I recently watched Knives Out and it was so good! So I thought, why not write a post about Mystery writing?
The main reason readers enjoy Mystery writing is because of the suspense, they want to know who did it, why they did it and how. Mystery writers should be able to give these answers without exposing too much too soon- readers enjoy trying to guess the suspect themselves before it is revealed.
So what exactly makes a Mystery novel intriguing? How can you keep readers eager to flip to the next page?
1- Avoid Clichés:
No one enjoys a story that is too predictable. However, getting inspired by other mystery novels is okay, as long as you do not copy the same story line and events.
2- Start with the action:
You want to get readers hooked, so start with the action. What mystery are the main characters trying to solve? How did they get into this? Was it pure coincidence? Was it curiosity? Are they somehow attached to this? For example, their friend is murdered or they keep getting weird calls from an unknown number. What’s driving their motivation to solve this mystery? You can do this in the prologue or in the first chapter.
3- Put your protagonist in a life or death situation:
A good way to keep your story suspenseful is to put your character in a place where readers aren’t sure if they’ll make it out alive. For example, a solo encounter with the murderer unarmed.
4- Have a plot twist:
This is obviously not necessary but it makes readers shocked and more interested to read the rest of your book. However, there are wrong ways of doing it.
- Don’t make the plot twist too different from what was expected. You should make the plot twist unexpected but still reasonable so that readers think “Oh, I should’ve seen that coming!”
- Leave many clues so that readers can understand how the plot twist happened, but keep them discreet.
- You should keep it reasonable as mentioned above, but not too expected to the point readers think that’s the original plot from the start.
5- Make sure to have a detailed outline for your plot:
From your writing, it will definitely show if your story was prepared beforehand or if it was made on the spot. Having a good outline before writing your mystery novel ensures that there are no plot holes or unexplained events, which is a common mistake new mystery writers do. Outlines are especially important in Mystery novels because you have to know every detail about the murder or case to make sure you don’t forget anything.
6- Have details:
Your characters, background and storyline should have lots of detail, but make sure to keep it interesting, something including too many details can be boring.
7- Avoid Info dumps:
Info dumps happen when a writer puts all the information in one paragraph without spacing it out throughout the story. It’s boring to read and your readers will probably lose interest. For example: Marie was calling her bestfriend, Rosie. They met in 5th grade and had multiple fights but remained close friends. Once Rosie stole Marie’s boyfriend and Marie thought she’d never forgive her, but months later they started talking again…You get the point, it’s boring and too much to read in one go. Instead, you should space it out throughout the story, that way it’s more entertaining.
8- Research Weapons and Poisions:
If you’re writing a murder, take some time to read about Weapons, how fast they kill and how they kill. That way your writing can be more realistic and descriptive. If your character gets killed by poison make sure to research that as well! Search up different poisons, their side effects, where they’re found and how long it takes to kill a person. For example, Agatha Christie worked at a hospital during World War 1, making her exposed to all sorts of medications and poisons which later came in handy when she wrote all her mystery novels.
9- Research Laws:
Depending on the era and setting you’re writing in, you should know some basic laws, like punishments, how wills work, what’s illegal and what’s not, etc. The more you know, the better. That way, you won’t risk writing something that isn’t true (Obviously, you only need this if your story is based in a real setting)
10- Read other people’s work:
Reading other writers’ work can help you learn new techniques that you can use in your own writing, but as mentioned above, never plagiarize or copy! It’s fine to get inspired as long as you don’t copy. An author I’d recommend is definitely Agatha Christie (Yes, I’m obsessed) If you don’t know her, she’s basically an author with over 60 detective novels. Her stories are very well planned, she keeps all the hints in plain sight but hidden at the same time.
Thank you for reading this post! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! If you enjoyed, I’d appreciate if you shared it with anyone you think needs it. Follow me on Instagram for weekly posts, writing tips and updates on the book I’m currently working on (Which is a mystery novel ;3 )