Tuesday Tips is a new category of posts here at Writerly Life that will be appearing every Tuesday. It’s a series of concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now, and they’re chosen to immediately re-vitalize your writing in some small (but meaningful!) way.
This week’s tip is:
MY NOVEL WAS TOO OBVIOUS.
In chapter after chapter I laid everything out, made the problem clear, the situation only psychological, and then had everyone reacting to it. It was lacking the magic, drama, and suspense that a mystery can give to a story. There’s a reason why detective stories and murder mysteries are consistently among the most popular types of books that are read, decade after decade. So instead of quickly and easily revealing a character, I added a mystery. A character had gone missing. Now others had to find her. Instead of having the characters just play out their problems face to face, they had to work out their problems while far apart, struggling to find each other.
The virtue of adding a mystery is that it automatically adds another storyline to your plot. Suddenly, a dull one-line story has an A line and a B line, a surface plot and a plot underneath. Now these stories can intertwine with each other, clash, inform each other. Now there is surface tension and emotional tension. There is a reason to turn the page. Where has the character gone? Is she is danger? Who might know where she is? Who’s hiding the information? This is all good stuff.
So this week, consider adding a simple, plot-based mystery to your story. Don’t allow us to meet that character; have him turn up dead in an alley. Don’t explain who the strange half-brother is. Throw in a little financial crisis. However you’d like to do it, give us a little mystery to wonder and ask questions about as we read. It will keep us reading longer, closer, and with more enjoyment.