chrisdolley (chrisdolley) wrote,

The Short Mystery

Two years ago I had a plan. I wanted to blend Fantasy, Mystery and Humour. And, as I didn't want to commit a year to the project, I wanted to trial the idea first in a short story.

And so my humorous Fantasy Detective story was born. I had the detective, the setting, a pretty good magic system and a locked room puzzle with a difference. Then things started to go wrong. Small things at first - there was something missing with the main character. He was 90% there but something - something I annoyingly couldn't put my finger on - didn't gel. Then there was the magic system. It started off great but as I fleshed out the detail I realised I'd made it too powerful and suddenly my tight plot had several large holes in it. So I revised the plot to take that into account and suddenly the short story grew into a novella. Extra characters arrived, extra plot twists. I was 16k words into the story and still the end was a long way off. And worst of all I didn't feel enthused enough to continue. The story had grown from funny and tight to amusing in parts and rambling.

So I put the story aside.

Then last week I had one of those lightning flash ideas. The really cool idea that lands in your head pre-formed and begging to be written. Again it was a comic Fantasy detective but this time I could see it working. The magic system was similar but far tighter, and the premise moved the focus from the puzzle to the characters and procedure. Which, I think, is the trick of writing short mysteries. If you focus on the puzzle - and you're anal about making sure your puzzle is not only clever but only has one solution - then the page count can multiply. The puzzle consumes you, you feel the need to add red herrings, plot twists, cliffhangers and before you know it you're halfway to a novel.

So, this time I've kept the puzzle element simple and used it as a vehicle to show off the characters and setting. So far I'm 3,600 words in and the end is very firmly in sight.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.