How To Plot Out A Thriller/Mystery

A year ago, I plotted out my own little mystery thriller and hope to make it into a book one day. I enjoyed the scheming and implanting surprises. So here’s how I did it.

I knew I could complete a story in as many chapters as I needed. However, I didn’t have a story yet. So I thought I’d see what I could come up with in 27 chapters (3x3x3). I didn’t end up using all of them, but it did get the ball rolling

I came up with my ending first. What did I want to accomplish? What emotional state was each character going to be in?

I worked backward. I felt like my beginning should be the exact opposite. I wanted a story where my characters were heroic and loving at the end and lame and hateful at the beginning. I wanted there to be two main characters who grow closer throughout the book.

I had a beginning, a middle, and an end: boring and strangers, action and comrades, heroes and friends.

Then I decided what kind of action: do I want it to be a crime? A jungle adventure? A spy undercover operation? The list goes on. I thought a crime would be interesting. Multiple crimes, in fact.

So, I split my beginning into three parts, my middle into three parts, and my ending into three parts. I already knew that I had to find out about the crime, investigate the crime, and then solve the crime, but how could I split finding out about a crime into three parts? Investigating a crime into three parts? Solving a crime into three parts? Well that’s where my creative side came in. Each third became it’s own beginning, middle, and end.

I added character development, conflicts, and plot twists to fill the gaps, otherwise it’d be a three-chapter book. Maybe it takes three problems and two solutions to fully discover that a crime was committed. Maybe it takes a leap of faith, three lucky tip-offs, and two steps backward to get through the investigation. Maybe because of a new friendship and two minds working on the case, with a few cafe scenes here and there, the crime was finally solved. But the case is not closed until the criminal is caught, so there’s a few more scenes for ya’.

There are so many options that I had to split the thirds of the three into three parts themselves, resulting in 27 or so chapters. It allowed me to explore the characters with back stories, have intimate as well as action scenes, and really build a secret over time, which I had planted at the beginning of my plotting process. It sprouted into a drawn out sequence of events that became my book outline.

I hope that helped some with plotting your next mystery thriller!

Keep writing,


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