View Full Version : Plot the Mystery & Romantic Suspense

March 9th, 2011, 07:40 AM
I was watching the being of the television show Castle one night, and the main character said to the audience, there are two types of people to think of murder all the time, one is a serial killer and the other is a mystery writer.

I laughed, that is definitely a very true statement. Murder and mystery are on my mind all the time. And when I’m not thinking or writing about mystery, I’ll relax with my TV shows or a good book about the same thing.

If you are like most authors coming up with the idea is the least of your worries. They are everywhere! Need an idea, pick up a newspaper.

They can come from a bit of overheard conversation, idle moments on a beautiful beach, torn from the headlines, or quiet moments just before sleep maybe even a dream. It can come from an image of a particular character or a concept of a plot.

Once the idea comes to you, it will take hold, and grow. Like a mustard seed your idea must be cultured, developed, researched and worked out. You can do this in your Plot Book-write the idea down.

Sometimes especially in its infant stages, it’s best not to speak too much of a book idea because you will become emotionally spent and the work is never completed.

One of my favorite personal mottos is plan the work and work the plan.

You can do this in your Plot Book.

Let’s start with the idea. Now you plan it out chapter by chapter, scene by scene. In your Plot Book take the pages after your characters and write down your novel’s turning points.

Whatever you call it, its cause and effect. Action and reaction. Goal and effect. Its what will take you from page one of your novel to the end.

So, in the next pages of your novel you want to write down your book’s turning points right up to the climax.

By the way, it takes me about 3 to 6 months of working on my Plot Book before I begin the actual writing of the novel. Right now I am finishing upmy work in progress- Black Waters; I began my Plot Book for Cold River Murders about a month ago.

It doesn’t have to be written in one setting, take your time; you have a lot of clues and red herrings to bury within your pages.

In Pirates in Paradise, the concept came to me many years ago. The idea was force a good twin to pretend to be her twin sister. In my original concept, I thought this book would make a great comedy; it turned out to be one of my top selling romantic suspense novels.

I had my bookish twin, Haley be forced into assuming the role of her twin sister, the flamboyant South Beach Party girl who was involved with the leader of a drug cartel.

The scene that follows is in the prologue and sets up the action of The Plot

Tears glistened on Jenna’s perfect, heart shaped face. “Haley, I’m in so much trouble.”

“Is it Ricky?” Haley asked between sobs. She had met Jenna’s boyfriend only once.

“Yes. No.” Jenna’s voice cracked. She sat up and wiped her face before looking at Haley, her expression desperate. “Look, I need you to be me for a couple of days. Just until I can get a few things straightened out.”

Haley stared at her sister. “You can’t be serious! We aren’t kids anymore. We can’t just trade places. What’s going on? Honey, whatever it is, I’m sure we can figure something out.”

“It’s best you don’t know.” Jenna sobbed. Tears blinded her eyes and chocked her voice. “Look, I’ve made arrangements. You’ll be perfectly safe. Haley, please, I really need you to be me for just a few days.”

First Turning Point
Jenna escapes out the back of a hotel room, leaving Haley to be taken by the US Marshals. Amongst other things that happen at the end of Chapter 1, the safe house where Haley is staying at comes under attack by the cartel. Haley and one of the agents make a daring escape on Florida’s intercostal waterway.

Second Turning Point
Without doubt someone in the Feds gave away the Safe House. The Marshal who helped Haley get away is injured. There is no one to trust except for Jack Morgan who is in the witness protection agency. The marshal calls Jack, and Jack the hero comes in to grudgingly offer support.

Third Turning Point
After several days in the Florida Everglades with Jack, Jack begins to suspect, Haley is not Jenna the party girl that the Cartel and now Feds are looking for. At the end of this scenario, two thugs break into Jack’s house and hold Jack and Haley at gunpoint. Without giving away how they get away, Jack and Haley escape into the ‘Glades on Jack’s airboat.

Fourth Turning Point
Jack borrows a truck and Haley and Jack make their way into the Florida Keys. Jenna as last calls Haley and asks them to rendezvous with her in Key West.

Fifth Turning Point
At the rendezvous point, thugs from the Cartel get into a gun battle with the FBI and Marshals. Again, Jack and Haley escape.

Sixth Turning Point
Jack and Haley make their way back to Miami and while out getting breakfast for Jack, Haley is at last abducted by the Cartel. Jack sees this and tries to follow her abductors through the streets of Miami.

Final Turning Point
Haley is taken to the Bahamas to retrieve some Bearer Bonds, Jenna stole from the Cartel.

