1. Many writers begin with SETTING – the place where your mystery will unfold.

Brainstorm a list of places you know well. Some examples are your home or neighborhood, your school, a museum you’ve visited, the zoo, the mall, a swimming pool, a skating rink. The more familiar you are with a place, the more convincingly you’ll be able to write about it.

Think about what kind of mysterious happenings could occur in each of the places you’ve brainstormed. Now choose the place or places that appeal to your imagination the most.

2. What kind of CHARACTERS belong in the setting(s) you’ve chosen? Your MAIN CHARACTER will probably be the character who solves your mystery. To add interest to your story, you may want to give your character a problem, or involve him or her in a conflict with another character.

3. Keeping your SETTING in mind, imagine strange or mysterious occurrences for which you have no explanation. (In a museum, a valuable statue could go missing. A dead body could be found almost anywhere!)

How can you get your main character involved in solving the mystery you set up? Is (s)he a detective, or just an innocent bystander who gets caught up in events because she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time?

4. As your main character goes about solving the mystery you’ve given him, plant clues and false clues (also called “red herrings”). False clues are mysterious happenings that fool the reader – for a while, anyway. You want to keep your readers guessing to the very end!

From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams www.suzanne-williams.com