How to Find Ideas for Your Mystery Novel | Julia Gousseva | Skillshare

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How to Find Ideas for Your Mystery Novel

teacher avatar Julia Gousseva, Writer, Creative Writing Teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Ideas Source #1

    • 3. Ideas Source #2

    • 4. Ideas Source #3

    • 5. Ideas Source #4

    • 6. Ideas Source #5

    • 7. Ideas Source #6

    • 8. Ideas Source #7

    • 9. Ideas Source #8

    • 10. Ideas Source #9

    • 11. Ideas Source #10

    • 12. Conclusion

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About This Class

If you want to write a mystery but don't know how to come up with a good idea and an interesting plot, you’re in the right place. 

Ideas for stories are all around us. You simply need to know where to look. In this class, I will show you ten excellent sources of ideas for your mystery or thriller.

Follow your curiosity and  your passion. Don’t doubt yourself. Other people can write mysteries, and so can you.  And after this class, you’ll have plenty of ideas to write about.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher


Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher

How to Write an Original Short Story

Have you always wanted to write fiction but don’t know where to start? Have you started writing but got stuck and don’t know how to finish? Do you have ideas but find it hard to develop them into a complete story that makes sense? Or do you experience writer's block, get stuck, and lose motivation?

If you have experienced any of these problems or if you simply want a clear and specific way to develop your idea into a story, you’re in the right place.
This course will present an approach to writing stories that I have developed over a number of years and refined with my students in face-to-face classes.

