Writing The Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

Writing a novel isn’t an easy task to do. The difficulty level can vary depending on the genre you write as well. If you’re writing a romance, things may be pretty straightforward. They’re possibly set in our real world and can be true to life.

Meanwhile, if you’re writing fantasy you may have a lot of world building to do. You might have to create new races and cultures of people, new languages, and go through the motions of an adventure.

Of course, all of this depends on you, your writing style, and what you’re writing. There is no right way to write fantasy or romance or any genre – those are just examples.

Mystery, on the other hand, can be more or less the same. While there are many subgenres of mystery, most mysteries have a common denominator – someone committed a crime and someone else needs to solve it.

Writing the Mystery Novel | Mystery Month | Creative Writing | Novel Writing | RachelPoli.com

What should be included in your Mystery

Mystery novels may include:

  • A crime
  • An interrogation
  • An investigation
  • A trail of clues
  • A list of evidence
  • Suspects, witnesses, and victims (or friends and family of the victim)
  • Red herrings

Depending on the type of story you’re writing, some of those will be used, others will not. It depends on your protagonist as well. For example, you might throw in a rival for your protagonist as well.

The beginning, middle, and end

Going from point A to point B can be a pain. I never found beginning mysteries to be all that tough. There are a number of ways you can begin them.

  • The discovery of the victim
  • At the crime scene investigating already
  • Showing your protagonist wrapping up a previous case
  • Showing the crime itself
  • Having the victim, feeling threatened, seek out your protagonist for help

There are many other ways to begin the story too. Although, I would shy away from having your protagonist wake up… I hope I’m not alone when saying that’s been done one too many times.

The majority of the middle is trying to solve the crime itself.

  • The investigation
  • Interrogations/questioning witnesses
  • Discovering clues and piecing evidence together
  • Following leads and red herrings

Endings are, of course, pretty straightforward. The bad guy is caught (or maybe not – justice sometimes isn’t served) and it’s onto the next case.

While middles can sag pretty easily, I always found writing middles in mystery to be fun and the easiest. As long as you can keep track of your clues and evidence, the timeline, and all the who dun it information, you should be good to go.

Keep track of your crime and clues

In order for your protagonist and your readers to follow along with the crime and be able to figure it out, you need to have all the information at hand. Crimes are confusing, otherwise, it wouldn’t be a mystery, and they can take lots of twists and turns. Again, that’s why it’s important for you to understand everything about the crime and the characters it involves like the back of your hand.

To do this, keep extensive notes. Figure out the who, the why, the when, the how, the where. What sort of clues can be laid out for your protagonist? Criminals are careful, but the truth always has a way of finding the surface.

Leave a trail of clues at a nice pace. Don’t make them so obvious and don’t throw them at your protagonist all at once.

Heed your research

It’s called fiction for a reason, but crimes are solved in a certain way with certain rules in real life. Look up anything you’re unsure of and try to make the investigation as realistic as possible.

Unless your protagonist is the coroner, they will not be performing an autopsy.

Have you started yet?

Writing a mystery isn’t an easy task, but it can be a lot of fun. Good luck.

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

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12 Types of Mystery Genres [Mystery Month]

Each and every genre in the world has many different branches to it. There are so many subgenres when it comes to the mystery genre. It came sometimes be hard to pinpoint to which subgenre you’re reading or writing, especially if there are a couple different subgenres thrown into the mix.

Still, mystery can be perceived in many different ways when it comes to it being comical, hardcore, or real life-like.

12 Types of Mystery Subgenres | Mystery Writing | Mystery | Creative Writing | Mystery Month | RachelPoli.com

Caper

A caper mystery is a comical one. Whether it involves a bumbling detective or odd-duck witnesses, the story is funny and allows the reader to relax and have a laugh… despite the dead body lying in the corner.

Cozy

The cozy mystery is something that’s usually light in tone. Even though a murder is involved, it happens in a small town, isn’t describes as too gruesome, or the sleuth is an amateur.

Domestic

This was a new one to me. I’ve seen many books like this but never thought it was its own subgenre. A domestic mystery includes mysteries involving a cat or dog (or any animal, really) where they more or less aid their owner in solving the crime. These can also include book club settings, bakeries, and the like.

