When Problems Beget Problems

I’ve finally begun a draft that I’m confident can turn into a solid mystery story. Working out the kinks to the plot has definitely been a challenge, but for the first time I’m beginning to have a solid grasp on “how to plot”. The key is that problems beget problems.

My natural inclination as I’m forming a plot is to think in a series of attempts and failures. For instance, the main character in episode 5 narrows down a suspect to 3 different characters. My first thought was to have him rule out different characters 1 by 1. He anticipates the suspect will have brought a red household item to a meeting and have been married twice. I initially thought my character could rule out a suspect by identifying the color of the item the character brought, and rule out another by directing inquiring about previous marriages. But that is boring, plain, and obvious.

A more entertaining method would be to have each of the characters describe the item they brought without holding it. Perhaps by describing it by its meaning to the rest of the group. Instead of asking the characters directly about previous marriages, maybe my character argues passionately that marrying more than once is a sign of immorality. Though this is a more creative way for him to hunt for the suspect, I still feel I can do better.

When problems beget problems, the attempts my character makes to grow closer to the truth may actually set him farther away. Perhaps when the characters describe the items they brought to the meeting, they instead describe something unusual they’ve used the item for. Maybe when my character makes a wrong guess about what the item is, the character describing it tosses the actual item in a storage bin and it is no longer allowed to be guessed, and no further attempts are permitted. When he begins an argument about the immorality of multiple marriages, he is discovered to be the husband of a recently deceased group member – outing his identity and becoming the subject of persecution by the group. These obstacles make his chase for the culprit more difficult and therefore more entertaining.

I will spend the morning writing some pages and am seriously hoping to have a working draft done by tomorrow. Once I am comfortable with the story and its characters I can send out for casting the roles and begin purchasing the necessary props.

I’ll keep you updated.