Rules for writing a mystery novel for dummies

How to write a mystery short story

The authors use descriptive writing to create suspense and, often, an atmosphere of danger. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar. And, the villain must be both physically and emotionally capable of the crime. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities. Your reader will feel cheated if the crime is not something that could take place. Take down your victim with all the creativity you can muster. Books that win the Edgar Award for mystery-writing are usually very good. Let your detective dig a hole and fall through into a cesspool … and then collapse the ceiling on her head. The sudden switches of location in a book are also very important to ensure your readers are alert. I start Ghost Maven with the heroine in deep water and in danger when a kayaking trip in Monterey Bay goes terribly wrong.

Include characters who are truthful along with those who lie, leaving it to the reader to decide whose information seems more honest. Start with real people.

how to write a mystery story for middle school

Mystery readers will burn you in effigy and barbecue your book in reviews if these elements fall flat. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no "atmospheric" preoccupations. This push and pull between question and answer lies at the heart of the great mystery novel.

You can use this as the idea for a novel. But reaching the end of that draft deserves celebration. And, the villain must be both physically and emotionally capable of the crime.

writing a mystery story template

What happens at this peak moment leads to the novel's ending. These readers are looking for the intellectual challenge of solving a crime before the detective does, and they want the pleasure of knowing that everything will come together in the end.

No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds. We might as well get that straight from the outset.

How to write a mystery novel outline

You should find a reason to make it important to the detective to solve the crime, either for personal or professional reason. Then you can build toward it. It keeps changing around you. Divorces, tragic accidents, and dead relatives are dime-a-dozen. Chesterson, and E. It's false pretenses. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it.

Share this:. In North by Northwest, Hitchcock wanted to stage a scene on Mount Rushmore, and like The 39 Steps, wrote a quick succession of scenes that led up to the exciting denouement.

How to write a ya mystery novel

At each level, pay attention to detail. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. Your sleuth and your supporting cast live in a specific time and place. The detective must not himself commit the crime. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic se'ances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader. It gives you a road map and helps you keep your sleuth on course when everyone starts lying. This way you can see how other writers use the rules, and how they're able to get away with breaking them. Chesterton , provided one is clever and experienced enough to circumvent or disregard them. You need all three types of clues, and you must insert them in a way that keeps the reader guessing which is which. Yes, there are pillars of the form—the disappearance, the sleuth, the colorful side characters and suspects, the insistent search for truth. Bust those suckers good—and be creative.
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25 Things You Need To Know About Writing Mysteries, By Susan Spann