I use a special program to create my book covers and it has a layering function. For those who don’t know, this means I can take a picture and layer things over it. If I want to I can start with a country scene with an large oak tree, and then I can add a dog under the tree, add a large, gaping hole with a skeleton in it, and end with another dog next to the hole in the ground.
However, this post isn’t about book covers. It’s about layers, and it’s about mysteries.
The basis for your story might be about a family going on vacation. From there the author will start layering.
Where did the family go? Where did they stay? Who did they see? What did they do? In the midst of the vacation, how did they suddenly cross paths with a dead body? What did they do about it?
Each one of those questions is answered with a new layer.
Of course, I’m not telling mystery writers something they don’t already know. It might give readers a new perspective, though.
In Awkward Moments – A Bogey Man Mystery, while on vacation young Mikey Cross digs a hole in which to bury a dead bird and finds the vintage remains of a man. Under the body he finds bags of gold. It started with a vacation and turned into a murder investigation after layers started being unveiled. By the way, the book cover described above is the cover for this story.
I can only speak for myself, but when reading a mystery I like to savor every layer and try to figure out who done it and why. I do the same thing when I watch a mystery show on television. Even if my conclusions are wrong, as long as the outcome makes sense, I’ve still had a good time trying to figure things out. The key is that the ending leaves the reader feeling fulfilled because it made sense. Sometimes you have to slap the palm of your hand on your forehead and say, “Now why didn’t I see that coming?”
At one time my husband liked to “channel surf”, which drove me nuts. He’d pick up the remote control and start clicking to see what else might be on. It went something like this:
“And the killer is…”
“The secret ingredient is…”
“Next week all will be revealed about why…”
“The butler couldn’t have done it because…”
Sometimes you have to look at the funny side. Otherwise, that remote might have ended up in the trash or in a good hiding place.
Off topic, but this reminds me of why I don’t like books that end with a cliffhanger, making you buy the next book to find out what happened. Of course, there are exceptions or we’d probably be reading seven hundred page books. Been there, done that. No more. It reminds me of laying a story too many times. Give me a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, and I’m good – not at the end of a story. I like to feel fulfilled when I close the book.
Think about what you’ve just read in this post. It layered from one thing to another. How else could I have gotten from book covers to cliffhangers and still make sense? At least, I hope I made sense. You never know with me.
As a reader, how do you feel about layers in a story? Doesn’t it feel a bit one-dimensional without them?
Until next time, think about the layers in your everyday life. If the layers don’t feel right, try to make a few changes so they add up to a good week.
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Don’t forget about How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery whose purple cows and elderly spies just might knock your socks off.