Assignment: Write a narrative (Murder / Mystery) using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences


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Murder 101 Student Name:

Short Story Assignment Period:

Assignment: Write a narrative (Murder / Mystery) using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Students should be able to:

  1. Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

  2. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  3. Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole and build toward a particular tone and outcome (e.g., a sense of mystery, suspense, growth, or resolution).

  4. Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

  5. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative (a spoken or written account of connected events; a story).

  6. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  7. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience

Think about / Include:

  • Time Period

  • Setting

    • Described Clearly

    • Enough detail so any disbelief is suspended (readers will be more willing to believe)

    • Verisimilitude: in a narrow sense, is the likeness or semblance of a narrative to reality, or to the truth. In a broader sense, verisimilitude refers to the believability of a narrative—the extent to which a narrative appears realistic, likely, or plausible (regardless of whether it is actually fictional or non-fictional).

  • Characters:

    • Know your characters – research their personalities/ positions in life.

    • Use a good character who is struggling with some inner conflict.

    • The villain (revealed in the end) is believable. There may be an alibi, but it is disproven by the end of the story.

  • Where will you focus your details?

  • Suspense

  • Is there a Paradox?

  • A Red Herring

  • A strong motive (think: Revenge, Jealousy, Greed, Love)

  • You must leave clues throughout

  • Murderer has an alibi

  • There is a believable alternate suspect

    • Think: Who has most to gain by the murder?

    • Use the Red Herring as a misdirect

  • Conclusion: Reveal the villain. The villain must be probable and not “out of the blue”. The audience must be willing to accept your final conclusion with an “ahhh…. That was plausible,” rather than leaving the audience to question how the villain was the villain.

  • Structure: How you frame the story

  • Grammar: Syntax and Diction

You may use Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, or the films What Lies Beneath, and Murder 101 to help guide your story and use their elements: The children’s poem, the believability of the supernatural, or the believable alternate suspect (red herring) or believable villain to help guide you with the elements you can use within your own short story.

Visit this blog: It hyperlinks to other recommendations for how to write an effective murder mystery.
Advice on Steps to Write a Murder Mystery

( contributed by:

  1. Figure out the basics. Sit down and think about the basic component of your murder mystery. You've got to answer all these questions:

Who will be murdered?

What will they be murdered with?

Why were they murdered?

Who was the murderer?

Who are the suspects?

Does anyone find out about the murderer?


  1. Expand on the above questions. Write down some more ideas, each one expanding on the basics of your novel. Give the characters names, figure out where the setting is, etc. You might want to walk around and look at things to give you ideas. You never know, your dinner knife might help you think of the murder weapon.

  1. Write the opener. This is basically introducing all the characters and the setting, then going into the action. A good idea for this part is where the suspects have a massive argument, one after the other, with the person who will soon be dead. This would swan the suspects into the reader's head.

  1. Write the murder. Write this in huge detail. You should have so much detail that the reader would have a clear picture in their head. Does the person who's about to get killed see the murderer, or is he/she taken by surprise? Describe the victim's feelings right before he/she gets killed. Describe the setting of the murder. Try something like, The golden statue shone in the silver moonlight that came through the thick glass windows. Paul stared into the broken glass, his eyes not moving from the person's face as the statue came down on him. His piercing scream was stopped as the statue came next to his scarlet ear...

  1. Now, write the discovery. Who finds the body? A suspect, or a random person? Is the murder weapon at the crime scene, or has it gone with the killer?

  1. Now bring the suspects in. Does someone get arrested because they are suspected? Do one of the suspects stalk the police or does someone see the murder and start stalking the murderer? It's up to you.

  1. The plot thickens! Is new evidence discovered? Has it been placed there on purpose? Are the police confused because they are being tricked? What's happening?

  1. Get a couple of suspects ruled out. If the killed person had 12-20 suspects, rule it down to something like 9-16. If they had 7-17, get the suspects down to 6-15.

  1. Thicken the plot even more! Add an unexpected twist. Does one of the suspects commit suicide? Does someone kill a suspect? Does one suspect come forward with fresh information about the murder? Add something else to throw the reader's off-track.

  1. Rule the suspects down. By this point in the novel, there should only be about 3-4 suspects. Remember that whatever you do, don't make it predictable. Jumble it up so the reader can't guess quickly. A good idea is to make all of the suspects innocent, and there is a very unexpected person that is the murderer. That would be exciting and would throw your reader totally off-track!

  1. Write the ending. Is it a cliffhanger? Is there a confession? It could still be a complete mystery, like this; "It was me!" A soft voice cried from behind the lamppost, then footsteps echoed off the stone walls as the mystery killer ran away for the last time...

  1. Proofread it. Read it through, and re-write it if you don't like it. Some books have been re-written many times. Get a teacher or relative to read it. Adults are good at spotting mistakes like spelling and punctuation, especially in the writing of children. Make sure the word "said" isn't used to many times. It's appropriate to use "said" 6 times on one page. Also, you should only use "and" 9 times on one page.

Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing

By Ginny Wiehardt

Even more than writing in other genres, mystery writing tends to follow standard rules. This is because readers of mysteries seek a particular experience: they want the intellectual challenge of solving the crime before the detective does, and the pleasure of knowing that everything will come together in the end. Of course, the best way of testing the mystery writing rules that follow is to read widely in the genre. See how others use them or how and when they get away with breaking them.

1. In mystery writing, plot is everything.

Because readers are playing a kind of game when they read a detective novel, plot has to come first, above everything else. Make sure each plot point is plausible, and keep the action moving. Don't get bogged down in back story or go off on tangents.

2. Introduce both the detective and the culprit early on.

As the main character, your detective must obviously appear early in the book. As for the culprit, your reader will feel cheated if the antagonist, or villain, enters too late in the book to be a viable suspect in their minds.

3. Introduce the crime within the first three chapters of your mystery novel.

The crime and the ensuing questions are what hook your reader. As with any fiction, you want to do that as soon as possible.

4. The crime should be sufficiently violent -- preferably a murder.

For many readers, only murder really justifies the effort of reading a 300-page book while suitably testing your detective's powers. However, also note that some types of violence are still taboo including rape, child molestation, and cruelty to animals.

5. The crime should be believable.

While the details of the murder -- how, where, and why it's done, as well as how the crime is discovered -- are your main opportunities to introduce variety, make sure the crime is plausible. Your reader will feel cheated if the crime is not something that could really happen.

6. The detective should solve the case using only rational and scientific methods.

Consider this part of the oath written by G.K. Chesterton for the British Detection Club: "Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow on them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?"

7. The culprit must be capable of committing the crime.

Your reader must believe your villain's motivation and the villain must be capable of the crime, both physically and emotionally.

8. In mystery writing, don't try to fool your reader.

Again, it takes the fun out. Don't use improbable disguises, twins, accidental solutions, or supernatural solutions. The detective should not commit the crime. All clues should be revealed to the reader as the detective finds them.

9. Do your research.

"Readers have to feel you know what you're talking about," says author Margaret Murphy. She has a good relationship with the police in her area, and has spent time with the police forensic team. Get all essential details right. Mystery readers will have read a lot of books like yours; regard them as a pretty savvy bunch.

10. Wait as long as possible to reveal the culprit.

They're reading to find out, or figure out, whodunit. If you answer this too early in the book, the reader will have no reason to continue reading.
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