As my cat, Lily, will tell you, writing is not as difficult as many think. All it requires is reading good literature (texting emails do not count) and some practice. Here is a blog for passing on my tips for writers. College students, aspiring authors, or just people who need to improve their written communication skills may appreciate these tips. Many of them come from my experiences as a college instructor and as a journalist. Most of the material is collected from other sources, along with a few editing comments and some additional entries. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mystery Writing Tips
Tips for Writing Mysteries
Here are some tips for writing mysteries.
A mystery is a quest, a journey the hero must take to solve the mystery and catch the villain. Here are some steps of the hero’s journey. You may not use all these steps, but every mystery has several of them.
Start with the hero’s ordinary life.
There is a call to adventure, somehow the hero becomes involved in the mystery, either through accident (witness, victim, mistaken identity, etc.) or through the hero’s job (police office, lawyer, etc.).
Many times, there is a refusal to become involved, usually due to difficulties or problems with solving the mystery.
Crossing the threshold—becoming involved in the case. Usually due to a personal interest or inability to refuse the case.
A mentor steps in—this is where a person with the knowledge the hero needs to survive or resolve the case.
Action causes involves the hero—sometimes the hero becomes involved because of circumstances beyond his or her control. Think of Cary Grant in North by Northwest and James Stewart and Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The hero tests the allies and enemies in the story. The hero discovers who will help him or her and facts about the villain.
Approaches the case—the way the hero handles solving the case, usually in some unique or unorthodox manner. The motive for the crime is an important factor, as well as the relationship the villain has with the victim or victims.
The ordeal—the danger and difficulties the hero faces when dealing with the case.
The roadblocks—usually individuals (bureaucrats, lying witnesses, uncooperative people, etc.) who create problems or keep the hero from finding the villain or solving the mystery.
The resurrection or discovering the key to solving the mystery and catching the villain.
The resolution, solving the mystery, and catching the villain. Note there is conflict and challenge the hero must overcome.
The rewards—the happy ending where the hero receives recognition or the affection of another individual.
When writing a mystery, make it plausible. Do the research to ensure there are no errors in fact. For example, private investigators rarely become involved in active police investigations.
Also, make it personal—give the reader a character he or she can relate to. Another character should be someone the reader can root for, usually someone with a flaw the reader can understand and relate to.
Introduce the victim/body early. Many times, the author will use a prologue to introduce the victim/body early. Recommend introducing the main characters, the hero and the villain, early.
Need to find names? Cemeteries and social media are good places to find names but change them by using the first name of one person and the last name of another person. Many times, the names will spark the writer’s imagination and suggest a different name.
Other characters for the novel: sidekicks, professionals (coroners, doctors, etc.) supervisors and bosses, power figures such as politicians, red herrings and multiple suspects, victims, bystanders and witnesses, and competitors and others who are trying to be heroes.
Use emotions and sensory details (smells, noise, feeling such as cold or hot) in all settings.
Subplots are useful and recommended. Personal dramas or problems, a second crime related to the main crime, or social issues can provide useful subplots.
Creating Your Writer’s Platform—ways to market yourself.
Having a strong writer’s platform is essential for promoting your books and something all agents and publishers are looking for when taking on a new author. A writer’s platform includes all the ways you can market yourself.
Social media is an important part of any writer’s platform. Social media sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, SnapChat, Twitter, etc. are useful. One suggestion is to join groups such as high school reunion sites, military veteran groups, civic organizations, etc. are a way to expand your media presence. Do note that many of these groups have certain restrictions on what can and what cannot be posted.
Create a website and make sure the information on the site is useful to those who view your website. Give readers an incentive to follow your website.
Contribute to other writers’ blogs and websites. Recommend writing book reviews for other authors’ books and post the reviews on Amazon and other writing sites. Book reviews are supposed to promote the book and encourage others to buy it. Don’t be negative—remember what your mother taught you—if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.
Anything posted must be qualified by facts. Don’t use any statics unless you can inform readers where you got the information.