Mystery Writing Tips


I don’t know about you, but mystery writing is a thrill to read and can be just as exciting to write. I thought I’d drop by today and share a few tips for creating a memorable mystery story that I’ve learned along the way:

  • Open with something interesting & irresistible: Our audience wants to be engaged from the start. Often, an exhilarating story opens with the crime itself, and then unfolds. To capture our audiences, we can sometimes use flashbacks while the hunt for the culprit continues.

  • Read other mysteries: Great mystery fiction is packed with writing tips if we pay attention. We should try to read a wide variety of mystery books (I know it's hard when we're trying to write, but it's worth it). Practice to return to the first couple of pages after finishing a book. I find that when I do this I can make careful notes on how and when the author shared clues and used the wrong direction to unravel the mystery and intensify the suspense.

  • Know details: Whether we’re writing a gripping murder mystery or a cozy mystery, the crime or trouble at the core of your story is what drives the narrative. From the start, map out everything about the crime. Include everyone involved, as well as the how, what, when and why it took place. Be sure to do proper research on the topic of your crime. Doing your homework early in the process will pay off and garner the respect of those who’re experts in the area you write about.

  • Create believable characters: It’s best to remember we’re dealing with human nature. Well-written stories focus on sound development of key characters. Whether we write about amateur sleuths or professional detectives, our main character's eyes, ears, and feelings are the gateways to our readers. These characters should avoid stereotypes, be relatable, and be flawed. We also need to avoid making our protagonist too perfect while making sure our antagonist does possess redeemable traits, and isn't too evil.

  • Create suspects: A great tactic is to hide our culprits in plain sight. We can achieve this by crafting our stories like well-thought-out puzzles. We should introduce a variety of clues and possible suspects (red herrings) then parade them on the pages of our mystery like puzzle pieces.

  • Learn location: Using the attributes of the setting will help us to progress the action and build intrigue in our work. We can use unorthodox places and spaces which will enhance the sense that danger lurks around every corner. Also, describing interesting locations where important plots takes place, builds a mystery novel that’s all the more gripping.

  • Allow Reader Involvement: Polished writing shows versus tells. We need to use every opportunity for readers to string together clues (even the ones the main character doesn’t see) to solve the Instead of. Opposed to explaining scenes and giving too much backstory (especially too early on), we should focus raising the stakes and pacing the action.

  • Lead Them On: Part of the fun of writing our genre is we get to create a maze, leading our readers to dead ends and down wrong paths as they try to figure out the truth. Loading our pieces with enough twists will help engage our readers and keep them turning pages and looking for our next book.

  • Rewrite & Revise: It’s a good practice to step away from our completed drafts before tackling the editing and revision process. With fresh eyes, we can then review our plot closely and examine our pacing to ensure its tight and we’ve built up to an awe-inspiring conclusion.