Mystery Writing for Non Mystery Readers

One mistake I see in the mystery writing courses I teach; is that many new writers want to write in a genre they know nothing about. They do not read books in that genre, but think, ” gee how hard can it be ?”. If you are new to reading mysteries, then perhaps you should gain some experience with the genre before tackling the very hard job of writing a mystery.

All works of fiction inherently have some sense of mystery about them. How will the story end? Will the couple find true love? Will the football team win the big game and so on. That doesn’t mean the story is a mystery if it has some questions for the characters to answer, only that it is a story that causes the reader to wonder what will happen next.

Mysteries are one of the harder genres to write in. Not only do you need to create an interesting story and compelling characters, but you also much create two solid plots: the murderer’s and the detective’s and balance them throughout the story. I did say murderer’s because taking a human life is the most awful crime in our society and to the mystery reader other lesser crimes are just not as interesting. Are there mysteries without murders? Yes, there are, but they are not nearly as popular [meaning they don’t sell]. Even most Cozy novels have a dead body, they just do the killing “off camera” and tone down the graphic nature of the murder.

So most mysteries involve murder. Mystery readers want the stakes to be life and death, good verses evil. Of course, as always it’s the writer’s story and they can write anything the choose, but if your goal is to publish , then following the expectation of the genre with your own clever twists and innovations can go a long way in creating a work of fiction that is entertaining and successful.

Read as many mysteries as you can. When you find a style you like, explore that sub genre. Maybe you enjoy police procedural or hard boiled detective or humorous Amateur Sleuth. Whatever sub genre of mystery you most enjoy is very likely the type of mystery you will enjoy writing.Your enthusiasm will come through in your writing and entertain the reader.

Screen Writer Ink
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