How To Write A Good Mystery Novel – Writing a mystery novel is a challenge. It requires a keen sense of plot, identification and creating tension. A story that actively engages readers in solving a mystery (or attempting to connect narrative threads) needs at least 7 elements:
All novels need effective hooks: the reader must be interested in discovering more than the first page or (even better), the first line. A hook is usually a line or image that creates curiosity and questions that make readers want to know more.
- 1 How To Write A Good Mystery Novel
- 2 How To Write A Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step By Step Guide From Inspiration To Finished Manuscript — James N. Frey
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- 2.0.2 Detective Mystery In The School Story
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- 2.0.4 How To Write A Cozy Mystery: The Ultimate Guide To Writing Modern Cozy Murder Mysteries (fast Track Guides): Harrington, Nina: 9780957128972: Amazon.com: Books
- 2.0.5 How To Write A Mystery Novel: 5 Tips
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How To Write A Good Mystery Novel
Suspense author Cheryl Kay Tardiff recommends following the “First Four” when writing story hooks: first sentence, first paragraph, first page, and first chapter. At each level, pay attention to the details. Ask about the first sentence of your story:
Effective Tips On How To Write A Mystery For Beginners In 2022
Mystery writer Elmore Leonard, according to author and journalist William Dietrich, advocated that the period should never be described in the first line. Dietrich goes on to give examples of good opening lines that reject Leonardo’s advice. For example, Dean Koontz wrote:
“Tuesday was a good day in California, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Lyon had to shoot someone at lunch.” (
Koontz’s editorial uses the everyday details of the period to contrast Harry Lyon’s murderous act. This makes it even more shocking. So follow the ‘rules’ carefully. It’s important that your opening sentence sets the mysterious tone of your story and grabs the reader’s interest.
Looking beyond the first sentence, the first paragraph should introduce a slight sense of mood and atmosphere and an interesting setting and/or character. For the first chapter, favor a short one. If the reader feels like they have to go to the end of your opener, it will discourage them from continuing.
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‘Puzzle mystery’ is a subgenre in which the reader solves the unknown. In any good mystery, however, the reader should be left to piece together the information. Trust your reader’s wisdom: Many beginning writers believe they need to hold the reader’s hand the whole time and explain the story as it happens. To make the reader play a more active role in solving the mystery, you can:
In fiction writing, the term “red herring” refers to “a clue or piece of information intended to mislead or distract:” (Oxford Dictionaries Online). The expression is borrowed from the custom of training hunting dogs with the smell of dried herring, which turns red from smoke.
Red herrings can be scattered throughout your novel to prevent the reader from guessing the cause of the crime or prematurely explaining the disappearance. They increase tension and suspense and make the novel more engaging.
In Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel And Then They Were Gone, ten people come to an island and die for each other. Christy makes one of the remaining characters disappear, leading the other party members (and the reader) to suspect the missing character as the killer, but with additional twists.
How To Write A Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step By Step Guide From Inspiration To Finished Manuscript — James N. Frey
Suspense in a mystery novel is key. What else can increase the reader’s sense of curiosity and anticipation?
Dialogue that sounds believable to the ear is difficult to understand. The tense dialogue works in ellipses and omissions; he says one thing and thinks another. In a conversation between two characters, you can create tension:
Since we’re confused by unexpected behavior, use it to throw off the reader and your characters. It is a rare character who laughs in the middle of a conversation without doing anything. Use dialogue with odd turns, interruptions, threatening tones, or other elements that give the reader a sense of unpredictability.
In a mystery novel, like a thriller, mood is an important part of what goes through the reader’s mind in your fictional world. Factors that contribute to the mood of fiction are:
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The ingredients of a good mystery include structure as well as content. Not just what happens, but how it flows or where each scene starts or goes:
Since the allure and fear of the unknown are pillars of good mystery writing, it’s important to structure each chapter around expert revelations. While there should be rising action on a macro scale throughout the novel, within each chapter there should also be some rising action, as well as changes in the known and unknown.
