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Does Mystery/Crime Need to be Revealed in Chapter 1?

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I'm writing a middle grade mystery about something that is stolen. I know the mystery/crime needs to be revealed early but does it have to be in Chapter 1?

Right now I have it being revealed at the end of chapter 2.

Any advice would be appreciated.  Thanks.
#1 - November 01, 2019, 01:13 PM

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It's fine to have the crime revealed at the end of Chap. 2 as long as your Chap 1 is engaging and gets readers to go to the next chap and the next...until the end :grin3  You might want to read Hooked by Les Edgarton. It's an excellent book on openings and keeping readers hooked.
#2 - November 01, 2019, 02:43 PM
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Since this is a mystery book, make sure you have the right tone and maybe even a mini mystery in chapter one. Chapter one has to set up your story, but not necessarily the main mystery. You don't want readers to think it's a historical coming of age story rather than a mystery based on the first chapter.
#3 - November 01, 2019, 08:58 PM
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Maybe ask yourself, what is the point of the first chapter if not to pull the reader into the mystery?  First chapters are your opportunity to grab the reader at a gut level while also revealing the purpose and tone of the story (meaning, is it creepy or suspenseful or humorous, etc.). That first chapter makes a promise that the rest of the book needs to deliver—and it's the point that your reader sort of aligns with your MC, who is hopefully about to go on an unforgettable journey.

So WHY does the "mystery" have to wait until the end of chapter 2? Look at every single detail leading up to that point and ask, is it drawing the reader into the story, or not? Could those details be shared later? Or in a different way? What would happen if you revealed the mystery on the first page or two? What would be missing?

Perhaps visit a bookstore and look at current MG mysteries. Read them and study the different approaches that are working (meaning, selling).

Beginnings have always been hard for me, so I feel your pain. Eventually the real beginning usually makes itself clear, so I've learned to just accept the struggle as a normal part of the process.

Good luck!
#4 - November 02, 2019, 07:22 AM
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I love mysteries. For me, thrillers tend to be event driven, while mysteries - especially cozy mysteries - tend to be character driven. Not always, of course, but I heard an editor say once that, if you are writing a thriller, a bomb or body better appear on the first page. I'm not sure I agree completely with that statement, but you get the idea.

I think mysteries allow for a slower build, because getting to know the characters is essential. As others have said, though, a sense of mystery and intrigue needs to grab the reader in the first chapter, if not on the first page.
#5 - November 02, 2019, 08:42 AM

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Maybe ask yourself, what is the point of the first chapter if not to pull the reader into the mystery?  First chapters are your opportunity to grab the reader at a gut level while also revealing the purpose and tone of the story (meaning, is it creepy or suspenseful or humorous, etc.). That first chapter makes a promise that the rest of the book needs to deliver—and it's the point that your reader sort of aligns with your MC, who is hopefully about to go on an unforgettable journey.

So WHY does the "mystery" have to wait until the end of chapter 2? Look at every single detail leading up to that point and ask, is it drawing the reader into the story, or not? Could those details be shared later? Or in a different way? What would happen if you revealed the mystery on the first page or two? What would be missing?

Such good questions for all of us! Thanks Ena.

#6 - November 02, 2019, 10:26 AM
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I'm going to chime in and agree with all that has been said, because it is all about balance and telling your particular story.

*You must immediately engage the reader and introduce your MC so they will care about what happens.
*The goal is to have an inciting incident as close to the opening as possible, so, yes, it is a good goal to shoot for the mystery in chapter 1.
*The point is that SOMETHING needs to happen or needs to change in the world of your MC, ASAP.

My YA, ROYALLY ENTITLED, is a mystery and while the mystery itself is not revealed in chapter one, the end of chapter one starts the beginning of the mystery. [It is YA and my first chapter is only ten pages long.] My MC's apple orchard is ablaze and it is a shock to her when she sees it. And that is the mystery. How did the fire start and/or who started it? Then it goes into the details of this conjecture IMMEDIATELY in chapter two.

Books and chapters are even shorter in MG, so things really need to move.  While there are no set "rules" there are guidelines and expectations that readers, agents, and editors will have.

Good luck with this!
#7 - November 02, 2019, 03:44 PM
ROYALLY ENTITLED (inspirational/historical YA) and OOPS-A-DAISY (humorous MG) out now.  http://www.melodydelgado.com/

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