Friday, September 9, 2016

5 Tips to Craft a Mystery

Writing a mystery doesn't have to be mysterious. There are some elements that are clear and non-negotiable. Here are 5 of them.

1. Craft an interesting sleuth.
We've all read mysteries with the quintessential gumshoe. He wears an overcoat and likely a fedora. There's a cigar involved. And he's probably cranky. Why not mix it up? Think of the most unlikely sleuth in the world and jazz that character up a bit. In OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, my co-author and I used two retired sisters-in-law.

2. Create an interesting story world.
Mysteries don't take place in a vacuum. They take place in a place. That's known as your story world. Make it unique and memorable. Tweak all of the reader's 5 senses. In OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, the story is set in a retirement community next to the Shady Rest nursing home, not to be confused with the Shady Rest cemetery five miles farther south.

3. Suspects that are suspected.
For a mystery, you need at least three suspects. Each one must fall into one of two categories:
       - someone who wants the victim killed
       - someone who had the capability of killing the victim.

4. Spreadsheets are NOT just for nerds.
To write a mystery you must have an outline, and a very detailed one at that. You've got to establish and keep track of your red herrings and your real clues, then dole them out like breadcrumbs throughout the story. To do that you need a plan.

5. Your sleuth has to fail.
Failure is a must. Your sleuth's first, or even second solution, must be wrong. He's got to hit rock bottom before the killer is discovered, otherwise your reader will feel cheated.

Readers of mystery love to figure out who the culprit is but don't make it too easy or they'll get bored.

And there's nothing boring in my latest mystery release OUT OF THE FRYING PAN. Pop over to Amazon to snatch up your copy or enter the drawing here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Robin Mason said...

Years ago, I was reading an Agatha Christi mystery (I think it was Murder on the Nile) and it occurred to me she had to write it inside out—she had to write the crime, then the red herrings and such, THEN the beginning where the body was found! My writer brain was so intrigues!!! hahaha

gadhill said...

Great tips, Michelle. I had no idea as to the meticulous structure needed to write a mystery. Your new book sounds great. Love the cover.

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