These are just a few examples of how you can create a chapter focus from scratch. End chapters with new discoveries that bring the characters closer to solving the mystery in search of an answer or creating new questions. This push between question and answer lies at the heart of the great mystery novel.
A mystery novel is often more teleological (“focussed on the end”) than a novel of another genre (such as high fantasy). In mystery novels, everyone has to determine a satisfactory answer to major questions like “Who? Why? What?’
Detective Mystery In The School Story
Nancy Kertman makes the important point that the ending of a mystery novel should have an ‘a-ha!’ that moment. The reader should be able to go back and say “I saw this coming” or “I didn’t see this coming, but it makes perfect sense given k, i, and z.” The identity of the killer, the reason for the disappearance, or other mysterious explanation should not feel like a red herring.
Writing a mystery novel requires you to pay attention to the ingredients of good mystery writing: a compelling plot and setting, mysterious characters, active reader participation, and more. If you’re ready to continue your mystery novel, join the New Novel mystery/thriller writers group.
Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He holds a BA in English Literature and a BA in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town. Learning how to write a mystery is easy if you understand the elements of mystery and suspense. good mystery makes us
The ‘mystery’ itself has many meanings. As a literary genre, a mystery is “a novel, play, or film dealing with a mysterious crime, especially a murder” (
Write The End Of The Mystery. Connec…: English Esl Worksheets Pdf & Doc
Mystery, generally, means ‘secret or obscure’ and ‘a person or thing whose identity or nature is confusing or unknown’ (
So while a classic murder mystery like an Agatha Christie novel involves the confusing nature of crime solving, any book can contain elements that are confusing and unfamiliar.
In a fantasy novel, for example, the villain’s true identity (or the extent of his power) may initially be a mystery. In a romance novel, the identity of the mysterious, desirable stranger may be the central mystery to begin with.
. Uncertainty is “a state or feeling of excitement or anxiety with uncertainty about what may happen.” It is an integral part
How To Write A Cozy Mystery: The Ultimate Guide To Writing Modern Cozy Murder Mysteries (fast Track Guides): Harrington, Nina: 9780957128972: Amazon.com: Books
An unknown, criminal offender is one of the most obvious types of hidden identity. But hiding isn’t just for criminals. In Charles Dickens
Dickens leads us to believe that the benefactor is the wealthy Miss Havisham, but we later discover that the real benefactor is another, more sinister character.
In this case, Dickens is hiding the perpetrator of a non-criminal act, and the revelation makes us question everything we (and Pip) have been thinking.
, protagonist Viola is separated from her twin Sebastian in a shipwreck off the coast of Illyria. He disguises himself as a man named ‘Cesario’ to serve the local duke while searching for his brother.
How To Write A Mystery Novel: 5 Tips
This concealment creates suspense, as the audience wonders when Willa’s true gender will be revealed and when her femininity will be revealed. The love triangle between the character, the duke (whom Viola/Cesario loves) and the woman the duke himself loves (Olivia) further complicates this narrative tension.
Learning how to write a mystery means learning to ‘take out’ the tension. Drop little revelations to readers like a trail of crumbs. The killer left a footprint and we know the size of their shoes, the pattern of their footprints.
These little ‘gifts’ are useful because you can milk them for more suspense and mystery. For example, perhaps the tread pattern in a footprint suggests that the wearer has unusually small feet for a man.
This can cause the detective to be constantly distracted by the size of the suspect’s feet. Previous discoveries charge more action and encounters with meaning and possible significance.
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This method of creating plot points – laying out information like puzzle pieces – is key to creating suspense. As you create incidents that reveal little, ask ‘why?’
Consider the chains of revelation and how they can be put together. To get the above sample print, the sequence would be:
No discussion of how to write a mystery is complete without a ‘red herring’. A “red herring” is information that leads the character (and the reader) to the wrong conclusions. This is
In order to understand that in the beginning it is of great importance. But later it turns out that this leads us to make false assumptions or doubts. Solving a mystery depends on following clues and associations, and clues can lead your reader down a dead end.
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For example, a suspect may have a certain item in his possession that belonged to a murder victim. This makes them more suspicious because of the connection. However, there is an innocent reason why they received said item.
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