The Climax
Jack has borrowed a boat and also in the Bahamas. The following is the scene leading to the final turning point or Climax.

Pirates in Paradise

Passing the lobby, Haley noticed two couples waiting, one old, one young and a man with a newspaper seated on the elegant white sofas.

As they passed the man seated on a sofa who was reading a newspaper, he dropped the paper beside him. Rising, he stepped in front of Ricky and Haley blocking their path.
“Take the money,” Jack Morgan said evenly to Ricky Rojas. “Leave the girl.”

Okay, I’m not going to give away more but Pirates in Paradise has been accepted by a movie studio so I won’t take away the fun of the movie, or how this all works out for Haley and Jack.

In Your Plot Book, you have your characters, your setting, and now take a couple of pages to write out the following:

The First Turning Point_____________________________________________ ____
The Second Turning Point_____________________________________________ __
The Third Turning Point_____________________________________________ _____
The Final Turning Point_____________________________________________ ______
The Climax____________________________________________ _________________
The Conclusion________________________________________ _________________

You will notice I have several turning points; plan at least three turning points or sequences which happen causing reactions by the characters all working the mystery toward your book’s climax.

There are many subplots in Pirates in Paradise. Jack’s relationship with Haley and Jenna’s relationship with Ricky the head of the Cartel. The stolen bearer bonds and Jack’s struggle with himself and his situation. Jenna has two subplots. Haley changes on this journey. She grows from a quiet little clerk in a bookstore to a resourceful heroine who has to use her wits if she and Jenna are to survive. Jack also changes. He grows from an embittered, lonely man to a man who not only finds love but a future he longs for.

Whether you outline or follow the Turning Points as previously mentioned, you want as you lay out your action, you are making yourself a roadmap to follow.

A quick word and a very important word about my favorite book on plotting. I have had the privilege of attending several classes, lectures and all day seminars’ with Debra Dixon. I cannot stress enough it you have one book in your library on writing, I urge you to buy Goal, Motivation. Conflict. It is in my professional opinion the best book on developing character motivation, conflicts and goals. I totally recommend this well written book for you. And if Debra Dixon is at any conferences near you, please do yourself a favor and make sure you to attend. This book will go into more in-depth plotting can I can here. It’s truly wonderful and a must have for your library. Again the book is Goal, Motivation & Conflict, by author Debra Dixon Publisher: Gryphon Books for Writers, ISBN 0-9654371-0-8

Lastly, you will notice, I have only listed four Turning Points here. Have as many as you like. There in my opinion is no set rule in this but I think most books will offer at least three.

So, plan your twists and turns. Tomorrow we are going to explore how to refine your plotline by using the High Concept and then on to subplots and more about setting on Friday.

For those of you who would like to share your turning points, please feel free to post! I look forward to reading all of them.

Pirates in Paradise and all my books are available here at Coffeetime Romance. For full chapter reads, character interviews, reviews, and more visit my website.

See you online, at Coffeetime! Linn

March 10th, 2011, 06:43 AM
OMG I love the show Castle. It's my favourite show at the moment. I have the first two series on DVD and am always eager to watch the next episode of the new season whenever it's aired on TV.

As for the roadmap, I did that for the work in progress I'm writing, and it was coming along nicely, but recently I've hit a bit of a road block. I don't know why, but I'm definitely going to try writing again tomorrow after work.

March 10th, 2011, 07:16 AM
I loved the advise I recieved from Bob Morris who wrote Bahamara; he said when he got writers block about a scene, he would walk. Someone asked him, what if you don't solve the issue. He said I'll walk some more.

And this is why a Plot Book is so vital for the mystery-suspense author and writer. You work all all the kinks and twists before you begin the actual writing of it.

So my advice now is........let your characters be your guide. They will take over anyway at some point and do something that is contrary to your vision. Whatever comes to mind, go ahead and write it.........give your characters free range for three to four pages and see what happens. You as author can always hit the delete button and try again.

Good luck, its a challenge, I know you will win! Linn

March 10th, 2011, 07:22 AM
Julie, I get a lot of ideas for books ....and when an idea comes to me.

I will put it down in a plot book of its own to be developed later.....that way the ideas don't keep screaming at me.!

At one time I think I had seven Plot Books in various stages of developments. That way as I said, you don't loose any ideas!

March 11th, 2011, 02:00 AM
Thanks so much, Linn. I think I'm going to put your Plot Book outlines on separate pages in Word and then print them as a little book.

March 11th, 2011, 02:16 AM
BTW, I just took advantage of the seminar special on your book and look forward to gleaning any other bits of advice.

