Mystery Story Structure, by Maureen McQuerry, based on Hallie Ephron

MYSTERY STRUCTURE — HALLIE EPHRON 

ACT I ACT II ACT III
Introduction of the crime (mystery) and the sleuth Direct the investigation toward a conclusion which later proves to be erroneous.Change of focus and scope of the investigation. This is the pivotal point in the story where it become evident that the sleuth was on the wrong track. Something unexpected occurs, such as the appearance of a second body, the death of a major suspect, or discovery of evidence which clears the most likely suspect. The story must take a new direction Final confrontation Resolution of subplot 

Resolution of mystery

STORY STRUCTURE

OPPORTUNITY
10%

NEW SITUATION
25%
PROGRESS
50%
COMPLICATIONS
75%
FINAL PUSH / CLIMAX
90%

RESOLUTION
100%

Disclose the crime and mystery to be solvedIntroduce the sleuthClues should be revealedEstablish setting

Begin w/dramatic event

Introduce suspectsCrime more complicated than appearsSubplot introduced Reveal facts about suspectsCluesFlight, or disappearance of one or more suspect.Raise the stakes

Sleuth’s background is revealed in subplot

Sleuth has a personal stake in the outcome

Reveal hidden motives. Formerly secret relationships come to lightThe sleuth reveals the results of the investigationThe solution of the crime appears to be impossible Resolution of subplotProtag is strengthenedThe Climax – a dramatic confrontation between the sleuth and the perpetrator in which the sleuth prevails. The more “impossible” the odds have been, the more rewarding the climax will be. Resolution – Revelation of clues and the deductive process which lead to the solution

ACT I

ACT II

ACT III

Also available as pdf here.

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