Last Week’s WW: Telling it Straight, or Maybe Not
What? You mean to tell me that the butler did it? But, how? I mean, the communist was standing right there, holding the laser gun, and he had every reason to do it, after all, the dead guy stole his dog!
Sometimes a story can use a little mystery, whether that’s your genre or not. Twists and turns can make a story exciting. They can refocus a character’s and a reader’s attention. They can help make your story unique.
Readers like things that are unpredictable. However, that’s not to say that they want to be caught completely off guard. If you’re going to do a U-turn, you’ve got to have a caution sign. You can’t introduce a new character, at the last moment, and say “ha ha, you were all wrong about who stole the brass vulture, it was this guy over here. They’re all innocent.” Nor can you make an existing character the bad guy out of nowhere.
In mystery writing, there are always the prime suspects. The ones that have every reason to have committed the crime, and maybe even the opportunity. Guilty as they look, they’re often not.
Throwing people off is good. Lying to them is wrong. You need to put in clues along the way. Don’t be obvious about it, but at the end, the reader should be able to look back on what they read and say “oh, yeah, I see it now. The pieces were all there.”