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Daily Archives: October 1, 2013

Bad Guy Tree

No, this isn’t a new exotic cultivar. It’s my take/process of keeping track of all the plot lines so they don’t fall through the cracks of the story. Since I write mystery that’s the model I’ll use.

 

The Bad Guy

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The narrowing of suspects

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Suspect Number 1      Suspect Number 2      Suspect Number 3

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Flesh out the motive

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This is a good place to slip in a twist.                Eliminate Suspect Number 3

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A clue that change everything                                 The resolution of a red herring

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Hint at the Motive

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A twist sending everyone in the wrong direction      Evidence that points to several people

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The collection of evidence                                   Chasing clues

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Introduce the bad guy in a subtle way

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The change in the real world

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The murder

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The real world

The roots are the backstory. They’re there, but you can’t see them. And as with plants, if there’s a problem, you look to the roots/soil first for the problem.

The idea is a sort of outline that really isn’t. (My traumatic memories involving outlining sentences in my childhood prevent me from labeling anything an outline. But that’s for my therapist.) I put mine on a white board so I can turn around and look at any time. It also allows me to erase things or switch them around as the need arises. Using paper, in my case, is a terrible waste of forest resources.

The tree allows me to make notes around the edges—I’ll have a brainstorm in the middle of a scene about something that has nothing to do with what’s going on at the moment. These brain flurries are always flashes of brilliance…especially when I try to recall them later and can’t. The tree highlights the main points and allows me to keep track of what’s going on when.

In a mystery, you must know who the bad guy is before you start. If you don’t, you run the risk of wandering around your plot looking for him and the story becoming hopelessly convoluted. A mystery is all about the puzzle…and characters. But the puzzle has to be there or your readers won’t go along for the ride. And if they do once, a true mystery fan won’t pick up your next book. This happened to me with an author I enjoyed. Her books were humorous and fast-paced. Then she committed the ultimate sin in mystery. The puzzle fell apart so she just ended the book. Needless to say, I won’t spend another dime on one of her books. Yes, I do hold a grudge.

The beauty of the tree is you can add as many suspects, clues, red herrings, and twists as you like. And if you decide a red herring has promise, you can make it relevant. If a new twist occurs to you, drop him/it in and add the leaf to the tree.

If you’re one of those who likes to have parallel plots, this is a great way to keep track of both of them. Simply, hang them side-by-side.

You can also plug in the Writer’s Journey steps and characters. Or use the tree for romance. You can also keep track of the myth you’re employing, plug in a romance, slip in twists and turns, and keep track of them all.

I hope this sparks some ideas to help you with your process.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Idaho