When Do You Unfold The Mystery?

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I’m thinking about my new WIP in terms of scenes and am trying to plot the whole thing out before jumping into the writing. My typing fingers are getting itchy, but I’m going to be patient.

Throughout this plotting process, one of the things I’m thinking about is when everything happens. In my initial NaNo draft of the story, the *Catastrophic Event* happened five years before. The draft opens with the MC getting pulled over for drunk driving on the anniversary of *Catastrophic Event*. Her life is in shambles because of it. Then *Another Catastrophic Event* takes place to really kick off the story.

But, what if the reader was there for *Catastrophic Event*? Would they feel for the main character more? Or would it just be more shock value? Would it make the story more interesting, more real, have higher stakes? Instead of looking back, the whole story would be looking forward.

Julia uncovers a family secret, so there is a lot of looking back in her story, which is why I’m sensitive to it now. Do I only want to write about stories that happen in the past?

Deciding when to set the story would really help me move on with in scene development. Right now, I’m trying to develop both stories simultaneously to see which one works better, but I’m getting more confused. I love meeting characters that wouldn’t otherwise be there, but I also love the scene where she gets pulled over. One book has a fresh-faced MC being crushed, the other has a world-wary MC casting off her burden. Choices, choices…

Do you find yourself writing the run up to or the aftermath of *Catastrophic Events*? Which do you prefer reading?

 

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4 thoughts on “When Do You Unfold The Mystery?

  1. bethfinke

    My only experience with this is in non-fiction. When University of Illinois Press told me they were interested in publishing my memoir “Long Time, No See” they said they’d only do so if I were willing to rewrite it thematically – the original ms was written in chronological order. “Everyone who picks up this book will know you are blind now,” they reasoned. “Sstart the book telling us how you lost your sight, then go backward and forward in time from there.”
    It worked.

  2. I too have a hard time knowing where my story begins (I actual plan on posting about it).

    Personally, when I read I really don’t care much for moving back in time. It has to be done smoothly, and for a short duration, or I’m gone. So I try to write the same way.
    I think the opening is the most important part of the novel (it’s the point where you live or die as an entity to your reader), and I think it should start in the now. Can’t open a book with a flashback, There’s the option of prologues, but so many agents and editors won’t read a prologue.

    My current wip, to me also began in the past. It began with a scientific finding made a few years back, and I had no idea how to handle that. Finally, I realized that the info that came from that finding just needed to be dispensed, and I did so in the second chapter. The opening became clearer to me. (gee, I often chatter so much on your posts, normally I’m a one or two liner kind of girl! lol)

    I hope you find your beginning without too much struggle.

    • Oooh, I need to find your post on finding your story’s beginning.

      I agree that moving in time is tricky. But if it’s done right, I don’t even notice! That’s why I want to find the right starting point and stick with it.

      I’m also in the anti-prologue camp, so I never even think of that as an option.

      PS I love that you’re chatty in the comments!

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