I don’t know about you, but I love mysteries. Maybe it’s my inner boxcar kid or my desire to be Sherlock Holmes/Nancy Drew, but ever since I was a little kid, reading mystery stories, watching suspenseful films, and using my wild imagination, have always been my favorite pastimes to get that chilling thrill. For me, it started off with the cheesy Scooby-Doo-esque reads you’d pick up in elementary school, with plotlines of kidnappings and killings, leading us through a web of adventures to only find out that there was no kidnapping or killing at all. Then it moved up a notch into horror territory. Off-the-wall, dramatized stories of monsters looking to wreak havoc on the innocent. Now, I’m a faithful crime-tv watcher. It has the same elements found in the mysteries of my previous years, but a toned-down nature that is both heart-wrenching and relatable.
Anyway, as I delved into some great Lifetime movies this weekend, mystery and drama-filled of course, I got to thinking about the classic mystery storyline that has been recycled year in and year out since the beginning of time. There’s always these elements that make a mystery a mystery, and even though we know what will probably happen (granted, there are some plot twists), we can’t stop watching them because they’re so enticing!
What makes up the classic mystery storyline? What are its potions that make it the perfect recipe for suspense and awe? Well, let’s try and figure this out.
Step 1: Make Life Seem as Perfect as Can Be
Do you ever notice that in mystery plots, its almost always a cookie-cutter, all-is-well ambiance to start it off? The main characters are going about their day-to-day activities in blind contentment. Skipping, jogging, cooking, laughing..basically life is great, and they’re about to get a rude awakening and everybody knows it.
Step 2: The “Dun Dun Duuuuun” Moment
It happens. The murder, kidnapping, missing-person, monster, stalker, killer, whoever and whatever it is, occurs. It makes us gasp. It makes our wheels get to turning in our heads. It is the moment whether you decide to commit to this plotline and invest your emotions or drop it and go do something happy with your life. Â If it’s a good “dun dun duuuun” moment, you will commit.
Step 3: The Mess and Stress Stage
All the action a.k.a the mess goes down. The adventure of figuring out who did what, why they did it, and what’s going to happen next, becomes the main objective. And, of course, there’s tons of stress amongst the characters, which in turn, stresses the reader/viewer out (me).
Step 4: The Gasp…”I would’ve Gotten Away With It If It Weren’t For You Darn Kids…” Stage
We finally come to put all of the pieces of the mystery together and find out who did it and for what reason. By far the best stage, but if it is not done right, things could go very wrong and all of that hard work could be worthless.
Every mystery follows this pattern. Some worse and some better than others. Although, I love a good mystery with this classic storyline, I can’t help but desire a little change and a real shock factor within the genre. The repetition of this storyline sometimes makes the exciting genre…yawn-worthy. I urge those mystery-lovers and creators out there to break out of the box that has been established for so long. Surprise us, shock us, make us scream!