Channel 4 Learning

Homework High

Q. I have to make up a story about something thats a mystery like the story 'The Lady Of Shallott', and I can't think of one. Please can you help me?

The key to any mystery story is to make the reader want to know what is going on. So you must always keep the reader guessing what is going to happen. In order to do this you should think about four main areas for your story * Characters * Setting * Events * Atmosphere Let's take the first one. What you should try and do is to pick a suitable character for a mystery. 'The Lady Of Shallott' has a beautiful woman locked in a tower, only able to see the world through a mirror. Why don't you update this a little and have, again, a beautiful woman locked away, only able to see the world through, say, a television screen. That's just one idea. You could have a young child who has emerged out of the forest, with no explanation of where he has come from. I hope you get the idea. Keep the reader thinking and wondering. Next, setting. Many mystery stories are set in 'gothic' surroundings such as an old castle or mansion. Certainly, you could go ahead with this and put in the usual ingredients such as the creaky doors, the long dark corridors, the old servants and so on. Again, if you wish, you could make this more modern. Perhaps you could set your story in a modern housing estate, where one of the houses is never occupied? Thirdly, story. This is actually very important and the key here is not to clutter the story up with too many incidents. That will not add to the mystery. You need something that requires an explanation. For instance, in the example above you might have a strange woman visiting the deserted house every day at a certain hour. Finally, atmosphere. You need to make sure the reader knows what kind of story this is. No silly jokes or lengthy conversations. Pile on the details and build up the mystery with a tone of doubt. You might write something like: 'It was never very clear why the strange woman visited the empty house in our street at the same time each day?' I hope you have some ideas now. Good luck.

Submitted by: donna, (Age 13)

Back to full list of questions
Fairground Spells
A highly interactive Key Stage 3 English site designed specifically to meet the needs of En3 Writing, Spelling and Punctuation.

Way with Words
Write poetry with Benjamin Zephaniah. The fun site also contains word games and a useful glossary.