Story Worksheet by Sara Grant
How to Plan a Mystery the Chasing Danger Way
First create a main character!
Great stories have a compelling character at the heart.
Main Character – Create a character to solve your mystery.
Appearance – give them a defining feature
Why is he/she at your destination?
Now consider how you will use your character’s skills, talents, quirks, fears and secrets in your story.
Give your main character a sidekick. It’s always more fun to solve a mystery with someone else. Answer the above questions about your sidekick too. Give them different skills and talents – maybe one is a sports nut and the other a geeky genius. If you can make them opposite in some way, this will add to the fun and give you more ways to solve your mystery.
What is your setting?
Pick a place that interests you. Where would you like to travel? Be as specific as you can. A story in Paris, France, is very different than a story in Reykjavik, Iceland. For example, if you pick America, select a specific state and city. If it’s a huge city like New York then narrow your setting down even further to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or why not a specific castle you can research in Germany or an ice hotel in Lapland.
Your Destination is: _______________________________________________________________
What do you know about your destination?
Research the history. Name three important event in the history of the place and think how you might use this information in a story.
Create a map. How can your story benefit for the variety of spaces?
Pick a specific spot – a beach, castle, sky scraper, museum, boat, etc. – and describe it. Use all your senses to describe it. What does it look like? What does it smell like?
Inciting Incident – What happens to change your main character’s life forever?
For example, your main character could find a message. All that’s written/typed/scribbled are the words: Help me!
Where does your main character find the message?
What does the message look like? Is it ripped from a notebook, nearly burned, crumpled, floating in a re-corked champagne bottle?
Who wrote the message and why? (This is your mystery to be solved. You will reveal this gradually through the course of your story.)
Red Herrings – Every mystery needs a few red herrings! (In the 1800s, the early saboteurs would drag a red herring along the fox hunters’ route so the hounds would be confused. That’s why the phrase red herring is used to mean something misleading.)
How will you misdirect your readers?
Clues – How will your main character solve the mystery? Think of at least three clues – and one can be your red herring.
Snooping and Eavesdropping – What could your main character discover or overhear?
Twist – Mysteries are not solved in a straight-forward manner. We like some twist and turns along the way. Can you think of a twist to astound your readers?
Surprise – Readers enjoy surprises. Can you reveal a secret? How can you surprise your reader?
Action and Adventure – think of two intriguing places from your destination. Plan action scenes around these two places. Will he/she narrowly escape a shark attack? Do they need to leap from rooftop to rooftop to escape a baddie? Are there caves, attics, secret passage ways, winding roads, icy mountaintops?
Now use your clues, snooping, twists, turns and surprises to plot your story. You can use these in any order you choose.