Writing The Mystery Short Story [Mystery Month]

Writing a mystery is hard, but writing a mystery short story is even harder. Mysteries can take a lot out of you – between the crime taking place, the long investigation process, and so on. It easier to pack that into a longer novel than it is to jam into a short story.

Still, it’s a pretty good feat if you’re able to jam all that information into a short story.

But how do you make sure you don’t leave out any important information? How do you make sure you don’t make the story go too fast?

Writing the Mystery Short Story | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | Mystery Writing | RachelPoli.com

Every story is written in the same general way. The exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and finally the resolution. Writing a short story is no different than that, it’s just condensed.

So, how do you go about trying to condense it all?

1. Find the problem
2. Access the problem
3. Figure it out
4. Conclusion

Start with the problem

Throw your characters into the action right away. Have them start at the crime scene already and throw in a little background if need be. It adds tension to the story right away and cuts out a little time. Sometimes you don’t need to show how your characters came across the problem. They can explain it throughout the story if they have to, but that information doesn’t always need to be known.

Access the problem

This can go hand in hand with the first and third points I listed above. Accessing the problem can be done during the discovery of the problem and also during the investigation. Things have a way of falling into place.

Figure it out

This is obviously easier said than done and, in a short story, this may be your longest part.

Drop the clues carefully and allow your protagonist – or whoever is investigating – to deduce with logic in an attempt to figure things out in a timely manner for the plot, but faster for the word count of the story.

Conclusion

This would be the big reveal. The investigator explains the problem, how it came to be, and why. Someone is arrested or accused.

See? Easy-peasy. I mean, not really… but then again, I can’t exactly go about telling you how to write your own short story. Still, this is a good start.

How do you go about writing a mystery short story? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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24 thoughts on “Writing The Mystery Short Story [Mystery Month]

  1. Great article Rachel. I would never have thought about mystery short stories. As you say, the idea of an investigation seems to lend itself more to a novel.I like your 4 step break down.

    It reminds me of the Columbo episodes. You see the killer commit the crime, often without knowing why. Columbo comes in, seeings the clues, quick interviews, then murderer is unmasked! 😀

      • *blinks at you* you’ve never SEEN Columbo?? *faints* Definitely try and watch it. There has got to be an episode on YouTube. 😀

        • I’ve heard great things about it and it’s always been a show on my list to watch but I’ve just never gotten around to it, lol. I don’t watch too much TV.

  2. I’m currently in the very early stages of co-writing a mystery short story, so your post has come at the perfect time. Thanks for the help, Rachel.

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