The Essence of a Good Mystery
The Essence 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 ...
The Year Was 1968
Tabitha and Cissy Gordon ran all the way home from Ike’s General Store. Cissy was tightly clutching her newly acquired purchase—a Ouija Board! They had heard so many things regarding this item that it was inevitable that either Cissy or Tabitha would buy one.
“Momma will skin us alive if she ever found out that we have this.” Tabitha giggled.
“And therefore we are keeping it in the attic. Momma never goes up there and we will be able to sneak up there after everyone is asleep.” Her older sister Cissy replied as she panted. A few more steps and they would be in sight of the two-story brownstone building they fondly called home.
“Let’s leave it in the garage for now and after supper we can retrieve it.” Cissy stated.
“I want to play with it now.” Tabitha pouted.
“No,” reprimanded Cissy, “That wouldn’t be smart. As it is—we are taking a big chance hiding it in the garage. It Billy sees it, he will definitely tell.”
“All the more reason NOT to put it in the garage. Here, I’ll take off my scarf and we can wrap it up in it.” Tabitha offers.
“That’s a good idea. Now let’s smuggle it into the house and finish our chores before supper.” Cissy affirms as they quietly enter their abode.
Later that night …
In the attic, Cissy and Tabitha are having fun asking silly questions and pushing the indicator around the board for the appropriate answer. Then suddenly, the indicator starts moving along without much effort from either of the girls.
“What are you doing Cissy, we haven’t even asked the question yet?” Tabitha replies in alarm.
“t’s not me—I thought it was YOU!” Cissy responds.
Then the indicator spells out a name—E.M.I.L.Y!
“Who is that?” the girls ask in unison.
“I am your great aunt.” The indicator spells out and the two girls eye each other in horror.
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