I just had a huge breakthrough in the shower!
(Does that sound kind of dirty, or is that just me?)
Anyway, what I had was a major plot breakthrough for my current WIP. I know whodunnit! Hooray!
At first I didn't see how this character could possibly have "dunnit," since they (the gender-neutral "they," not the plural "they") are already, you know, dead. (That can sometimes be an impediment to "doing it.")
BUT, it turns out they (gender, not plural) were only mostly dead, to borrow (=shamelessly steal) a phrase from The Princess Bride. Or, if you're a Monty Python fan, perhaps they're pining for the fjords.
Once I figured that out, several large pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Whew! I can almost see how the whole picture will look once I'm done. Though plenty of details are admittedly still fuzzy. Which is good. Really. Because if it were all clear at this point, I'd get bored with it and want to move on to solving the next mystery.
It's kinda like watching a stripper. Way more interesting as long as something remains covered up. Looking at complete nakedness, all laid out there, is just too clinical. Ho-hum.
Side note: I'm *cough* using my imagination with this analogy. Couldn't tell you *cough, cough* from first-hand experience, never having actually seen a stripper. (What's that you say? My nose? No, of course it's not growing. That's, um, just a trick of the light.)
To carry this TOTALLY VICARIOUS analogy further, if me watching the story unfold in my mind is like watching a stripper, then I suppose me revealing the story to the reader is like being the stripper.
Or, if you prefer a more professional term, the ecdysiast. Personally, I kinda like that. I'm thinking about having business cards made up:
Linda G., Virtual Ecdysiast
But back to the point. When you're writing a story, especially a mystery, you have to be careful not to reveal too much too soon. You have to show enough "skin" to keep your audience riveted, but not so much that they have their mental itches scratched before you want them too. We can't have them rolling over and lighting a cigarette before they reach chapter three, can we?
The trick is to always (until the end) cover something up as you reveal something else. Sally Rand, fan dancer, was an expert at this:
Like Sally, you have to give your audience something, a flash here and there, just to keep them hooked. But you also have to maintain the overall mystery until the end. Keep 'em guessing, or you lose 'em. You have to promise there'll be a payoff--tease them with it as mercilessly as you like--but make them wait for it.
And then you better follow through. Or else your reader might just throw your book against the wall.