✨ Order my book
The Plottery's Learning Room
Writing a Jeepers Creepers Mystery

Writing a Jeepers Creepers Mystery

plotting prose writing skills Feb 12, 2024

I am unembarrassed to say that I have seen every single Scooby Doo movie, special, and show at least twice. If it’s currently available to stream by any means, that number is exponentially higher (think high double digits).

Scooby Doo was a staple in my life long before I started writing mysteries, so it was only natural that I looked toward the familiar when I did. My first mystery stories followed the blueprint that Scooby Doo laid out for me, and although the method has grown more complicated as my writing has, it’s still my go-to for most of my mysteries.

ALSO: The Perks of Not Being Original Enough

The Scooby-Doo Method is a down-and-dirty way to vibe your way through a mystery plot – if you’re plotting out a Scooby-Doo mystery.

 

Which begs the question, what kind of mystery are you writing?

 

Solving-Genres

Although there are dozens of mystery sub-genres, there are only two solving-genres. The simplest definitions for these two solving-genres are evidence-based mysteries and observation-based mysteries.

An evidence-based mystery should include an abundance of forensics, formal detective work (to varying degrees), and an open world where suspects are unlimited. An observation-based mystery should include little to no forensics, informal sleuthing, and a closed world where suspects are limited. Think Criminal Minds or CSI versus Scooby Doo or Nancy Drew.

 

 

Another way to think about this is through sub-genres. A procedural will always be an evidence-based mystery. A cozy will always be an observation-based mystery. A spy could be either, but will often lean toward evidence-based. A historical could be either but will often lean toward observation-based.

The Scooby-Doo Method, and this article, is all about observation-based mysteries.

 

The Scooby-Doo Method

Before jumping into using Scooby Doo to plot a mystery, it’s important to look at the basic tenants the show itself establishes. In an observation-based mystery, there are three pillars that are vital to helping your reader understand and enjoy your mystery.

First, introduce your culprit early. An observation-based mystery world is closed, meaning the killer, thief, or blackmailer is among us. There’s no third-act fingerprint identification of someone we don’t know. The appeal of Scooby Doo is that the viewer is able to solve the mystery along with the gang. This can’t happen unless you include your culprit among your suspects.

Second, everyone is suspicious. If your reader knows your culprit is among your suspects, you gotta give them somewhere to hide – and the easiest place to hide is in plain sight. In making everyone suspicious, you make no one suspicious. The reader can’t solve the mystery along with your gang unless you let the reader suspect the innocent people, too.

Third, there should always be a wrap-up. If your reader is suspicious of everyone, those suspicions must be explained. Nothing is more frustrating than a throwaway scene meant to confuse the reader and do nothing more. No one will feel like the mystery is over until clues and red herrings all make sense. 

A mystery that ignores these basic tenets will leave your readers feeling set up for failure.

Now, let’s dive into the gang.

 

The Velma

Clues.

 

“Isn’t it obvious that you need clues in a mystery novel?”

Of course, please worry not about the soundness of my mind. What really matters is how and when you use clues to eliminate suspects. 

Clues in the Scooby Doo Method focus on a slow elimination of the suspects, which means that your clues can’t point to only a single suspect. Plan and plant your clues throughout your novel to eliminate one or two suspects at a time.

In Scooby-Doo! Shaggy’s Showdown, several clues point to someone with access to the barn – but it turns out Tawny leaves it unlocked, and anyone could have gotten in! This means the only thing the gang has established is that the Ghost of Dapper Jack is someone who knows the supplies are in the barn.

Don’t use clues to mass eliminate suspects; use them to narrow the focus slowly.

 

The Daphne

Theories.

 

Listen, I’m well aware that Daphne is best known for being danger-prone, as is the rest of the Blake Clan. However, the last decade has seen Daphne reimagined as both danger and wild-theory-prone.

Theories in the Scooby Doo Method focus on the mashing of clues into a lump that hopefully resembles a motive, and, most importantly, theories play out on the page. Let your readers see your sleuths thinking critically, and let your readers think along with them.

In Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur, Daphne and Fred discuss their theories as they try to break down the mystery before it ruins Velma’s date. Yes, some of the theories are absolutely outlandish – I’m looking at you, cave snakes gathering together in the form of a ghost dinosaur – but the audience is given something to follow.

Theories exist on the page so that the final wrap-up doesn’t blindside your reader.

 

The Fred

Traps.