This approach is a step... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi there. Welcome to the class. It's a class on how to find ideas for your mystery novel. If you want to write a mystery but don't know how to come up with a good idea or an interesting plot, you are in the right place. Ideas for stories are all around us. You simply need to know where to look in this class. I will show you 10 excellent sources of ideas for your mystery or for your thriller. Follow your curiosity and your passion. Don't doubt yourself. Other people can write mysteries, and so can you. And after this class, you'll have plenty of ideas to write about. Let's take a look at the first source. 2. Ideas Source #1: source number one news stories, and they're easy to find. Just do an Internet search for crime news or, if you want to be more specifically, could the financial crime news or or some other kind of crime that you are more interested in. Here's what I found an online romance gone wrong. Three years after fatally shooting a 61 year old man in what she characterized as an act of self defense, a 57 year old woman has been charged with murder. The shooting occurred after the couple's romance soured. The woman turned herself in. Investigators allege she killed her ex boyfriend, whom she met through an online dating service. All right, so you have the basic station here, and, of course, you can start changing the details. If you don't like their ages, you can change their ages. There's no specific setting here. I took it out so you can put in a specific setting. You can also write about what happened in the three years. Ah, that, um, that passed the sense of that murder. All right, so that's one type of story. Let's take a look at the different one. A botched murder for hire. This was an interesting one. And if you like technology, I think you'll especially like writing on this type of story. A pair of bungling would be hitman for foiled by police after one of the alleged co conspirators sat on his mobile phone accidentally butt dialing the potential victim and revealing the details of their planned hit. Police have said a little bit silly here, but at the same time, of course, the story is serious. So if you feel interested in any of these stories, what I would suggest is set your timer for five or 10 minutes and the free right and see see where it takes you. Sometimes it's hard to know which a story which plot will work best for you until you started writing on it. So that's why I'm suggesting a time each one for five or 10 minutes, see what they come up with and then pick the plot that most appeals to you. But let's look at one last won in this category body parts for sale and if you're like medical mysteries and if you're into medicine. Actually, a lot of doctors have become really good writers because they do know the medical feel so well. But here's the crime story. British patients waiting for organ transplants are being offered illegally trafficked kidneys for cash, a newspaper investigation has claimed. The Times. Clay The Times claims government controlled hospital is being recommended to patients as a place where they can receive an organ for thousands of pounds on the black market from either the the United Kingdom or India. All right, so that's another type of story. If you're interested in that, you can try writing on that. It doesn't have to be British patients. It can be set in any place that you are more familiar with. Of course, you can change that. All right, so we talked about news. Thirties is a source for your plot. Let's take a look at the different source. 3. Ideas Source #2: another great source off plot ideas for your mystery could be overheard. Conversations. Usually we just hear snippets of conversations so we don't know the whole story. And that's great, because that makes us ask questions. And that can lead to some interesting plot ideas. Here's an example. I was at the train station that a couple of days ago, and I overheard this snippet of conversation of two people who were walking by. We've waited at the train station for two hours, and he never showed up. Did you try calling his cell phone? Kept going to voice mail. So already you're wondering what? Who is this person? Why did they try calling him What happened to him? Wise here? Well, why didn't he show up? Right? And why is he not picking up his cell phone now? So that can definitely get you started on some kind of a plot. As you start answering these questions 4. Ideas Source #3: another interesting and unusual source. Off mystery plots could be found in fairytales. Let's take a look at one example. Do you remember the story of the ugly duckling? It's a story of a little bird and who was not accepted by by their family because they were considered to be ugly. And then this bird grows up and becomes a beautiful swan. So if you examine that story from the point of view of the Swan, and you can think about is a person who is an adult and now that adult is looking back at their childhood that that bad childhood, what does the child who do to them do they have maybe a desire for revenge? So then you can turn it into revenge story. Think about how will this person treat themselves and other people around them because of that bad childhood. So there's your idea for a revenge story based on the fairy tale 5. Ideas Source #4: ancient myths contain a lot of wisdom and a lot of distilled human experiences, so you can you can definitely look at some myths. Four ideas for your mystery novel. Let's take a look at just one example, and I picked the Trojan horse, and it's one of the most famous tricks of all time. And maybe you remember that happened. You're in the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, and what happened is the Greek army supposedly departed. So the Trojans are all very happy, And, uh, then the sergeant's see that the Greeks left behind the very strange gift. It's a giant wooden horse, So what do you think happens next? They think they just left. Well, of course not. The Greek army was actually hiding inside that horse. So what do you do with that? If you're trying to write down a mystery today, while the idea here is that there's a conflict right between two parties and then maybe between two people and then one person gives the other person a gift or what looks like a gift. But there's something sinister about that gift, and you can take it in many different directions. What's inside this package, right? And why is it sinister? Who are these people? What is their relationship? So some ideas for you to think about right? So definitely look at myths as a source of inspiration for your mystery novels. 