I love mysteries; who doesn't?  And if they're unsolved, even better. The minute that magicians reveal their tricks, the magic's gone. When you write a novel based on turning true-life phenomenon into fiction, here are some tips to consider:

David Mason

David Mason

Finding the right mystery is vital. The world is full of amazing stories waiting to be told and nobody wants to read another rehash of the same old mystery. Many are hoaxes, most are embellished, but all is needed, is just enough truth to remain to leave a niggling doubt of credibility.

There are many top ten lists. Top ten mysteries; top ten weirdest sounds and so on.  But sometimes the best ideas come from real life. Mysteries don't have to be top tens, but sometimes the most intriguing, are the ones we experience every day.

I started my novel with a single mystery, but research helped the story develop. Look into locations, dates, people surrounding the story, anything and everything. The more you know, the deeper and more connected all the elements become. 

Even if at first the connections between facts are tenuous, use the beauty of fiction to strengthen them. The links don't need to be iron clad; lets face it, anyone reading a fictional story based on true life phenomenon, deep down, wants to believe.

The fictional element needs to be subtly woven into the story, to make it original, even more exciting, concealing the facts just enough but without smothering them.  Leaving just enough still showing to create the backbone of the story.

Visit the locations, not necessarily physically, but it's amazing the places you can go on your computer by dropping that little orange man on to a map. Writing about an actual location, even if it seems mundane, adds more truth to the story. Readers want to feel immersed in the novel they're reading, so wrap the fiction in layers of truth, leaving them unsure of what's real, and what isn't.

Many facts may seem implausible.  For my own novel, my end goal was for the readers to finish the book and feel inspired to research the phenomenon for themselves. I've been tempted to dampen down reality to make it more believable on paper, but what better than for the reader to find one of the most obscure elements of the story to be true? Because if that's true, then what about everything else?

Often the term, “based on a true story” is overused and overlooked. Once the effort has been made to include factual material, highlight that to the reader. But don’t allow it to be too specific and detract from their fun of deciphering the truth from fiction.

Choose a mystery that you find genuinely exciting, not necessarily what you think would make a good story. An author writing about a topic passionate to them is obvious, and that enthusiasm is conveyed in the content. 

Never underestimate how long it takes to write a novel, many great ideas never reach completion if a writer becomes bored. Adding real phenomenon into a story can also be exciting for a writer to explore as the story develops.

David Mason is the author of The Buzzer, which is a chilling and gripping thriller that is based upon the urban Russian legend of the same name (also referred to as UVB-76). The book is available to purchase on Amazon and from bookguild.co.uk