 

Let’s all be honest, there was nothing else the man that sleeps with a net could possibly represent.

However, a trap doesn’t always mean a net. Mysteries written using the Scooby Doo Method don’t involve actual detectives, and so your sleuth needs a way to wrap up the mystery before someone else makes an arrest.

ALSO: How to Write Fight Scenes

In Lego Scooby-Doo! Haunted Hollywood, the gang pieces together the clues and figures out not only who the culprit is but what they’re after. Instead of turning this knowledge over to the police, the gang sees the case through with an elaborate trap. Only then are the police called to witness the unmasking and wrap-up.

Traps are how your sleuth becomes a meddling kid, and your reader gets a wrap-up.

 

The Shaggy

Risks.

 

Shaggy, our fearful foodie, is who gives a mystery its tension. 

Yes, the risks are typically low stakes – at least for the reader – but they need to exist. In the Scooby-Doo Method, risk is simply an established danger that your character perceives as a Big Deal. The Big Deal creates a sense of urgency and gives your characters and readers a reason to solve your mystery.

In Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare, the imminent danger is Freddie’s dream of being a counsellor, mentor, and hero at his old summer camp, being smashed by an axe-wielding maniac. And, you know, the axe-wielding maniac when he’s around and chasing the gang and their friends.

A mystery without some sort of looming danger is just a brain teaser. 

 

The Scooby

Mistakes.

 

Who can forget when Shaggy and Scooby accidentally plowed into the Snow Ghost because they accidentally glued their feet to rocket-powered roller skates eight stupid times?

Mistakes serve a two-fold purpose in the Scooby Doo Method, one for your characters and one for your plot. For your characters, mistakes create relatability. Characters who make mistakes feel more human. A flawless character is a forgettable character. For your plot, and obviously pairing Scooby with his best friend Shaggy, mistakes create an urgency that can’t exist if the trap always works.

ALSO: How to Write Relatable Characters

In Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, the gang’s final attempt to catch the ghost goes awry, which isn’t a spoiler because the Method expects that, and everyone is left scrambling to find a way to make it work anyway. And when it works anyway, the success is sweeter.


Mistakes give your characters a heartbeat and your plot heart palpitations.

 

The Wrap-up

If you want your reader to feel like they’re part of the gang, the Scooby Doo Method is a quick and easy way to build out a plot skeleton. Although simplistic by design, the bones can be built into a short story, a novella, or a novel.

With these bones of a mystery, general plotting techniques can be used to finish an outline. If you’re unsure where to start, check out the Free Novel Plan, the Writer’s Toolbox, or Novel Plotting Academy.

Stay tuned for the Criminal Minds Blueprint!

 

FAQ

How do you break down a mystery plot?

Break down a successful mystery plot into: (1) clues, (2) theories, (3) traps, (4) risks, and (5) mistakes.

 

Is writing a mystery hard?

The hardest part of writing a mystery is ensuring your reader wants it solved as much as your characters do! The Scooby-Doo Method can help you establish a compelling plot.

 

What makes a good mystery novel?

Involvement! A good observation-based mystery novel is a novel that leaves the reader feeling like they’ve solved the mystery along with your sleuth.

 


Elizabeth Miles
Written for The Plottery

I’m Elizabeth Miles, but you can call me Lizzie! I am a full-time stay-at-home mom and part-time author during breaks from chasing down over-confident toddlers. Mystery, romance, and fantasy are my favorite genres for both reading and writing. You can find me on Instagram (@authorlizziem) and TikTok (@authorlizziemiles)!

 

 

Read more blogs below!

What Story Are You Telling?

Apr 21, 2024

Why Writing a Diary can Save your Life

Apr 18, 2024

Writing a Criminal Minds Inspired Mystery

Apr 15, 2024

Looking for our priced offers?

Novel Plotting Academy

Novel Plotting Academy is my self-paced course packed with lessons & resources on how to outline properly and finish your first draft.

Take me to NPA
Book Editing

Apply to Jasmina or Beck, our two editors here to take your pet project and turn it into a professionally polished manuscript - ready for submission.

Take me to editing

Power Plotter is a 4 -month coaching program where you get full support and consistent feedback on your project.

Take me to coaching

Sign up to our email list!

You'll receive tons of  resources, weekly bite-sized writing lessons, and first dibs on any of our special offers.

We'll never share your information nor overload your inbox with annoying emails. Unsubscribe at any time.