My last few TV projects have been mysteries. Which has been a challenge for me. While I am a fan of both mystery/crime shows and novels, it’s mostly because of the characters. The characters drive my interest. Second to that? How the story is told. Either the language (check out Chandler for fantastic metaphors and one lines) or the structure (Richard Stark’s Parker novels, fantastic) or changing up the structure (Memento comes to mind). And after that, the mystery.
It’s a little topsy turvy, I know.
However, the mystery or the crime is clearly important. It’s the spine that the characters hang on. It’s the reason to be. It was DRIVES the action. So, it’s needed.
And that’s where planting comes in.
I believe in fair play. Fair play in the mystery sense is all the evidence needs to be present to the reader. What the detective knows and sees, the reader should know and see. This way the reader has a chance to figure out the mystery. No one likes those last minute reveals–that hidden bit of information that turns the whole thing around at the last minute. That’s not fair. It pisses people off. The rug is pulled from underneath them, they never had a chance. And let’s be honest, it’s weak writing.
Planting the evidence, along the way… that’s the key. It has to be there, but not so obvious that the audience is a head of the characters. That’s my struggle.
I’m working on a new spec, an original idea, and an idea that I like. I like this character. I like the hook. But, of course, it’s the mystery that drives the story. How the character REACTS to the story, that’s what’s interesting to viewers.
Anyway. I move forward through the story… and of course, as you all know, I hate outlining, I really struggle with it, and this is where it comes and bites me in the ass. Because I don’t outline, though I have an idea of what the story is, I don’t know what the clues are, what I need to plant, until I get further down the road. And then, I have to go back… and add some information…. or a question…. Not only do I want to nudge the character in the right direction, I want to point the viewers in the right direction… because I want to play fair….
BUT. I don’t want to point TO MUCH because I don’t someone saying, “Oh, well, it’s that guy” especially in Act One. Because that would suck. Because that means two things : 1. I’m not that smart of a writer and 2. I will be boring my audience and they will change the channel. Which means, I won’t work much.
So, that’s where I am. Trying to play fair… and trying to outsmart my audience.
Man, wouldn’t it just be easier to cheat?