Hardboiled

Hardboiled is what it sounds like. It’s a hardcore mystery where violence and gruesome details are involved. The detective is a professional, often fighting his own inner demons.

Investigator

This type of mystery involves the sleuth being a private investigator, an amateur, a nosy neighbor, or someone of the kind. It’s centralized who if figuring out the crime.

Noir

Noir is a classic that’s dark and gritty, with private investigators equipped with their good old trench coat.

Procedural

Procedural mysteries are heavily-researched in how the crime was solved using autopsy reports, forensic science, and the like. It’s the real-life stuff thrown into a fictional crime.

Softboiled

Softboiled mysteries are more or less the same as Hardboiled except their lighter in tone and they ease up a little on the details.

Supernatural/Paranormal

This is pretty straightforward since it’s its own genre. A mystery with ghostly like elements and messages from the unknown. It adds a little more spook to the mystery and certainly allows things to get pretty twisted.

Suspense

In suspense, the tension is high but it’s at a slower pace. It keeps the readers on their toes always guessing and turning the pages. The protagonist, or detective, is usually the one being pursued and has some sort of problem themselves they need to deal with.

Thriller

Similar to suspense, except the action is ongoing, the pace is fast, and the tension and stakes are high. This may or may not have anything to do with the protagonist or detective themselves, but their usually racing the clock.

True Crime

This is exactly as it sounds, a genre familiar to everyone. True crime is non-fiction mysteries telling tales of real-life murders and investigations.

What’s your favorite subgenre in mystery? Are there are any other subgenres you know about? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Short Story Sunday 211: Number One Suspect [Part 1 – Mystery Month]

Short Story "Number One Suspect" | Mystery | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

            “I didn’t do it. I’m serious. I really didn’t do anything!”

Lilah stood behind a one-way mirror in a small room with George by her side along with two other police officers. They were at the police station watching Barney, George’s brother who also happened to be a detective at the station, interrogate a suspect.

She looked up at George wondering what he was thinking. She didn’t want to say anything out loud in case they missed what the suspect had to say. Still, she couldn’t tell whether the man was guilty or not.

Steven Bell was under the suspicion of murdering his wife. Of course he wasn’t going to say that he didn’t do it whether he did it or not. No one wanted to go to jail; no one wanted to get charges put against them for murder. However, to Lilah, he seemed as though he was genuinely upset and frightened. Either he was a really good actor or he really didn’t kill his wife.

“Are you listening to anything I’m saying?” Steven asked. He was practically leaning over the metal table. If that table wasn’t there, Lilah wondered if he would have lunged at Barney.

Barney nodded his head at the frantic man. “I’m hearing every word you’re saying, Mr. Bell. Still, things don’t quite add up. Everything points to you; your prints are even on the murder weapon. Yet, here you are telling me that you didn’t do anything wrong, but you’re not giving me anything else to go on.”

Lilah watched as Steven’s chest heaved up and down as he tried to calm his breathing, but it simply didn’t seem to be working.

“What do you mean?” Steven asked a little more calmly this time.

“I mean,” Barney grunted as he shifted his weight in his chair, “you keep telling me that you didn’t do anything wrong, but you’re not telling me why or how you didn’t do anything wrong. You’re just spouting out useless words to me.”

“But I’m telling the truth!”

“Prove it. If you really didn’t do anything, convince me.”

Steven’s demeanor shrunk in his chair. His eyes were fraught with worry and Lilah braced herself for tears behind the glass.

“I can’t do that…” Steven said quietly. He allowed his arms to drop by his side and hung his head.

Barney sighed. He closed the case file and gathered up his notepad and pen. “Then there’s nothing I can do to help you, Mr. Bell.” He stood up from his chair and Steven looked up at him nervously.

“Wait, where are you going?”

“I have no further questions for you. Someone else will be with you shortly. Just sit tight.” Barney said.

Steven grumbled. “Where am I going to go…?”

Barney exited the interrogation room and stepped into the small box that already held too many people.

“So,” he greeted everyone, “how did that go?”

“Not your finest.” George replied.

Barney narrowed his eyes at him. “Don’t be smart with me. You may be my little brother, but we’re at work.”

George smirked. “I know, I know.” He turned his attention back to Steven through the glass. The suspect was hiding his head in his hands. He looked as though he were about to rip his hair out.

