Writing my 1st Whodunit Draft in a College Writing Workshop

Hello Writer Bees!

As some of you may know, my current WIP is a 1920’s murder mystery. But what inspired my first mystery story? When and how was “draft zero” born? Here is the story of how I started writing detective fiction.

A flashback to my college days. Because I was interested in mystery genre, I decided to take a detective fiction course. Super fun elective class. We read all the greats, like Doyle, Poe, Christie, and Spillane.  That same semester, I was also taking a fiction writing class, as one of my degree requirements.  

Here’s how fiction writing workshop worked. My professor charged us to write 2 short stories – any subject, any genre – 10 to 15 pages in length. Each session was dedicated to one student’s creative piece. Together, we’d discuss and critique each other’s work, offering constructive feedback. Picture your peers and fellow writers reading and judging your story, dissecting it in front of you. Needless to say, critique day was a daunting, nerve wracking and incredibly rewarding experience.

My first go around at workshop, I wrote The Tale of a Boy and a Mermaid, which I have posted here on this blog. Next turn up at bat, I wanted to write something out of my wheelhouse, something different.

Inspired by the mysteries I was reading at the time, I decided to try my hand at writing a whodunit. I thought, maybe this critique was the perfect opportunity to test drive this vague idea for a detective character I had. And mind you, none of my peers were writing any close to a murder mystery. As always, I was the oddball out.

With Jabberwock mode engaged, I furiously wrote a murder mystery, finishing the morning of my class. College deadlines, am I right? The story centered around the detective and his aid, Mister G.W. Barnaby and Oscar Fitzgerald, solving a case. Set in a 1920s Broadway theatre, an actress is shot with an assumed prop gun that had real bullets instead of fake ones. A bit cliché, I know. But I enjoyed writing a mystery, crafting suspects and leaving clues. Really did fall in love with the genre. Titling it ‘Murder at the Primdove Theatre’, I submitted the story to be judged by my classmates, biting my nails the whole time.

Surprisingly, they seemed to like the story. Peers pointed out their favorite lines and gushed over how fitting character names were to the time period. And that “Wow, what a plot twist!” moment from readers is priceless. However, I did receive some notes, like the pacing being too fast and not much setting description. Even with the notes of criticism, I was still proud of my little whodunit.

After I graduated, I set my sights on my next big goal; Becoming a published author before I turn 30 years old. Since I couldn’t get these sleuths out of my head, I gave them another case to crack, the Case of the Drowned Mermaid. Some elements from the workshop story carried over into my WIP, like the relationship between suspects. So, I always consider my first try at a whodunit as my ‘draft zero’, the little seed that started it all.

Moral of the story: If there is a time to take a risk with your craft, a writing workshop is the place to do it. Seriously, it’s a good place to experiment, to create freely, and to receive some honest feedback. Don’t be afraid to write outside your comfort zone. You’d be surprised what the outcome will be.

In my case, it was my current mystery WIP.


Hope you found my life story interesting. Do you have a story behind your first draft? Have you ever been involved with a writing workshop or class? Lemme know in the comments.

Stay safe and stay creative. Happy sleuthing!

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

How to Build Suspense In Any Genre

(This is a repost. Because this lady is on a mental health break. Thanks for understanding.)

Hello writer bugs!

Whether you are writing a mystery or a horror, or even a romance, suspense can be a total game changer in any kind of story. Here are some tips that will have your readers hanging on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

What is Suspense?

Dictionary definition:
A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. A quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.

Simply Put: The fear of the unknown. Keeping the reader guessing. Who is the true murderer? What’s in the haunted mansion down the lane? Building suspense means offering the reader a question that they feel they must learn the answer to. The trick is to prolong giving them that answer while maintaining their interest.

Now, let’s talk about techniques you can use to help build up suspense in your story.

Solid Villains and High Stakes

See the source image

A stirring tension and conflict can be crucial in any genre. Great antagonists who challenge the protagonist create that exciting conflict. Explore the villains motivations. Why has he set this evil plan in motion? What is his connection to the hero? Throw away the idea of a villain who only wants to rain on a parade for no good reason. Really flesh out the character and make them a worth opponent for the hero.

