Mark deCastrique presented information about the key components of writing. He stared with the four pillars of writing, plot; characters; setting; and theme.
Plot: Events in the story. Each event comes from a previous one, creating a cumulative impact to the story.
Characters: People in the story. Need to have at least one character the reader will care about. Each character is shaped by his or her moral compass or standing created by the choices they've made.
Setting is more than a place. It includes space, time, duration and cultural settings.
Theme are the universal human truths shown in the details of the story. Mark cautioned us to not base your story on theme alone, this could turn your story into a surmon. We need to expose the theme in a way that let's the reader determine the theme for themselves.
Conflict fuels the four pillars that hold the story together. Not only should there be story conflict, the main character should experience internal conflict as well.
The story should unfold in the reader's mind based on the information presented by the author.
Mark discussed reasons to use specific points of view in a mystery. He defined the difference between a 'Cozy' mystery and a "Hard Boiled' mystery. A cozy is an amateur detective who sees things thrown out of order and wants to restore that order. A hard boiled mystery includes the tough cop who sees the world in constant chaos. In either case, the reader should always be one step behind the detective.
To create suspense, you can change that up by allowing the reader to be one or two steps ahead of the detective.
The best crime novels are not about how a detective works a case, but how the case works the detective. 'Make sure everyone on every page wants something'.
Mark then discussed a formula for writing mystery. There are four archs to consider.
The 1st arch sets up the characters and the situation and ends in a crisis.
The 2nd arch Mark referred to is the 'big bad middle'. It is the question and answer of the witnesses. Should include character witnesses that are uncooperative, or who may end up dead, and include interesting settings for the gathering of physical evidence. This arch includes the logical reasoning the main character is experiencing as more evidence is collected. The end of the 2nd arch changes the path the detective was heading when the evidence shifts and the main character (and the reader) need to double back and rethink what really happened.
The 3rd arch is where the author ratchets up the tension in a way it seems the mystery will never be solved.
The 4th arch is when one action pulls everything together to solve the crime and there is a revelation of the motive and who committed the crime.
Mark also gave examples of endings that fail. He ended with a quote, 'Ending should NOT be predictable, it should be inevitable.'