Lilah tugged on George’s arm like a little kid trying to pull her father over to the ice cream truck. “Can we go now?”

“What’s the rush?” George asked.

“I think we’ve done all we can here, don’t you think?” she replied.

“She’s right,” Barney agreed. “You helped lead us to this guy and I don’t think there’s anything else you guys can do. We can’t even really do anything else. We just have to wait for the court date and see what the jury thinks.”

George sighed. “I guess you’re right.”

“I’ll pop into the chief’s office and let her know you guys helped. You’ll get compensated.” Barney said. He opened the door and stepped to the side to let George and Lilah out first.

Lilah lead the way out of the police station. Barney called to them saying he’ll mail them a check. George yelled his thanks, but Lilah was already just about outside the front doors.

“So,” George said as they crossed the parking lot, “what are you thinking? I can tell you’re thinking of something.”

“How can you tell?” Lilah asked. He was right of course, but she didn’t want to seem too obvious. She needed to work on her subtlety.

“You kept staring at me during the interrogation.”

Lilah sighed. She stopped in the middle of the sidewalk before George could haul a taxi. “Alright, don’t make fun of me, but… I don’t think this guy is guilty.”

“Well,” George waved his arm in the air. He looked at Lilah as the taxi pulled over. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’s guilty either.” He opened the back door for Lilah.

She smiled at him and climbed into the backseat with him right behind her. She was looking forward to getting home to really crack this case wide open.

Words: 852

READ PART TWO HERE!

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Join Us For Mystery Month!

Mystery Month is a feature I created and officially started on this blog in June 2015. So, this will be our fourth annual Mystery Month – a month early. Yeah, I’m changing Mystery Month from June to May, so it’ll be during May from now on.

Mystery Month was created in order to explore the mystery genre, to learn more about it, practice it, and appreciate it. It’s my favorite genre and I thought dedicating a month to it was a great way to celebrate it.

Mystery Month May 2018 | Mystery Genre | Creative Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

This year, Mystery Month is going to be filled with posts all about the mystery genre.

These posts will include…

I can’t wait for you all to read what I have planned! I hope you enjoy all the content and it’s informative and entertaining for you.

In the meantime, feel free to talk about the mystery genre on your own blog and share this feature with your readers!

Are you excited for Mystery Month? What’s your favorite genre? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Writing A Mystery Short Story For Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve talked about short story writing before and I’ve written plenty of short stories. Of course, I most dapple with flash fiction.

A couple of my short stories have been broken up into 4 or 5 parts for Short Story Sunday on this blog. It’s rare I write a short story straight on that’s longer than 2,000 words.

I’m working on a short story collection that’s made up of mysteries, each one being between 5,000 and 10,000 words long. It’s hard to write a short story, but it’s harder to work a full mystery into it.

Writing A Mystery Short Story for Camp NaNoWriMo | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | Short Story | RachelPoli.com

I had originally planned to write one or two short stories for this collection a month. It’s been a lot harder than I anticipated it to be and honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with my original deadline.

I come up with mysteries all the time for my novel series, so why is coming up with mystery shorts so hard?

Part of the reason is that I’m trying out different characters and not just having every single story star George and Lilah. Plus, a lot of my ideas are actually already in the novel series with George and Lilah, so… Yeah.

I want to keep up with it though. I do have a couple ideas I want to try out and I didn’t want to lose my groove so I had decided to try to write a mystery short story during Camp among everything else.

It hasn’t been easy because I’ve been writing different shorts here and there, three of them being handwritten in notebooks. I’m trying to still with the same story, start to finish, this month.

So far it’s been good. I haven’t finished the story yet, but I’m enjoying the new characters who have introduced themselves to me and I’ve done something a little different with this mystery that I have with any other mystery I’ve written.

And yes, I mean I’ve been dipping my toes into the supernatural world.

It’s been fun and I’ll be happy when the story is complete so I can say I’ve finally written a full short story for Perplexed!

Have you ever worked on a short story for a Camp NaNo session? Have you written a mystery short story before? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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8 Tips For Writing A Mystery Novel [NaNoWriMo 2017]

I’m not writing a mystery novel for NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m sure you know how much I love mystery and that I do write a lot of it.