The stakes must be high. Whatever is at risk, whether it’s a loved one’s life or the world’s safety, needs to be important to the protagonist. So important that they will jump through any hoop the antagonist throws at them. And if they fail, they would be devastated.

Point of View

Focus on the character’s perspective. See the world through their eyes. Let the reader learn information as the character does. Narrowing the point of view is an excellent way to build tension. Unlike an all knowing, omniscient narrator, the character won’t know what’s around the corner and what will happen next. Consider who tells the story, and how the story gets told.

Think about it like this. Imagine shining a flashlight into a dark room. You only see the beam of light, and not the rest of the room. The freaking Frankenstein monster could be standing in the corner, and you wouldn’t even know. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

Image result for flashlight shining in dark cartoon

Pacing and Ticking Clocks

Experiment with style a bit. Short, fragmented sentences give a feel of breathlessness. Brief pauses will add weight to a scene. Keep in mind about the pacing of the overall story. The longer answers stay hidden, the longer some readers will continue reading. But don’t hold out for too long, readers may loose interest. It’s all about leaving a trails of information breadcrumbs for them to follow.

The use of time is another way to build suspense. Everyone can relate to the feeling of time running out. Your MC should be working against the clock. That’s why scenarios like “You have 24 hours to find the girl” work so well. Will the hero make it in time? What will happen if time runs out?

See the source image

After a Dark and Stormy Night

Hope you guys use these techniques when adding some suspense to your next story. What’s your favorite moment of suspense in a book or film? When I think of suspense, I always think of the movie, Speed. Keanu Reeves and a bomb strapped to a bus? Classic suspense thriller.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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How to Build Up Suspense In Any Genre

Whether you are writing a mystery or a horror, or even a romance, suspense can be a total game changer in any kind of story. Here are some tips that will have your readers hanging on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

What is Suspense?

Dictionary definition:
A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. A quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.

Simply Put: The fear of the unknown. Keeping the reader guessing. Who is the true murderer? What’s in the haunted mansion down the lane? Building suspense means offering the reader a question that they feel they must learn the answer to. The trick is to prolong giving them that answer while maintaining their interest.

Now, let’s talk about techniques you can use to help build up suspense in your story.

Solid Villains and High Stakes

See the source image

A stirring tension and conflict can be crucial in any genre. Great antagonists who challenge the protagonist create that exciting conflict. Explore the villains motivations. Why has he set this evil plan in motion? What is his connection to the hero? Throw away the idea of a villain who only wants to rain on a parade for no good reason. Really flesh out the character and make them a worth opponent for the hero.

The stakes must be high. Whatever is at risk, whether it’s a loved one’s life or the world’s safety, needs to be important to the protagonist. So important that they will jump through any hoop the antagonist throws at them. And if they fail, they would be devastated.

Point of View

Focus on the character’s perspective. See the world through their eyes. Let the reader learn information as the character does. Narrowing the point of view is an excellent way to build tension. Unlike an all knowing, omniscient narrator, the character won’t know what’s around the corner and what will happen next. Consider who tells the story, and how the story gets told.

Think about it like this. Imagine shining a flashlight into a dark room. You only see the beam of light, and not the rest of the room. The freaking Frankenstein monster could be standing in the corner, and you wouldn’t even know. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

Image result for flashlight shining in dark cartoon

Pacing and Ticking Clocks

Experiment with style a bit. Short, fragmented sentences give a feel of breathlessness. Brief pauses will add weight to a scene. Keep in mind about the pacing of the overall story. The longer answers stay hidden, the longer some readers will continue reading. But don’t hold out for too long, readers may loose interest. It’s all about leaving a trails of information breadcrumbs for them to follow.

The use of time is another way to build suspense. Everyone can relate to the feeling of time running out. Your MC should be working against the clock. That’s why scenarios like “You have 24 hours to find the girl” work so well. Will the hero make it in time? What will happen if time runs out?

See the source image

After a Dark and Stormy Night

Hope you guys use these techniques when adding some suspense to your next story. What’s your favorite moment of suspense in a book or film? When I think of suspense, I always think of the movie, Speed. Keanu Reeves and a bomb strapped to a bus? Classic suspense thriller.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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