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Act 3 Missteps—Return to the Clues

“If the book doesn’t work, it’s the author’s fault. I’m very conscious that nothing in any of my books is a random surprise or isn’t extensively foreshadowed. You’ve gotta play fair.”

Lee Child

This is a great quote by Lee Child, and it’s what makes his stories so popular and readable. He never leaves his reader behind. He makes sure that he plays fair, especially with the set-up to his stories.

It’s something we at Demystifying the Beats (DtB) emphasize throughout the book, too. Don’t make your mystery unenjoyable by withholding information, hiding suspects, or being stingy with your clue drops. Don’t treat your readers poorly, especially as it comes to clues and evidence, because if you do, they won’t come back.

In DtB, we “clue” you into this problem using Dos and Don’ts, Goals and Gotchas.

In Taking out a Contract (Early in DtB)

Do: Share the clues and evidence with your reader, giving them the opportunity to solve the mystery along with your sleuth

Don’t: Omit critical clues. If the detective knows it, the reader needs to know it.

In Act 2: Fumbling (Middle of DtB)

Goal: Build the foundation for solving the crime

This is the first major act where evidence is being gathered as part of solving the mystery. Here is where information from interviews are coming in and clues are found, but they may have no meaning. Yet. You don’t have to hit your reader in the head with a clue, but make sure they are present.

Classic Clue example: The two wine glasses, or tea cups, or coffee cups, or open cans of soda pop at the crime scene.

There are about a MILLION different directions a mystery author can go with this classic clue to up its freshness, but one major question pops immediately to the surface: Who was with the victim before he was killed? Following-up on confusing clues will gain more information and give them meaning. This takes your sleuth and reader closer to the conclusion of your mystery. (Thanks, Captain Obvious!)

Act 3 Beat: Missteps—Return to the Clues (Late in DtB)

DtB quote: To play fair with your readers, it’s important to drop hints for each critical clue three times: Early, middle, and late in the story … by repeating the hints, the reader will declare, “I should have known!” at the resolution.

Oh, look! Demystifying the Beats has laid down how to play fair with your clues and evidence THREE TIMES—early, middle, and late in our book.

Now aren’t we clever? ♣️

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