I run a Mystery Month on this blog and 9 times out of 10, I write a mystery for NaNo. So, if you’re writing a mystery novel this month, here are some tips.

8 Tips for writing Mystery

1. Do your research.

It sounds a bit weird to research how to hide a body or how long it takes a body to start to smell if left out for too long. Still, you should fact-check. Despite it being fiction, you should always have that little bit of truth in there. Know what you’re talking about and when your characters are investigating a crime, do the real world some justice.

2. Know your genre and sub-genre.

There are so many different sub-genres of mystery. You’ve got your cozy mystery, you’re courtroom drama, whodunit stories, and much more. Which sub-genre does your mystery fall under? Sure, you can mix them up, but it always helps to define what kind of mystery you’re writing about.

3. Keep your readers always guessing.

Red herrings are a lot of fun, if they’re used in the right way. Red herrings are fake clues thrown in just to throw the detective and the readers off the hot trail. It’s great for a “wow” factor when the real clue is finally found and it certainly keeps the readers interested.

4. Know the crime inside and out.

Whether you like to outline or not, it never hurts to plan out the crime before you write. If you have  a basic idea, know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the crime. It’ll help you keep track of what’s going on, keep a list of clues and evidence. The more you know and understand, the easier it will be to convey to your readers.

5. Should your readers be able to figure it out? Make it so, but not too easily.

I’ve read my fair share of mystery novels. Some are easy to figure out, some are hard. Some I don’t figure out at all. It’s up to you whether you want to make it so your readers can investigate and infer who the culprit is. You can let them be detectives or just keep them guessing throughout. Every reader has a preference. Either way, you should explain everything to a certain extent in the end.

6. Motive is key.

I’m sure everyone knows that motive is everything when you’re trying to charge someone for a crime. Why did they do what they did? Sometimes the motive isn’t always clear. Sometimes the motive can be a red herring for a suspect. However, there should always be some sort of connection, personal or otherwise, to the culprit and the crime.

7. Give unique and thorough backgrounds for your protagonist and antagonist.

This sort of goes along with the previous point. Why did your antagonist do what they did? And why is the case important to your protagonist? Usually, when a detective solves a crime, they have some sort of connection to it somehow, or it reminds them of something from the past. There are a lot of cliches to watch out for (such as the detective who lost his wife prematurely or something), though some of them can still work depending on how you weave it in.

8. Remember, good is not always good and bad is not always bad.

People do good things for bad reasons and bad things for good reasons. But is it really good or bad? Is your protagonist an anti-hero? Is revenge their motive? It’s up to your readers to decide.

Are you writing a mystery novel for NaNo? What other tips can you come up with? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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How To Properly Research For Your Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

Sure, fiction is made up, but there’s still a lot of truth to what we put down on the pages of our story.

When it comes to writing mystery, you still want to be as accurate as you can in order to make the story believable. It doesn’t want to read as fiction.

So, what can you do to make sure you’re solving your crime the right way?

How To Research For Mystery Novels

1. Read books

Read any kinds of books and read a lot of them. Read fictional mystery novels as well as true crime novels. You’ll see how other authors do it fictionally and you’ll also get a feel for the real deal reading about true crimes that have actually happened.

There are also craft books you can read about writing mysteries as well as learning about detectives and criminal justice. Not to mention, you can always thumb through a study guide of the police exam to get a feel for what they have to go through in order to get to where they are in your story when the crime happens.

2. Talk to people

I know, none of us want to talk to people, but sometimes it’s necessary and it helps a lot. If you know anyone who is going to school in the criminal justice field or who is currently undergoing the Police Academy, or someone who is an officer or detective, get in touch with them and ask questions. There’s nothing better than an original source itself.

3. Take classes

Instead of talking to people who are currently going to school for this kind of thing, why don’t you take a couple of courses yourself? Sometimes you can even find the syllabi online and you can look up the textbooks yourself and read up on it without spending a lot of money.

There are also courses on writing websites, such as Writer’s Digest, where you can take courses specializing in writing mystery and crime. Those don’t come cheap, but I’ve heard they’re worth it.

4. Watch TV

This isn’t the best piece of advice, but there are plenty of crime shows on TV. Most of them fudge the process a bit for the sake of entertainment and comedy, but there are still some truths in there. At the very least, you can learn what not to do in your novel.

