Plots for mystery novels are unique. Be keen to ideas and events that touch you emotionally. Doesn't mean you must write a story exactly as events occurred, unless you write in the True Crime genre. Anything that peaks your interest can be turned into realistic fiction. I use the term realistic because the more realistic you can make your fiction seem, the more you pull your reader in.
The seed idea for the story in Down to the Needle came from a newspaper article about a man who was given a death sentence by lethal injection for a crime he wasn't totally proven guilty of beyond a shadow of a doubt, which is usually required by law.
by Mary Deal
Readers looking to buy mystery novels depend on attention-grabbing or seductive Loglines and Synopses. These are what I created for this story.
A woman’s long search for her abducted child leads to a young woman on Death Row mere months away from lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit.
From the day her five-year-old was abducted, Abigail Fisher vowed never to stop looking until her daughter is safely returned. Despite multiple searches, twenty-three years have passed without a trace of Becky Ann. So when Abigail learns that death row inmate Megan Winnaker is the same age as her daughter, she can’t help but wonder if the kidnapper had Becky’s Ann’s face surgically altered to prevent identification.
Megan Winnaker maintains her innocence, but she will be put to death immediately if she loses her final appeal. As Abigail launches her own investigation to determine if Megan is truly her daughter, someone wants nothing more than to stop her in her tracks. Suddenly, the house of the star witness who landed Megan on death row is burned to the ground. Then Abigail’s home explodes in flame leaving her fighting for her life. An alcoholic witness skips town and another is found dead from a drug overdose. To add to her plight, Abi could lose the love of her life when his former love distracts him.
While Abi waits for DNA proof, she is desperate to free the innocent inmate who might be the person to end her heart-wrenching decades long search.
Mystery novels actually incorporate many and varied degrees of suspense, from the cozy to the thriller. If you're writing mysteries, chances are, you're writing what you like to read. Or, you may be writing to fit the specific requirements of your chosen genre within the mystery category. Regardless, you are writing about crime and you will need to look at true crime details to make your story realistic. Even if it's contrived fiction, if you write in such a way that enables your reader suspend disbelief and accept your details and keep reading, you've accomplished a major feat.
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I really don't know how or why I jumped into the mystery genre, other than that I am emotionally moved by certain events, as I said above. I don't write murders in detail. My mystery novels solve cold cases. Strangely, that's really where my excitement lies, in cold case solving. So I guess I found my niche because my other novels all deal with solving cold cases. Never mind that you get to meet a psychopathic serial killer or two now and then in my stories, I don't actually spell out their dastardly deeds in detail. Still, here is a review that confirms that fiction seems real:
Reading Down to the Needle, I was pulled into its magnetic spell. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat for a long while as the suspense grew to a crescendo. Mary, you out did yourself in this powerful work. Your changes tricked me into fearing the ending would be different. I clung to my shreds of tissue as I hoped for a happy ending. Every step of the way you delivered, and delivered, and delivered. Brilliant!
~ Elizabeth Sullivan, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Somerset, California
Characters who people your mystery novels must seem as real as the fictional crime you create. Writers today are educated in psychology and use it to the advantage of not only creating great and characters we either love or hate, they know how to hide characteristics. Not knowing whether a certain character is guilty or innocent is developed in the psychological makeup of any particular villain.