Write a Mystery

In a mystery, a change happens in the beginning of the book that propels the story forward.

What are the elements in a mystery? A crime, detective, witnesses, suspects. To have suspects you must have motives.

Clues may be physical and psychological. (Hey! A motive!) You can have a chase in your story, where the detective follows the suspect.
Mysteries are the most moral of all genres, because the criminal never wins.

***To make your mystery suspenseful, use short sentences for your exciting scenes.

You may use the “time-running out” idea. (Remember the scene with Dorothy locked away with the flying monkey? Every time the camera showed us the sand running through that glass, our heart quickened several beats . . .)

Put your sleuth in danger.
And the climax is the most dangerous of all. It could be a physical danger, or her reputation.

How to: Plot backwards. Find the solution to your mystery FIRST. Then decide which clues you will show your sleuth.

Plant a clue by burying it. Point your reader’s attention somewhere else. At the end of the story, the reader should be saying, “Gee whiz, now why didn’t I catch that clue?”

Choose one of these to get started:
1. Your story is set in a movie theater. Your main character has just bought a large popcorn and sits down to watch the movie.
2. Carnival music plays, and your main character buys a ticket to ride on the ferris wheel.
3. “Open wide,” says the dentist.
Your main character hears a scream. It isn’t from tooth pain . . .
4. Or use one of your own settings and ideas to write a mystery.

If you’d like to share the first few lines of your mystery story, place them on the comment section of this blog.
Or write in a title or two of your favorite mysteries.
A few of my favorite mystery authors include Dashiell Hammett, Mary Downing Hahn (ghost stories) and Joan Lowery Nixon.


2 Responses to “Write a Mystery”

  1. MC Says:

    I wrote a mystery short story a while for school. Here’s the first few paragraphs–if you’d like the rest you can email me. Enjoy. 🙂


    Tiffany & Co. was so much more enjoyable when you didn’t actually have to be there on business. Work tended to make you think of things you wouldn’t usually think of. For example, in a customer’s eye, the glittering diamonds, flawless china, and exquisite watches meant you were looking at quality artistry. But in a detective’s eye, all that fancy workmanship meant that you were looking at yet another prime target for thieves.

    Why anyone would voluntarily steal from a store heavily guarded by eighty-odd employees and the one of the best security systems in the US was beyond the officer in charge, Cyril Blackstone. In addition, there were thirty-something policemen sent to guard the building, all because a flamboyant thief decided to challenge himself by actually sending the HQ a postcard with this date and location on it. He figured it had to be some sort of thief complex. You know. “Let’s see if I can pull this heist off” sort of stuff.

    Not that they couldn’t. In fact, there were quite a few seemingly impossible heists that had been pulled off in the past, the most famous one being with thief 24712—the Al Capone of thieves—in a large bank on the other side of Manhattan.

    Cyril was determined not to fail again.

  2. lizbooks Says:

    Oh, MC, this is great! Love the postcard with the thief complex. Is it a short story or will it be a novel? Hope you will send it out!

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