by Vivian Zabel
I take and read several writing magazines: The Writer, WRITERS' Journal, and Writer's Digest.
All of them give me ideas and advice that helps me be a better writer.
As I read some of the current issues, I realized that some of the
articles included suggestions that definitely apply to writing
mysteries, thrillers, crime, and/or suspense novels and/or stories.
my reading, and from my experiences over the years, I found some
writing tips that definitely apply to writing mysteries and sub-genres.
of the suggestions apply to any writing; some perhaps more to the
mystery genres. However, all are usable to us. At the end of this
article, I'll give the sources for the information I'm using, besides my
own expertise. I highly recommend that everyone read all the articles.
Create believable and distinctive characters.
Have you ever read more than one book where at least one character
could be dropped into more than one story, even if the names aren't the
same, and no one could notice? I mean other than in a series or a sequel
that contains the same characters.
Ways to make characters believable and distinctive
are several, but a few include 1) to have characters not be
predictable, 2) to make them three-dimensional rather than stereotypical
or all good or all bad, 3) to "show" their personalities and characters
rather than "tell" the reader what kind of person they are. An
antagonist shouldn't be a "flat" all bad, evil person. A protagonist
shouldn't be all good without any faults or short comings.
Include the four elements. Every well-written novel or story needs to have 1) a strong hook at the beginning to grab the readers attention and keep it.
Conflict is necessary to have a plot, a story. Of course without
conflict, we would have only a narrative, and we wouldn't have anything
to interest a reader.
Conflict leads to a 3)
struggle, according to Diane E. Robertson, both internal and external.
The ups and downs of the struggle make the plot move forward to the 4)
resolution, the end of the story. Authors need to be sure that that end
is not a false finish. The end must make sense and satisfy the reader. A
surprise ending should still be credible.
Make sure the plot is plausible to the reader.
Often, coincidences are thrown in to surprise a reader, but if
credibility is stretched too far, the reader won't accept it. Hallie
Ephron states, "... never, ever, ever make a coincident integral to the
Don't conceal clues from the reader. The reader should know all the clues as soon as the mystery solver or detective does.
I gave a few of the many tips found in three articles and a bit of my own knowledge mixed in.
Sources, besides the information I've accumulated over the years:
The Writer, Hallie Ephron,October 2008 page 26-29; Paola Carso, December 2008 page 28-29.
WRITERS' Journal, Diane E. Robertson, January/February 2009 page 46-47.
4RV Publishing website
4RV Publishing Bookstore