March 11th, 2011, 07:32 AM
Julie, first thank you for buying Driving Book Sales! The last week of the class, I'll be posting five chapters of the 26 chapter book. It will be a great time for anymore intersted in learning how to market their book online and off! Thank you so much!!!

RE The Plot Book, that is exactly what the Plot Book is for, to print out and develop your own book, so bravo!!!!!!!!! Again, thanks, Linn

March 11th, 2011, 08:45 AM
Using the plot book helped me hook some preliminary research I did to a current WIP in progress I was going to use a bank robbery as the primary conflict, but decided, an underground mine is much better, along with a wedding that might not happen if the groom can't be found...

Red Dragon
March 11th, 2011, 09:11 PM
Hi Telly,
I think you made a wise choice. An underground mine has a much more sinister/intriguing/alien feel to it than bank robbery. And a missing groom gets the heart racing before I even open your book. You'd have me filled with tension and anticipation, following you through thse tunnels in the dark hoping to come up with answers about the missing groom. I'm excited already. :)

March 11th, 2011, 09:25 PM
You guys are amazing........and Jerry thank you so much for your kind words.


March 12th, 2011, 09:55 PM

That's the great thing about a WIP, you can change it around as much as necessary. Once I got to thinking about the plot, I couldn't put a new twist on the bank robbery, but caves...my imagination was working overtime.
Glad you like the idea, I'll let you know when it's a reality.

March 13th, 2011, 09:37 AM
Telly, that is awesome. I actually work on my Plot Book up to 6 months. That is a lot of time thinking, analysing, changing, and developing a full plot with the twists and turns your readers will enjoy. I like using a small notebook because I can carry it around with me when I have an idea while driving, sitting at a red light, or just about anywhere.

I can't think of any books involving a cave; its a unique location for a scene or scenes in your book. Very nice job! Have a wonderful day, and I know it will be a reality, I believe in you! Linn

Red Dragon
March 14th, 2011, 06:54 AM
I just read Wilbur Smith's Gold Mine, Telly. I skimmed most of Ch 1 because it read like a geology lecture, but the beginning of chapter 2 hooked me with a mine explosion. I was rivetted after that to see how the mine manager handled it. His life became important to me and it felt as if he led the author on unexpected tangents. So like you said, Linn, this character must have been given free rein. Real characters take on a life of their own. They are the best ones to read.

That's probably why my villain is more entertaining for me than my heroine. I'm controlling the heroine :sleepy: keeping her on the edge of the story, while the villain is allowed to get away with murder. Bouncy Icon Smilie It's amazing what you discover when you have someone to listen. Thanks for the opportunity to talk it out.

March 14th, 2011, 09:21 AM
I agree brainstorming is a great help for authors does help and you always have an open forum to reach out to me. I'm excited about your book, Rusty. Have you checked out any "caving videos" on u-tube.

In my work in progress, I learned how to eat a crawfish and dance cajun style on u-tube!

I watched a movie recently "The Killer Inside Me" starring Casey Alfeck, (I think he is a very good actor and was also in Gone Baby Gone)...thought of you as the lead character was a real killer.

PS A little side story about me and my bst Friend, Diane Spatzneagle We were having lunch a crowded restaurant, we were both discussing plot problems. Hers was about a guy who was having an affair and mine involved what else murder. About halfway through lunch we noticed the entire restaurant had stopped talking and were listening to our grisly plot problems in absolute horror. LOL, I told everyone we were writers and while they went back to their lunches, they kept a mindful eye on the two of us.

Glad to provide an open forum for you to express yourself, remember it was you and your characters who made this switch.......can't wait to hear more about your novel, Rusty.

Keep ongoing, you've got a winner! Linn

Red Dragon
March 15th, 2011, 02:16 AM
The underground mine plot is Telly 432's. I just got excited for Telly because I think it has real potential.

Thanks for letting me know about the lead character being the villain. I'll seek out that movie.

It does seem to be the best way for my story to proceed. I could trap my heroine in an underwater cave when she is swimming with the dolphins, but there again, she'll still be outside of the villain's story. Although, that could work towards the end.

i even toyed with the idea of writing the story in 1st person where the 'I' character turns out to be the killer but that was too complicated and made me uncomfortable.

March 18th, 2011, 05:51 PM
Now that's a funny story, Linn.


March 18th, 2011, 07:25 PM
Thanks Julie........and its 100% true.

However my favorite story is a book I was reading for my current work in progress. And its another true story.

I've learned people including the waitress will stay away from you if you are reading a book call "Voodoo for Dummies"

Thanks for responding!! Hugs, Linn

March 18th, 2011, 11:37 PM
You're a hoot, Linn!!