How To Start Writing A Mystery Novel – Writing a mystery novel is hard. It requires a deep understanding of plot, characterization and creating suspense. A story that actively involves the reader in solving the mystery (or trying to piece together the narrative threads) needs at least 7 elements:
All novels need effective hooks: the reader should be interested in learning more from the first page or (even better) the first line. A hook is usually a line or image that creates curiosity and questions that make the reader want to know more.
- 1 How To Start Writing A Mystery Novel
- 2 Mystery Writing Prompts & Story Ideas
- 3 Rules For Writing A Mystery Novel By J.c. Gatlin
- 3.1 Writing Mastery Blog
- 3.2 The Everything Guide To Writing Your First Novel: All The Tools You Need To Write And Sell Your First Novel (everything® Series): Ephron, Hallie: 0001440509573: Amazon.com: Books
- 3.3 Crime Writing 101
How To Start Writing A Mystery Novel
Thriller author Cheryl Kaye Tardif recommends following the “First Four” of writing stories: first sentence, first paragraph, first page, and first chapter. In each level, pay attention to details. Ask about the first sentence of your story:
How To Write A Prologue For Your Novel: 12 Steps (with Pictures)
Mystery writer Elmore Leonard, according to author and journalist William Dietrich, advocated never describing the weather on the front lines. Dietrich shares examples of great first lines that defy Leonard’s advice. For example, Dan Koontz wrote:
“Tuesday was a good California day, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Levin had to shoot someone at lunch.”
Koontz’s opener uses unusual weather details to contrast Harry Levin’s murderous act. This makes it even more shocking. So, treat the “rules” carefully. The important thing is that your opening line sets a mysterious tone for your story and captures the reader’s interest.
Looking beyond the first sentence, the first paragraph should have a little more sense of mood and atmosphere and an interesting setting and/or character. For the first chapter, prefer brevity. If a reader feels like they have to skip to the end of your opener, it can prevent them from continuing.
Mystery Writing Prompts & Story Ideas
A ‘puzzle’ is a subgenre where the reader has to solve the unknown. In any good mystery, however, the reader should be allowed to piece together the information. Trust your reader’s intelligence: Many beginning writers assume they need to hold the reader’s hand and over-explain the story. To make the reader take a more active role in solving the mystery, you can:
In fiction, the term “red herring” refers to “a hint or piece of information intended to mislead or confuse:” (Oxford Dictionary Online). The term is borrowed from the practice of training dogs to hunt using the scent of dried herring, which turns red when smoked.
Red herrings can be scattered throughout your novel to keep the reader from guessing the culprit of a crime or the explanation for a quick disappearance. They increase tension and suspense and make a novel more interesting.
In Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel And Then There Are None, ten people arrive on an island and die one by one. Christy makes one of the remaining characters disappear, leading the other members of the group (and the reader) to suspect that the missing character is the killer, but there are more twists and turns.
Must Read Crime And Mystery Books
Suspense is key in a mystery novel. What else can increase the reader’s curiosity and anticipation?
Dialogue that sounds convincing to the ears is hard to get right. Vague dialogue moves in ellipses and omissions. It says one but means something else. In a conversation between two characters, you can create suspense:
Since we’re concerned with unexpected behavior, use it to distract the reader and your characters. A character who laughs in mid-conversation, without understanding anything, is a curiosity. Use dialogue with odd turns, interruptions, threatening tones, or other elements that give the reader a sense of the unexpected.
In a mystery novel, as in a thriller, mood is an important part of what throws the reader headlong into your fantasy world. Factors that contribute to mood in fiction include:
Rules For Writing A Mystery Novel By J.c. Gatlin
The ingredients of a good mystery include structure and content. Not just what happens but how it is paced or where each scene begins or ends:
Since allure and fear of the unknown are foundations of good mystery writing, it’s important that each chapter is expertly structured around the discoveries to be made. While on a macro scale there should be rising action throughout the novel, there should also be some emerging action within each chapter, as well as shifts between the known and the unknown.
These are just a few examples of ways you can animate a chapter from scratch. Finish chapters on new discoveries that bring character(s) that solve mysteries to find answers or create new questions. This push and pull between question and answer is at the heart of the great mystery novel.
A mystery novel is usually more teleological (‘end-focused’) than a novel of another genre (such as high fantasy). In mystery novels, everything boils down to basic questions like ‘Who? Why? What?’
Writing Mastery Blog
Nancy Curtman makes the important point that a mystery novel should end with a ‘Ha!’ The reader should be able to go back and say “I saw that coming” or “I didn’t see that coming, but it makes perfect sense for x, y, and z.” Explaining the identity of the killer, the cause of the disappearance or any other mystery should not seem like a red herring.
Writing a mystery novel requires you to pay attention to the ingredients of great mystery writing: compelling plot and mood, mysterious characters, active reader involvement, and more. If you’re ready to give your mystery novel a try, join the Mystery/Thriller Writers Group at Now Novel.
Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. BA in English Literature and BA in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town. Thrillers and mysteries are one of the most popular genres. Mystery readers devour and are hungry for more. So if you want to write a novel, this is a great genre to get into. And writing mysteries can be very satisfying.
There are hints of seed, to raise the tension, to make the characters suspicious, and to tie the threads together and pull them from a tangled tangle to a tidy bow at the end.
The Everything Guide To Writing Your First Novel: All The Tools You Need To Write And Sell Your First Novel (everything® Series): Ephron, Hallie: 0001440509573: Amazon.com: Books
The first is a checklist of 6 things you must master if you are going to be effective at writing a mystery or thriller.
The other is a model mystery novel. It describes the main beats found in most mystery novels, from the introduction of the detective, to the stakes, to the showdown with the criminal. Using this scaffolding will help ensure that your novel doesn’t collapse due to its own instability.
We also have links to other helpful information to help you become skilled and confident in your mystery writing endeavors.
This outline is designed to convey the main beats and stages that occur in most mystery and thriller novels.
Novel Outline Template
If you read a mystery or thriller with this checklist in hand, you’ll see most, if not all, of these beats played out in different ways. In fact, doing so is a great exercise in honing your skills and learning the craft of crime writing.
But keep in mind that this is a model, nothing more, nothing less. So it can be incredibly powerful in helping you understand the mechanics of what’s going on, but at the expense of the creativity of your story, it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Also, note that this template is available fully integrated in Novel Factory, meaning you can complete it with simple digital cards. Novel Factory is completely free to try for 30 days, so you can use it to perfect your mystery plot model, and then if you don’t want to use the software after that, just do your work. Export and continue with your preferred writing. application .
Mysteries and crime thrillers often begin with a prelude to an inciting crime. The first offense is most likely murder or kidnapping. It is from a POV that is not the main character, it can be from the perspective of the victim, the killer or an expert narrator.
How To Write Detective Stories: 12 Steps (with Pictures)
Next we meet the detective, the main character. This person is often, but not always, a professional detective. Sometimes I’m just a normal person who has no choice but to take action, usually because someone they love is missing or threatened.
Of course, the most important goal of a crime or murder thriller is to keep the reader guessing as to who the culprit is. For this, there must be several candidates, preferably all acting suspiciously. Turns out they’re all acting suspiciously because they all have something to hide, not murder. The real killer ideally wouldn’t even be on the reader’s list of suspects. During the initial investigation, the detective will meet with these people and collect initial leads and red flags.
Another body may turn up at this point and there may be hints that it’s all part of a larger conspiracy.
The pressure should start to build. If the detective a
Crime Writing 101
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