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The Making of a Good Mystery
The Making of a Mystery
When deciding to create an effective mystery novel, there are many different genres. I will discuss the development of two themes: paranormal activity and mind manipulation.
Most people are familiar with the concept of paranormal activity and many find it fascinating because it addresses unexplained occurrences. A layman’s definition of paranormal activity is any instances of events happening which cannot be logically or scientifically explained. This can include anything as simple as putting an object in one place and finding it in another. Or it can be as dynamic as hearing voices when you are aware of only your presence.
Researching the subject of mind manipulation has gained my personal interest. Mind manipulation is the deliberate act of influencing a person for the purpose of modifying his or her behavior. This is a very subtle but effective technique often used by advertising agencies to entice the consumers into purchasing their client’s products.
One method integrates facts followed by suggestions. Here is one example: “Three out of five people will experience an accident. You don’t want to take the risk of being one of the three without insurance coverage. You need to try our product.” This introduces a statistical probability along with an appealing alternative. The person believes the information provided and accepts the recommended course of action as a beneficial one.
However manipulation can take on stronger implications. Here is a second example: “You can’t possibly be thinking straight to do this. That is just not you. This is what you really want to do, now isn’t it?” The individual’s thoughts are being cunningly manipulated through the desire of wanting to “fit in”.
The procedure is reinforced with more aggressive suggestions regarding behavior modification until the subject’s reactions are totally controlled. People who have low self-esteem or gullible are considered prime targets for mind manipulation.
Excerpts from An Aberrant Influence ...
“Lee, I am sorry about your father. I wanted to come, but Marme became ill, so I had to stay with her here.” Renée replied.
“Yes, I know.” Lee said bitterly. “She always seemed to have a way of becoming ill when it came to your returning to San Francisco.”
“Please don’t be bitter against her, dear.” Renée said sadly. “Marme was a very sick woman, and she never told me.”
“That woman was sick in more ways than one! How can I help but be bitter?” Lee asked. “Our life would have been very different had not that woman been such a wedge between us. Many times I felt like just hopping on a plane and whisking you away from her!”
“I have the silver key that she said I would use later.” Renée replied handing him the key and trying to change the subject.
“The gold key was to the safe deposit box that contained all the information for your inheritance to your mother’s estate.” Lee started, “And that silver key is just as valuable. It would seem that your Marme left you your own town.” Lee smiled.
“What are you saying?” Renée asked startled.
Renée knew that Sadie’s great grandfather was the founder of Bakersfield and that Sadie, like her father, had been an only child and heir to all the surrounding lands of Bakersfield. All the many acres of land that had not been sold for homes and businesses still belonged to the Bakersfield family. It never occurred to Renée that Sadie would leave her the town.
Sadie had enjoyed the many years of service she was able to perform for the children of Bakersfield and dedicated large amounts of money for research. The various monies were made available through the numerous contributions and the residue from the hefty allowance provided by Andréa Latimoore. Sadie would cut numerous corners in California so that she could pump more money into her grandfather’s foundation. As the only remaining direct descendant of Sam Bakersfield, Sadie had felt it her obligation to keep the foundation going. That was why she was so furious when she found her golden goose would no longer lay any eggs!
The elimination of that allowance put Bakersfield Foundation in dire straits. This was because the taxes from the Bakersfield Lands consumed a large portion of the revenue acquired from the Foundation. Sadie refused numerous times to allow business interest to purchase any more of the land even thought it would have helped tremendously. Had it not been for the shrewd business savvy of her director, John Cummings and Renée’s generosity, Bakersfield Foundation would have collapsed. By leaving Renée the town of Bakersfield, it was as if her arms were reaching yonder the grave to continue its manipulating influence.
Final Words ...
Once you possess a rudimentary understanding of both paranormal activity and mind manipulation; it is relatively easy to use one of them in creating a successful mystery novel.
Here are some steps that you should consider in developing your story.
- Choose your antagonist wisely. This will instill a sense of credibility to your story. The character could be a domineering mother, sibling or spouse. The individual should be someone who spends life feeling rejected or cheated. It should be someone that the reader can identify readily as well as dislike completely.
- Choose a protagonist who is very likable but has a distinct disadvantage. He or she should have a dependency relationship either emotional or financial. It is even desirable to have several people who share common bonds with the antagonist.
- There must be a situation that requires intervention of a third party. For instance the sudden death or disappearance of the antagonist causes disruption in the normal flow of events. An example: the disliked character dies suddenly of seemingly natural causes; which after further analyzes proves to be murder.
- Insure that events unfold in a chronological order. Prior to death or disappearance of the antagonist, there should be altercations between the antagonist and various characters in the novel. One method, the Flash Back (which is my favorite) leads the reader down a path of understanding. It attempts to bridge relationships between the antagonist and his victim(s).
- Conclude your novel with the exposure of the guilty party or parties. If you have ever read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, you discovered that several people were involved in the murder. Stride for the right blend of involvement among the characters and with the antagonist. This will create an interesting novel. You can incorporate either the paranormal or mind control but don’t use both. The Spirit of a Protector and the revenge of a frustrated victim are both good themes.
Experiment with ideas and work with the one that gives you the best results. Whether you choose the paranormal, mind manipulation or some other interesting method to developing your novel; have fun in the process. If you enjoy writing it—others will enjoy reading it as well.
What you ever experience a Paranormal Encounter?
© 2013 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS