It seems like a contradiction of sorts, I love reading murder mysteries--whodunit's--but I've never written one.
I think about writing one from time to time, I've even started to sketch an outline, but I lose interest. It's a puzzle. I don't understand how I can love to read something but have no real desire to write one.
So it was with eagerness, and perhaps a wee bit of envy, that I read Price McNaughton's guest post on how to write a murder mystery, Keeping the Murderer Secret until the End.
When I first began writing murder mysteries, my biggest fear was that I would reveal the murderer too soon. I hate books that make the perpetrator evident from the moment he/she steps onto the page. I didn’t want to be guilty of the same!Price's solution was to make up his own set up rules for mystery writing (I'm paraphrasing):
1. Know who your murderer is and why they did it.
- What was their goal?
- What are the stakes?
- What motivates the killer?
By the end of the story make sure you've answered these questions in your manuscript.
2. Leave clues
The clues "do not have to be obvious or even fully explained. You'll want to leave some "mystery in your mystery."
3. After you finish the first draft add in clues where needed
Red herrings are much easier to add in after the book is written as long as you don’t write yourself into a corner with your characters, such as explaining everything they do and why.
4. Don't fully explain everything
Price writes: "Let your characters retain some mystery."
People aren't fully explained any more than they are wholly good or bad, your characters should reflect this.
5. Your protagonist doesn't have to know everything, at least not right away
Like you and me, it's okay if your sleuth doesn't have all the answers and is unsure about what happened ... as long as she gets there in the end.
Question: Have you written a murder mystery? What are your rules?
Other articles you might like:- How To Write Episodic/Serialized Fiction, Part 2 of 2
- Larry Brooks On The Structure Of Short Stories
- What Slush Pile Readers Look For In A Story
Photo credit: "7:08 AM" by dicktay2000 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.