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canstockphoto8952588A suspenseful, page-turner guarantees that, at some point, the sleuth is going to land in a precarious situation, where there’s seemingly no way out, failure is imminent, and the bad guy has won. It’s a crucial plot beat, and one that has a structure just like the larger plot as a whole.

The sleuth’s peril and great escape generally has three parts.

  1. The first phase is set-up: the information, experience or resources that will be used later for The Great Escape is planted into the story. The Sleuth (or additional character caught-up in the trap) is given the keys, was a chemist major, had a father who taught her how to fly a plane, was a great white shark tamer in a previous life, whatever. The set-up must be a natural part of the plot or characteristic so it doesn’t raise suspicion with the reader.
  2. In the second phase, the sleuth is generally tricked or falls into a trap, and is confined against her will. Here, the sleuth is the victim, and the consequences of the imprisonment are realized by the sleuth and the reader alike: there is a danger of injury or death, a goal will fail, a possession will be lost. something won’t be delivered in time, etc.
  3. The third phase provides the great escape. The sleuth relies on the information, experience, or resources planted into the story earlier provide the solution to freedom.


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