is plenty of time to introduce backgroud and other characters later, incrementally.

    One thing about the mystery genre: characters are everything. Not just the principal players, but all the odd and fun characters the reader encounters throughout.

    To establish characters firmly in the reader's mind, I recommend every character have an "introductory" scene all his or her own. I don't mean a physical description, although that is often included, I mean a scene that shows that character doing something, to give the reader a strong sense of that character. It need not necessarily be the first appearance of the character - he or she could be in the background of an earlier scene. But don't try to introduce more than one or two characters in the same scene.

    There is no set structure. I've read mysteries in which no one, including the reader, knows what the real mystery is, never mind its solution, until close to the end,
     
  5. john11
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    john11 Member

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    Hi. Many thanks for the replies, much appreciated.

    The writer who gave me this information said that nowadays books can start at the end and work their way back to the beginning, or start half way through the story and move backwards and forwards through the timeline. In other words they can jump all over the place so flashbacks are common.

    I was thinking of this: chapter one: Fast and exciting to hook the reader.

    Chapter two: Dedicate to one of the three main characters to give plenty of information about them; likes, dislikes, job, hopes for the future, personal problems so that readers can empathise.

    Chapter three: further the story.

    Chapter four: Dedicate to the second and third main characters.

    Chapter Five: Continue the story.

    Do you think this is a good idea to spend some time giving an insight to what drives the three main characters or do you think it may be a little jarring and detract from the story. Do you think it will provide breaks between the chapters.

    My original idea was to alternate chapters between what the good guys are up to and what the bad guys are doing

    Many thanks.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't like the idea of following a strict pattern or way of doing things. Also, don't include what a character likes, dislikes, etc. unless it somehow relates to the story. I don't think spending an entire chapter on such things is going to help the story much.
     
  7. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    I'd give your information WHILE the good and bad guys are doing things. Feels a lot more realistic that way, and allows the reader to paint a mental image, and then slowly complete it, as they go along.
     
  8. john11
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    john11 Member

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    Hi. Thanks for the replies.

    I am a 32 year old virgin (writer that is) Nothing published, never submitted a manuscript.

    Can you tell me is there any books i can buy which you would consider essential reading for someone like me, or perhaps any webpages i can visit which have need-to-know information.

    Many Thanks.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm always amazed when people ask this, as if writing is a dance and all one needs to do (cha cha cha) is learn the time signature and rhythm (cha cha cha) and, lo and behold, and instant best-seller (cha cha cha). You want to learn how to write really good mysteries - read really good mysteries. Agatha Christie. Anne Perry. James Patterson. Dashiell Hammett. Folks like that. They don't tell their stories all the same way. Neither should you.

    And, BTW, it's "are there any books..."
     
  10. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    What about this instead?


    Chapter 1) Hook
    Chapter 2-??) Actions and events; introduce information about the characters involved only when it is necessary for the reader to understand their actions and reactions to the events that follow.

    Oh, and you should keep some information about the character(s) secret as well, to increase the tension and conflict of the story; only reveal some really key information in the last few chapters. Suspense is King.

    If you want to make things more complicated, mess up the timeline of the events, i.e. tell the story in a non-chronological manner.

    On the subject of tension: just as one plot is about to be resolved, another plot arises, making it difficult to resolve the current problem.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I recommend thinking in terms of scenes rather than chapters. Every scene should have a purpose, and that purpose defines your sequencing. Chapter breaks are a bit more arbitrary; there are many different criteria you can use for placing chapter breaks.
     

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