Recently, I had the chance to work with mystery author Diana Orgain. We were brainstorming about a series she wanted to write, and since I don’t know much about writing mysteries (versus romantic suspense), she was kind enough to give me primer…and share a big secret. I asked her to share it with you today. Take it away, Diana!
What element does every character need in a good mystery?
You guessed it – a secret. All of us have a public persona along with a private one. So do your characters! Especially in a mystery it’s essential that your characters keep some things private – even secret.
It could be a small secret such as a tough as nails gal is scared of heights or it could be a bigger secret like she was having an affair with the victim.
Character secrets are essential for a mystery to work. Everyone should be hiding something because it makes them look and act suspicious. The secrets that characters keep help build the twists in your plot. It’s even better, for example, if each character has a secret motive for murder.
Some ideas to get you brainstorming on your characters’ hidden motives:
- What is their relationship to the victim? Was it a relationship that everyone knows about – such as husband and wife – or was their relationship a secret?
- What are they afraid of?
- What do they stand to lose if their secret is revealed?
- Where were they when the crime happened? Are they trying to cover their whereabouts even if they didn’t commit murder (perhaps they were simply interviewing for a new job but don’t want their boss to know!)
- What lengths will they go to keep their secrets, secret?
Readers…what are you favorite types of juicy secrets for a character to be hiding? A secret affair? A secret baby? Does having a secret make the character more realistic?
Diana Orgain is the bestselling author of the Maternal Instincts Mystery Series: Bundle of Trouble, Motherhood is Murder, Formula for Murder, and Nursing a Grudge. She is the co-author with NY Times Bestselling author Laura Childs of GILT TRIP published by Penguin USA. Diana’s new Reality TV Mystery series will be published by Penguin in Spring 2015. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and three children. Visit her at www.dianaorgain.com.