Made in America

Cracking the Case: Tips to Write a Mystery Novel

You have probably read them before; they leave you on the edge of your seat in suspense and your anxiousness to turn the page mounts as the story proceeds. Mystery novels offer the reader a very gripping and jarring plotline that gets (and keeps!) them engrossed in the story.

If you are a fan of mystery novels and have always wanted to write your own, you’re in luck! Today’s blog offers five clues to help you crack the case of writing a mystery novel:

Clue #1: Read – While in school, if you ever tried to write a paper without reading the required book, odds are you struggled. This same notion applies to writing a mystery novel. Before you can write one, you should read at least a few to familiarize yourself with the genre.  By understanding the progression of how a mystery unfolds, you’ll be more apt to mimic that format in your own book.

Clue #2: Plot – Usually, a mystery novel is centered on a crime of some sort. Before you begin to write, determine what type of crime will be at the center of your novel. From there, you will have to create your plot and imagine every detail of how that crime will play out. Solidify your plot and make sure that this focus can keep the action moving in a direction that will keep the reader interested. Avoid spending too much time on the backstory; rather, offer a clear and concise story that leads the reader right to where the mystery begins.

Clue #3: Characters – Your plot would be nothing without the characters! Create a list of characters that includes the main character, usually the person solving the mystery; a list of suspects, characters who may or may not be guilty of the crime; and any other supporting characters that make your storyline interesting. Most importantly, make sure that you develop the main characters’ personalities so that the reader can see the mystery through the eyes of those characters and forge a personal connection with them – whether they be the good guys or the bad guys.

Clue #4: Twists – If you’ve ever read a mystery novel, you know that once you start thinking that you know who the suspect is, the author throws in a twist that completely dispels that notion. These twists are known as red herrings –fallacies that are meant to be intentionally misleading and to distract the reader from the real issue of “who dunnit?” A piece of advice: When adding red herrings to your book, be sure not to overuse them. Take the “less is more” approach when trying to surprise the reader. Too many of these literary tricks and your book can quickly progress from suspenseful to gimmicky.

Clue #5: Write – The fifth and final clue is simple: write! In mystery novels, especially, descriptive writing is very important. This style of writing creates an environment of danger, suspense and curiosity. Use your words to show the readers, rather than simply tell them, what is going on. This allows them to use their imaginations to work with the main character to solve the crime. Also, know the ending in advance. This will allow you to work toward and around the final scene and build up the reader’s anticipation with twists, turns and much more!

Lastly, take all of these clues and piece them together to crack the case of writing a mystery story that’s full of suspense, interesting characters and just enough twists and turns that your reader won’t be able to put down your book until they read the last page!

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