07 April 2009

Plot for Murder Mystery Writers

Two male writers, both writing murder mysteries -- one for the adult market, the other targeted for urban middle-grade boys.

In reading the two character profiles I was sent before the plot consultation, I quickly ascertained their writing preferences. The adult writer had complex goals plotted out for his characters with spotty character traits. The middle-grade writer had well-thought out character traits for the protagonist AND the major secondary characters, too, and the character goals had more to do with the internal life of the protagonist than to solve the mystery.

For the writer of the adult mystery, I wasn't too concerned about the spotty character information. In a murder mystery, the more complex the crime, the less complex becomes the demands for the protagonist transformation. Plus, we had worked together before and I knew he struggled with character-driven plot and excelled in dramatic action-driven plot. However, when we were actually in consultation, I learned that the protagonist was going to take action at the Climax that for him would have been completely out of character and something that was impossible in the beginning of the story based on who the character was. I immediately knew the writer was in trouble. He quickly caught on, too.

In order for the character to transform enough to do the action that would be required of him at the Climax, the writer had to step back and plot out his character emotional development over the course of the book in order to make the final action taken by the protagonist to be believable and inevitable in the end. The writer groaned, but only so much as if to say he already knew, was resisting, and needed me to give him the shove...

The writer for an urban middle-grade audience had the exact opposite weakness. In order for the murder mystery to work as a murder mystery, he was going to have to put his preference and strength -- everything character-driven -- aside and delve into the dramatic action -- the solving of the mystery -- itself.

My wish? I wish these two writers could meld together to create the next blockbuster story on the New York Times bestseller list. Or, since we're dealing with real life here, I wish them both the time and motivation and passion to work on their area of weakness until it becomes a strength. That way we'll end up with two uniquely different blockbuster murder mysteries for two uniquely different audiences.

I wish them both well....