Tag Archives: mystery

Practical Prompt 10/5/16: Mysterious Past, Part 3

WriteOwls logo 150 blackFor our September “Learn to Write by Reading” challenge, we invited you to examine books that had characters with mysterious backstories. Now, apply what you learned to your own manuscript.

When a character has a mysterious past, the author often withholds the most traumatic or key parts of that backstory until well into the book, sometimes not revealing the heart of the mystery until the climax of the story.  In the book you’re reading, when does the author give you the truth about the character’s past, and how did he or she do it?  Was it given as a memory or flashback triggered by current events? A confession, perhaps, internal or otherwise? Examine how the author segued into and out of present events to give you the reveal about the past. How much writing space did the big reveal take?

Now using what you’ve learned, decide the best place in your story for your character’s big reveal and the best method for that reveal.

Practical Prompt 9/28/16: Mysterious Past, Part 2

WriteOwls logo 150 blackFor our September “Learn to Write by Reading” challenge, we invited you to examine books that had characters with mysterious backstories. Now, apply what you learned to your own manuscript.

Note how the writer builds the mystery by sprinkling in more and more information as the story progressed while withholding the truly important stuff.  Is the writer subtle or overt with the hints, or some of both?  As a reader, which methods work best to make you desperate to learn the whole story about the pivotal event in the characters past, and which methods annoy you?

Now apply what you’ve learned to your story and decide where, when, and how best to tease the reader and build suspense about your character’s past.

Practical Prompt 9/21/16: Mysterious Past, Part 1

WriteOwls logo 150 blackFor our September “Learn to Write by Reading” challenge, we invited you to examine books that had characters with mysterious backstories. Now, apply what you learned to your own manuscript.

Find the place where the author first really piqued your interest with a hint about the character’s past.  How far into the story was it? What kind of hint did the author give you, and how explicitly was it written? Was it just one sentence buried in the rush of current events, or did the author spend more time on it? Did the hint come through dialogue, internal thought or a triggered memory? Or did another character drop the clue? Did the author give the character some physical manifestation–a scar, limp, a unique mannerism or affectation as a tangible manifestation of past trauma, or are the character’s scars all emotional?

Now using the book you read as a guide, look over the early sections of your own story for places where you can drop hints about your character’s past.

Learn to Write by Reading: Mysterious pasts

WriteOwls logo 150 blackSuccessful writers say it all the time: To be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. So we challenge you to read more and to read outside of your comfort zone.

No matter the genre, a certain element of mystery is essential to a great story. When it’s done well, even a small, but pivotal mysterious event in a character’s past can add depth to the writing and augment the plot, drawing the reader in. But how do authors cultivate a reader’s curiosity about a character’s past without confusing the reader or disrupting the flow of the story? To find out, this month we’re focusing on books in which the author, through a series of hints and reveals, does a great job of building a mystery into a character’s backstory.

Alicia: Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
Laura: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Megan: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Naomi: Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Stacey: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo