Christina Farley
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Mapping Out Your Mystery in a Big Way

Mysteries are so much fun, not only to read but to write. Yet to write a great mystery, you’ve got to plant your clues at the perfect time and the right place and this is trickier than it looks.
As I began writing my tween mystery set in a French castle, I realized that there was so much going on and all in within my main character’s week vacation.
To keep track of the characters and their contribution to the mystery, as well as when I was setting my clues, I decided I needed to write it down in a chart. And not any chart, but a massive one.
The picture you see here is the chart I drew up for Princess and the Pen and it’s a piece of butcher paper the size of my queen sized bed (actually a little bigger). I divided my story up by days. Then I color coordinated my characters so I could see at a brief glance who was doing what in my story.
Not only did this give me a clear picture of which days the clues were placed and discovered, but it also shows me who did the planting and digging!
After I was done, I taped it to my wall and was able to see a clear picture of what was happening and when in my novel.
Give it a try! Of course when guests come over, you might want to shove your new ‘wallpaper’ under the bed. They might not appreciate its beauty like you do.

13 Responses to Mapping Out Your Mystery in a Big Way

  1. Kim Kasch says:

    Fun idea – I’ve never done a lifesize chart like that.

  2. Wow, you’re organized. I occasionally write notes on Post Its and feel like I’ve accomplished something massive.

  3. Nandini says:

    Cool! I love the idea of color coding what different characters are doing!

    For my middle grade, I had a six foot long roll of paper taped to the wall (complete with a zillion pictures of characters and settings). It was much messier than yours, but it really helped to keep things straight in my head too!

  4. C.R. Evers says:

    awesome! You go girl! I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. Maybe someday I’ll try it and I’ll certainly use this trick to plot it out!


  5. PJ Hoover says:

    Wow! Handwritten, too!
    I do similar stuff, but always on the computer!

  6. Kim and Christy- You should try!
    Carrie- Ha! Organzied. Trying but then you haven’t seen my desk when I’m researching. We’re talking piles and sticky notes everywhere.
    Nandini- What a great idea with the pictures. I’m going to remember that one.

  7. beth says:

    Wow–I totally admire this.

    I tend to keep all notes in one big legal pad. They’re scattered all throughout the legal pad, but as long as they’re there, then it’s all OK ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Marcia says:

    This is a great idea. I have a “big” chart on my office wall that’s about the size of one of those big desk pad calendars. I also have a timeline about five feet long. I used mystery charts that were only about the size of a notebook page. I’d love to try your method.

  9. Kelly says:

    Girl, you are organized! Great idea for the chart to be there to be easily checked while writing.
    We used those big charts when we were brainstorming baby names (my husband is way more organized than me), we’d circle our favorites. My hubby even brought it to the hospital to help us choose on the day the baby was born!

  10. Rena says:

    Wow, that’s great! And I can’t believe how big it is. Looks like you’re doing great with your WIP too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Lenore says:

    That actually looks like tons of fun. Now I want to write a mystery too LOL!

  12. Brenda says:

    Great idea! I love reading mysteries, but I don’t think I could write one…I could never hide the clues well enough…grin…

  13. This is awesome. I usally do a mini one on typing paper or a spreadsheet in Excel.

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