We’ll follow Demystifying the Beats and write a mystery
What made someone who’d only written scientific papers and grants want to write fiction? (That would be me)
An eReader for Christmas.
This gift from my sisters-in-law was amazing. It allowed me to take dozens in not hundreds of books anywhere and read anytime.
Then I started to notice that the ebooks I read had major events at certain percentages in the books: 25%, 50% was usually a big one, 75%, etc. And as someone who analyzed data, this was like an epiphany. Just like in a scientific paper submitted to a journal, stories had a specific structure.
These were patterns that I really hadn’t really seen before, but were essentially revealed on the eReader. And don’t laugh because I was so naive—I had never taken ANY creative writing courses except for the required ones in high school.
I had never heard of The Hero’s Journey or Romancing the Beats or Story Arc Beat Sheets or even knew what a beat was in a story. Once I decided to write and publish fiction, these “beats” starting popping up at writers’ groups and at writer meetings, but I really didn’t understand them until I read Gwen Hayes’s Romancing the Beats.
So I started to research mystery beats because I was writing mystery. But while there were blog posts and skeletal mystery beats out there that made sense, they weren’t well explained or complete. So I started to compile my own list.
When one of my critique partners decided to write a cozy mystery, I gathered what I had presented it to her, and she proposed that our critique group write a How To Write a Mystery book—and Demystifying the Beats was born!
Back to writing YOUR mystery as a New Year’s resolution: let’s do this together. So your job is to write a single sentence and/or paragraph for the Act 1 beats I’ll present here and in future posts. I will do the same.
What kind of mystery?
I am starting a Whodunit on January 1st, 2023. It will be the fourth and final book in my Nicky Matthews Mystery series that started with my Tony Hillerman Prize winning book, Hearts of the Missing. This book has “Wind” or “Sky” as its “element”. (Earth, Fire, Water, Sky).
Act 1: Set-up your mystery
Beat: Introduce sleuth and the world—Describe your sleuth and world
Sleuth: Sergeant Nicky Matthews is a non-native police officer who works on a culturally different sovereign nation (the fictional Fire-Sky Pueblo), a culture that sometimes baffles her but she tries to maintain her respect for it because she is an outsider. Nicky is 33 years old, strong, stubborn, smart, sometimes too compulsive. She is in a brand new relationship with a non-native Conservation officer, Franco Martinez, who also works on the Pueblo.
World: This mystery is contemporary with Western elements set in the New Mexico high desert, high mesas in the springtime, a very windy time of year in New Mexico. The “air/sky” theme of the book will include helicopters and drones that are used to loot Native artifacts on top of these mesas and digitally record sacred/secret dances and ceremonies from the air.
Okay. Your turn. Either to yourself or in the comments, start your 2023 Challenge Mystery: Who is your sleuth and where is your world?