I’m working on a kickass project, but it’s draining, much the way opening up a wrist and attaching it to a pump is draining. The guidelines are to write ten 20-minute radio-style mystery scripts with 6-9 characters. One per week.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

First, write down a one- or two-sentence description of your story–the mystery rather than the solution–as if you were writing the hook for a book-of-the-month club. Come up with a catchy title.

Then write down the names of the characters, drawing lines between the characters indicating their relationships. Each character has to have connections to at least two other characters. Come up with 6-9 characters. You don’t have to use them all, but stretching the number of characters will help you stretch the possible relationships.

Decide what the solution to the mystery is. Because the characters are so intertwined, it should be easy to drum up a few red herrings.

Write a 1- to 2-sentence description of each character. Focus on relationships and conflicts, but include at least one trait: gentle, boisterous, mutters.

Give yourself 10 scenes. The first three scenes are the beginning; the situation must become much more serious by the end of the third scene. The next six scenes are the middle; the characters try to find out what’s going on (or try to prevent each other from finding out). The last scene is the resolution. You will often find there are two mysteries. The first mystery is the who-dunnit, that is, who killed the victim, who stole the jewels, etc.

The second mystery is one that matters, and it’s usually the reason behind the first. X killed Y because Y stole his fiancee fifty years ago. But why now? Because Y’s wife, the former fiancee of X, told X that Y has been beating her for years. Both mysteries must be addressed in the last scene. The solution to the first mystery must be known to at least some of the characters: the truth brought to light, or hidden by choice. The solution to the second mystery should, if possible, retain a sense of mystery. What made X kill Y? Revenge? Love of the finacee? A sense of justice?

Then start over…

I’m going to write these down, because I need the motivation to keep going, and nothing motivates a writer like bragging. Titles so far:

A PIECE OF JAKE
BURNT SUGAR
DIESPACE.COM
NO SMOKING, NO PETS
APRIL FOOL
THE SLIPPERY DEATH OF MARTY MCCLOWN

Working on MEMORIAL DAY.

Up soon:

MEETINGS ARE MURDER
A BITE TO EAT
THE DAME