Archive for story

stories contain messages

“Stories contain messages – messages that might convey a mood, perspective, or moral. Stories make us feel a certain way, give us another way to look at things, and inform, educate, and entertain us. More importantly, though, stories are about something. Whether spoken, broadcast, shown through photography or film, stories revolve around thematic narrative structures.”

“Themes are as old as story itself; in essence, they are what story is really about.”

A Photographer’s Guide to Developing Themes and Creating Stories with Pictures
Jerod Foster


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plot generates suspense


“Plot generates its cousin, suspense. It is suspense that keeps you reading and wanting to know what is going to happen.

What creates suspense is a threat. There must be a prospect of something really bad happening unless… unless the crime is solved, unless something intervenes between the villain and his or her intention. This is what gives your sleuth a solid motive for pursuing the matter, and you need that motivation.”

Ruth Cavin, in Writing Mysteries on the mystery novel from an editor’s point of view

She also says;

”If the characters are believable, the background and atmosphere real and interesting, and the writing smooth and accurate, I’m not going to worry too much about plot problems unless the basic premise is irretrievably flawed… it can be fixed.”

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we want an experience

“We don’t want to read a book. We want to live an experience”

Carolyn Wheat, in Writing Mysteries on developing your personal style of writing. Don’t try just to be technically clever, or clear or… write so that the reader is immersed in the story and lives the experience.

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ingredients of a ghost story

  1. a haunted place – a lonely house or church
  2. atmosphere
  3. weather – fog, mist, dusk, twilight, drizzle…
  4. a ghost
  5. the ghost must have a purpose or motive

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start with a picture

Use Google images, find a picture which suits or hints at the characters face.

Then to form a character brief, a back story or to help bring someone to life, ask yourself questions like this;

  • What is your name?
  • How old are you?
  • Where are you now?
  • What was life like when you were 5
  • And when you were 10 and 15, 20 …
  • Are you married? in a relationship?
  • Do you have children?
  • What are their names?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What makes you sad, angry?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Who influenced you most?
  • What stories define your life?
  • What stories do you tell?
  • What secrets do you keep?
  • Do you have an incomplete story?
  • Who are your friends
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where do you live now?
  • Are you rich, poor, healthy, ill?
  • What do you do?
  • Do you have a job
  • Have you had other jobs?
  • Have you travelled? where?
  • How do you stand, walk, gesture etc
  • How do you speak, what accent do you have?
  • What mannerisms do you have?

Ask the questions slowly, with time to ponder, collate and compile a picture of the person in your mind. You don’t need to literally answer every question, and in 5 or 10 minutes you can create a rich and deep background, allowing you to play the character with great depth and personality.

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something on a mystery

Mystery (Noun)

  • an unexplained or inexplicable event or phenomenon
  • a person or thing that arouses curiosity or suspense because of an unknown, obscure, or enigmatic quality
  • a story or film which arouses suspense and curiosity because of facts concealed

The title is the first step the reader makes in the mystery of the story

Mystery stories have had a solid structure to them.

“The structure here is: Something mysterious happens, usually a murder. It’s unclear who, how, and/or why the crime was committed. The hero investigates, either as his job or because he’s nosy. He learns a few facts, develops some theories of the crime. Now facts become harder to find and he has to pry harder to learn things. New facts cause him to re-evaluate old facts, discard some theories and revise others. The big reveal comes when he explains the crime and how he figured it out.”
“The mystery is very important, emphasized whereas the writer must follow a set of guidelines that require fair play in the telling of the murder, presentation of the clues and the withholding of the identity of the murderer until the end.”

from The Technique of the Mystery Story (1913)
by CAROLYN WELLS (1870? – 1942)

Singleness of Plot in the Detective Story

“The single plot that makes a Detective Story may be likened to an accordeon; it may be pulled out to an extraordinary length, or compressed to a minimum. A detective novel may have minor complications, more characterization and more elaborate setting; but the plot must not vary from the plot of a detective short-story, being only the propounding of the riddle and the revealing of its answer. The longer the story the more numerous and bewildering the conditions of the riddle and the windings of the maze, but all tend definitely to the one end, — the answer.”

Maintaining Suspense

“Another and very necessary point to remember is that the mystery must be of sufficient interest to be worth unraveling.  To quote Anna Katharine Green on her methods of construction:

“I must have a central idea which appeals to my imagination; and an end of such point or interest that the reader will feel that it justifies the intricacies which are introduced to hold it back. In other words the heart of the labyrinth must be worth reaching.”

“Prof. Max Dessoir, in a very fine article on “The Psychology of Conjuring,” writes as follows: “By awakening interest in some unimportant detail, the conjurer concentrates that attention on some false point, or negatively, diverts it from the main object, and we all know the senses of an inattentive person are pretty dull …. ”

These most valuable directions may be helpfully adapted  to the writing of Detective Stories. Thc author is, in a way, a conjuror, with an avowed intent to hoodwink his audience.”

“The art of the “whodunnit” comes in the pursuit of the murderer through the skillful presentation of clues. The writer is expected to adhere to the standard of fair play. Which is, the writer must present to the reader all the clues necessary to reveal the significance of the clues. The writer can misdirect the reader by emphasizing the unimportant clues.”

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horror game or discovery plot structure


Building a scenario from Call of Cthulhu 6ed

  • a mystery or crisis is posed…
  • the investigators become linked to the problem…
  • the investigators attempt to define the mystery…
  • the investigators use the clues and evidence to confront the danger…
  • the mystery is solved.

Complex discovery plot;

  • onset
  • discovery
  • confirmation
  • confrontation

The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carroll

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