Writing Mysteries

Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, some of the most iconic characters come from mystery stories. Let’s continue to explore other genres and take a look at mysteries today.

  1. Just as with horror, building a suspenseful mood is key to keeping those pages turning. Every description of the setting and more should build up the atmosphere and create a sense of urgency and suspense. Build up the mystery of the situation and the characters.

  2. Use red herrings. Red herrings are clues which mislead or distract the reader from who really did it. You don’t want to lie to your reader or break their trust in you, but keep them guessing who-dunnit ‘til the very end. Red herrings help to build tension and make your story a page turner. Whether this is a suspicious character, an object that seems to have a lot of significance, or a clue planted deliberately to lead everyone down the wrong trail, red herrings add to your mystery.

  3. Stay away from convoluted plots. Your reader should be asking questions, but one of these questions shouldn’t be “really?” Unexpected thing can happen, but make sure your story is believable on a basic level and real to your reader. Oftentimes, simple is best when it comes to plotting. Don’t lose your reader by going over the top.

  4. Focus on the ending and make it satisfying. You want to give your reader an a-ha moment when you finally reveal who did it and why. The tension, suspense, and mood of the story all builds to the big ending, so don’t disappoint with a lackluster reveal or a predictable outcome. Use red herrings to your advantage to keep your readers guessing all the way to the end.

  5. Build great characters. Good writing is built with great characters. They bring your story world to life. You want a sleuth to be unique and relatable and your supporting characters to defy stereotypes and clichés. Make them fully fleshed-out and intriguing. And make them stand out. Don’t just write another Sherlock Holmes. Make your characters new and original.

  6. Plant your clues throughout your story to truly make your ending satisfying. Maybe there are even clues your sleuth didn’t pick up on at first. Maybe they were focused on the red herrings instead.

  7. Avoid clichés. This could be anything from a thunderstorm to set the mood to an overdone character to ten people locked in a mansion. Be original and make the story truly yours.

What are your tips for writing mysteries? Share below and happy sleuthing!


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