6. Ideas Source #5: the next source we're gonna talk about has to do with classic dramas. A lot of classic works of literature have these archetypal plots that still get recycled and end the use today because they reflect the human nature so well. So let's take a look just to the two quick examples and the plays by Shakespeare and a great example toe look at. If you read these plays, of course, that that's helpful. If you haven't read them, you can a couple of things you could just do. The quick summary, even on Wikipedia, is fine. Or you don't don't have to read the summary because your goal is not to recreate this play right. Your goal is to find ideas for your own mystery. So, for example, this one that picked a fellow and the the main point for our purposes can be the jealousy leads the murder, and that, despite the fact that it was written many years ago, off course now ah, the same holds true right? Jealous, you still can lead to murder. So what you can do is just look at the illustration here and you can imagine who are these characters, put them in a setting that you would like to right about here can make any changes you want right, and then decide. How are these characters interacting with each other? Who is jealous of whom and why? And how does all of that lead to murder And the other one? I picked this Macbeth, another one by Shakespeare and the main ese. And that one is a desire for power leads to murder, right? So that crazy ambition that over overcomes a person can lead to irrational actions, including murder. And your story doesn't have to be set in an ancient kingdom. It could be set in. I don't know. Today's corporate environment, right? The government, whatever you want. But just think about who wants power. How do they define power and what are they willing to do to achieve the power rights? That's your idea for a mystery plot again. So classic dramas, a great source of inspiration and Glyn, great source, off plot ideas 7. Ideas Source #6: another great source off a plot. Ideas is the Bible, and let's take a look at just the one story from the Old Testament. It's the story of over Cain and Abel, two brothers who are presenting offerings to God. And for some reason, God likes the offerings of one brother, but not the other. And we don't know what these reasons are. Maybe God doesn't like the temperament of this brother. Or maybe maybe it's just luck. So then the cane gets really angry because God is not nice to him and he kills his brother . He kills Abel. So the plot here is sibling right. Rivalry leads the murder so you can think about whatever setting you're interested in whatever time period you're interested in, have your two siblings and think about what do they both want and only one of them gets it right. And then that rivalry, that jealousy that envy can lead to murder. Lots of stories in the Bible, obviously. Ah, lots of interesting plots, interesting observations about humans. So that's something to look at as well. For your source of inspiration and plots 8. Ideas Source #7: another way to come up with a plot for your mystery is not to start with characters, but to start with a setting. And I said here an unusual setting. But what's unusual? Most likely what is usual to you is unusual Teoh at, in all 98% of the world, right, because you live on that certain place. Most people do not live there, so that's setting if you present that right will be unusual for them. But let's take a look at an example of how you would go about it. You could start of the specific image, and this could be an image you can find online. Or this could be an image, an actual picture that you see around the place where you live, right? So you see a house like that who lives here or who lived here? What happened here? Why is it abandoned? Who is using this house now? So start asking yourself questions about this particular setting, and you may be able to come up with some plot ideas as well and again, an unusual setting. Whatever you live. That's unusual because most people don't live there 9. Ideas Source #8: movie plot summaries could be a great way to develop your plot and to come up with a plot idea. I'm not suggesting that you copy what already happened in the movie. I'm just suggesting looking at the brief summary and then develop in it in the way that you want to develop it. Let's take a look at a couple of examples, and you can find is when you're looking at the guide writer Netflix or TV Guide. Whatever. Wherever you find movies, this one is for Chinatown. And actually, if you have not seen the movie, that's better, because then you won't have, ah, the inclination to repeat what already happened in that movie. So here's a one line summary. A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in the web of deceit, corruption and murder. So the private detective will be our main character, right? And, uh, the beginning is easy, so he's hard for a certain job, and then something else happens. And actually, that's a very common plot. In a lot of mysteries, something unexpected happens, obviously, otherwise, it wouldn't be a mystery, right? Let's take a look at one more example, here's the summer of the ghostwriter it ghostwriter hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister uncover secrets that put his own life in jeopardy. And, of course, it doesn't have to be a British prime minister, right? It could be anybody else. But the idea here is interesting that a writer who doesn't expect to become a detective on covers these secrets. And then what is he or she going to do with these secrets? How are they going to deal with it? And this is a story of where the amateur detective, right a ghostwriter, is not a professional detective. So they're going to be an amateur detective, have to deal with all these problems. How are they going to do that? All right, so movie plot summaries can definitely be a good source of inspiration and ideas of for your mystery novels. 10. Ideas Source #9: another source can be unusual characters and unusual motivations. So try to look outside of your own life at other people, and you could look at people you know, you could look for interesting stories online, looking for this specific goal of finding unusual characters and unusual motivations. Let's take a look at the couple of examples. Let's say we have a belly dancer who wants to get the leading part but knows that his or her competitors is better. How far is this belly dancer going to go to eliminated competitors? Will they do that? And you can set it in the different times in different places, different settings and see where of that leads you or a new laws are getting constantly past, right? So that could be interesting, too. So let's say there's a new law that bans tigers as pets, and we have a person who has a pet tiger. What are they going to do? Right? So interesting idea. Definitely. Look at all these laws in the see if you can the make the law, that the problem in your story a problem for your character, All right, so unusual characters, unusual motivations is another way to come up with ideas for your mystery novel 11. Ideas Source #10: and the last idea is to mix and match ideas. We talked about a lot of different opportunities today, right to find your ideas for your plot for a mystery novel so they can look at what we've done so far and see if there Anyways, you can combine these ideas and mix and match them. And I'm not going to give you an example, because it's really up to you. Depending on what you like and how you want to develop your story, you can mix and match those ideas. All right, so take a look at what we've done, what we thought, what we've talked about and see how you can combine these ideas. 12. Conclusion: now that we have discussed all these different ways to find an idea for your mystery, you're probably wondering how he can go from this vague idea to something that engages you and your readers both intellectually and emotionally. My suggestion is to focus on characters. Next. Stories are events that happen to people, and readers are interested in people in their motives, their desires in their lives. So how do you create characters for a mystery? I'm glad you asked. I have a class that focuses just on that specific issue, and it's called How to Create Characters for a mystery novel. And I hope to see you in the class. Thank you for watching and good luck with your story.