How to write a mystery screenplays

How to write a mystery plot

You have to know when to stop releasing snakes and just start killing those slithery sumbitches. Mystery — unintentional as it was — made that movie. One or two gems - the misleading planted evidence, the comment a suspect makes that belies his alibi - are all you need to put the villain away. You and the audience have a contract though no safe-word : they trust that you cannot be trusted. They are not clean. Lady Sylvia McCordle, mistress of Gosford Park, leads a rich, but bored life…and if we had to watch her continuously throughout the movie, we would be bored too. Nor should they. They can bend and twist to fit any circumstances or situation.

What do we really want? Oh, you answer some of them. For example, in most mysteries, whether a suspect is guilty of the crime or not, he or she invariably has a secret. Have them react and move forward, to keep things moving. If you are writing a book, you have much more freedom — but you still need to know where you are going to end up.

Believe it or not, this is where the seeds of an interesting, unusual protagonist are first sewn. That way, it'll be authentic and true to the writer.

mystery plot outline

Hitchcock was adamant that the backgrounds must be incorporated into the drama and made it a rule to exploit elements that are connected with a location. Spice it up and reveal essential information to your audience through gossipy conversations between your characters.

A character who tries to cover something up? In the thriller Fractured, what was the mistake Anthony Hopkins made that proved he killed his wife?

They affect the stakes on the table.

plotting a mystery backwards

Each character should be a mystery — not a cipher, not an endless unsolvable puzzle — but rather a question to be answered.

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How to Write a Mystery, Writing Thrillers