Writer's shop How to Write a Mystery This page offers tips and advice on how to write a mystery. This is just one of many pages on this site about how to write different types of fiction. At the bottom, you'll find links to more creative writing lessons.
Return to Content Writing a mystery novel: It demands a keen sense for plot, characterization and creating suspense. A story that actively engages readers in solving the mystery or in trying to piece together the narrative threads needs at least 7 elements: A strong hook Active reader involvement in piecing together information Red herrings Effective, descriptive mood and language Well-structured chapters A satisfying conclusion 1: Writing a mystery novel?
Craft a strong hook All novels need effective hooks: The hook is typically a line or image that creates curiosity and questions that keep readers wanting to know more. The first sentence, first paragraph, first page and first chapter.
At each level, pay attention to detail. Does it pose a question the reader will strongly want answered? The mystery writer Elmore Leonard, according to author and journalist William Dietrichadvocated never describing weather in a first line.
For example, Dean Koontz wrote: This makes it more shocking. For the first chapter, favour brevity. If a reader feels they have to wade to the end of your opener, this could deter them from continuing. In any good mystery, however, the reader should be left to piece together information.
To make the reader play more of an active part in solving the mystery you can: Include characters who are truthful along with those who lie, leaving it to the reader to decide whose information seems more honest. Have multiple possible explanations.
In a murder mystery, that means having multiple suspicious characters. The term is borrowed from the custom of training dogs to hunt using the scent of dried herring, which turns red from being smoked.
Red herrings can be scattered throughout your novel to keep the reader from guessing the culprit of a crime or explanation of a disappearance too soon. They escalate tension and suspense and make a novel more riveting.
Christie makes one of the remaining characters disappear, leading the other members of the party and the reader to suspect the vanished character of being the murderer, but there are further twists.
A red herring can be: A character who seems to be more suspicious or complicit than he actually is. An object that seems to have more significance than it ultimately will. An event that seems to be important to the narrative but turns out to be secondary.
A clue placed by a villain unknown to the reader and the main character to send investigators down the wrong path of inquiry. Suspense in a mystery novel is key.
Write suspenseful dialogue Dialogue that sounds convincing to the ear is hard to get right. Suspenseful dialogue moves in ellipses and omissions; says one thing but means another. In a conversation between two characters, you can create suspense by: Having one speaker lie, giving information that contradicts what the reader already knows to be true.
Because we are perplexed by unexpected behaviour, use it to throw the reader and your characters off. A character who laughs mid-conversation, apropos of nothing, is a curious one.
Employ dialogue with strange turns, interruptions, menacing tones or other elements that give the reader a feeling of unpredictability. Create a mysterious mood with setting and descriptive language In a mystery novel, as in a thriller, mood is a substantial part of what throws the reader head first into your fictional world.
The factors that contribute to mood in fiction are:How to Write a Mystery Novel Plot The first step in how to write a novel is to decide the central tension. A mystery novel needs to start with the inciting incident – a murder, a kidnapping, theft, a heist, treason, conspiracy, etc.
How to Write a Mystery, Writing Thrillers Trying your hand at writing thrillers – the most exciting and suspenseful of all genres? Look no further for guidelines on crafting a compelling plot, creating incredible characters, constructing an .
More than any other kind of genre writing, mystery writing tends to follow standard rules. It is because readers of mysteries are looking for a particular experience. Mystery is a very dense genre, with many famous authors, sleuths, side-kicks and styles. But this is your story.
Don't try to follow another's footsteps too closely. Write a mystery the way no one else has. Use bright, imaginative language and your unique rhythm.
If you don't have fun writing, no one will have fun reading. How to Write a Mystery, Writing Thrillers Trying your hand at writing thrillers – the most exciting and suspenseful of all genres? Look no further for guidelines on crafting a compelling plot, creating incredible characters, constructing an airtight mystery, and much more.
How to write a mystery - top tips.
Read lots of mysteries. This is essential to learning how to write a mystery novel. Some mystery writers I personally like are Sue Grafton, P.D. James, Raymond Chandler, and Agatha Christie. Books that win the Edgar Award for mystery-writing are usually very good.