Outlining a Novel: Post #5

As you might know, I like writing suspense and I love cozy mysteries, so this first suggestion today comes directly from my experience weaving a plot with twists. These suggestions might not fit everyone’s current project, but they impact me greatly, so I’m adding them to my posts on outlining. As with most advice I’ve heard in this industry, if you think about it a bit, you might find a way to use it for your benefit. Anyway….here we go.

Red Herrings

•Mystery Writers
•Red herrings are characters put in place to lead the reader and sleuth astray & keep the investigation in motion
•Shoot for a minimum of 5 red herrings
–Think of the predictable pattern of your favorite crime show
Red herrings are the suspects who look good for the crime, but fall through when the reader learns more. Red herrings make stories more exciting for readers and lets them get involved in the investigation, learning as your MC learns. Red herrings are a great tool. Add them to your outline so you don’t forget to sprinkle hem throughout the manuscript.
Think of your favorite cop show. There’s a pattern. They find a man holding a knife over a body, but he’s not the killer. He’s her boss. He says it’s her abusive husband. Husband says yeah, he hits her but he didn’t kill her. He hits her because she’s a trollop, ask her boyfriend. GO ask boyfriend – who has a record of violence, too, but he was in jail for the night on a drunk and disorderly. New clue turns up, boss’ alibi falls through. Boom. It was the boss all along. Use your outline to spread the herrings out leaving room for the MC’s life and investigative process in between.
While I’m on topics directly relevant to crime fiction, but loosely transferable to other genres, let’s talk about foreshadowing!
Clues & Foreshadowing
•Mysteries & crime fiction
•All genres
–Use foreshadowing to hint at what is to come
–Put pieces into place that readers will snap together later
–Use strategically to engage the reader

Clues/foreshadowing isn’t just for crime fiction.  You might mention the hero in your romance is deathly afraid of height and 200 pages later he’s forced to climb a rickety structure to save his heroine. OR in a YA suspense, something in a nightmare is mentioned early on and she sees it in real life many chapters later. Her friends won’t understand her response (unless you tell them) but the reader will understand. Use foreshadowing to invest the reader into the characters. Tell their secrets. Make the revelations of your characters mean more by cluing readers in.


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