5. Take to the Internet

Google isn’t always reliable, but it is your friend. Be sure to look up information on certain towns and cities that your mystery novel takes place in. Look up the laws and regulations and go on the town’s main homepage and be sure you’re writing close to home about the location. Plus, you can look up a lot of other stuff, like the points I just mentioned above.

Research can be tedious, but it can definitely be fun as well.

How do you typically research for your novel? Do you enjoy researching? What are some other research methods you use? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Importance Of Plot Twists [Mystery Month]

When it comes to writing any genre, plot twists are always a good, fun thing to have up your sleeve. When it comes to writing mysteries, plot twists can sometimes be essential.

You want the reader to figure it out, but you also want to blow their mind, right?

The importance of plot twists in mystery writing

A plot twist is exactly what it sounds like. The events in your story lead your readers to believe one thing and then suddenly, usually towards the end, something unexpected happens that twists the whole plot around.

It’s a surprise, it makes your readers keep turning the pages, sitting at the edge of their seat.

So, how do you write an awesome plot twist?

1. Reveal something big

When writing a mystery, revealing something big can be pretty easy to come by. Reveal an extra bad guy or even an unknown victim. Find a brand new piece of evidence. Or, let your detective reveal something huge about the case, something that answers some questions, but asks more questions.

2. Allow something unexpected to happen

In a way, this is similar to revealing something big, but allow something else to happen, something that your readers couldn’t see coming. This unexpected happening should be exciting, suspenseful, and add tension to the scene or story.

3. Use foreshadowing

Let your readers guess what could happen. Allow them to piece together flashbacks or certain evidence or dialogue that subtly hints at something. When the plot twist happens, readers should be shocked, looking back at what else has happened and piece it all together.

4. Use red herrings

Lead your readers off the track using fake evidence. A plot twist can be used revealing that the red herring is a fake or more red herrings show up. Or, maybe real evidence show up that chump the red herring and confuses everyone.

There are many ways to add a plot twist into your story. It’s all in how you convey the twist though.

The twist must be:

  • Full of tension
  • Suspenseful
  • Shocking and revealing
  • Out of the blue (but not so much that it seems random)

How much do you enjoy plot twists? What are some of your favorite ways to create a plot twist? Let me know in the comments below!

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What To Do When Your Mystery Novel Gets Stuck [Mystery Month]

I talk about outlining all the time, but even I don’t outline for everything.

For the past two years, I’ve written a four- or five-part mystery short story for Short Story Sunday using George and Lilah as the protagonists. I’d get a random title in mind and a plot would spark from there.

That didn’t happen this year.

I’ve been writing this month’s mystery short story as the month went on. I easily wrote the first part and second part, but then I got stuck.

What to do when you get stuck writing a mystery novel

It’s always such a pain when you get stuck on any story, but when you get stuck on a mystery plot, it’s tough to get yourself out of it. Everything has to be pieced together and make sense. When you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to tie it all together.

So, what do you do?

1. Reread what you previously wrote

I know there are people out there who say not to reread what you wrote the day before. I don’t understand why, but I think it helps to reread it. It reminds me where I left off and what I already talked about. Especially when writing mystery, you have to remember what clues the characters had already found and such.

2. Ask, “What If?

If you’re unsure of where to go next ask yourself, “What if this happened…?” New ideas will surely arrive, no matter how far fetched they seem. Still, you can take what you already wrote and rewrite something or use what you already have to create something brand new.

3. Take a step back and outline what you can

Yes, I’m bringing outlining back. No, I’m not telling you to outline your whole story. However, there are certain questions you can ask yourself. If you can answer them, great. Then you can figure out what to do next in your story.

4. Take a break

Step away from the story and let your mind rest. That’s all there is to it. When you get back to it, new ideas might arise for you.

5. Work on something else

I guess this goes along with “take a break,” but you can always work on something else. You’ll be writing, but you’ll be taking a break from your original story.

Getting stuck on your writing is never fun, but there are plenty of was to get out of it and keep going.

Want to check out a great post on writer’s block? Check out this post by Jerry Jenkins!

What do you do when you get stuck on your writing? Let me know in the comments below!

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