Writing A Great Mystery

By Sanjana Sharma On September 20, 2022 • 6 min read • Newspaper

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Have you ever picked up a mystery book that hooked you from the word go, one you just couldn’t put down until the big reveal? Now that’s what a great mystery does. But the intrigue that makes the mystery a gripping one requires intricate planning and hours and hours of writing. Crafting a mystery, however, can be a very exciting and rewarding experience. It requires patience and perseverance and a knack for details. While mystery writing is an art, here are five tips that can aid you in your quest to create a great mystery.

Work Backwards
If you have the ending clear in your mind, it becomes easy to work backwards and figure out the clues that lead to the big reveal. You can work out different ways to move forward knowing where you have to reach. Once you have a basic way to connect the dots and reach the end, you can work out how to add subtle clues to raise the mystery quotient. It’s convenient to introduce twists and turns at this stage since you can never get lost knowing how everything turns out. Working backwards also helps you avoid loose ends.

Know The Crime
It is imperative that you know everything about the crime that your mystery revolves around. If you don’t, your story won’t be believable. You cannot write a mystery without knowing the who, what, where, when, why, and how. The how is especially important. If you gloss over the how, you can’t build a coherent road to the final reveal and your readers will feel cheated. That’s why you need to research everything you can about the crime, including the post investigative and legal aspects, if required, that can lend authenticity to the story.

Throw In Red Herrings
A mystery has clues that move the story forward. But if your readers can figure out the clues easily, there won’t be much of a story to tell. Instead, wouldn’t it be more fun to mislead your readers? In fact, they’re expecting it. After all, how else will you draw them in? These false clues, also known as red herrings, not only build the suspense but also create engagement with your readers. Your job is to nudge them in a particular direction and just as they’re beginning to feel smug about their deductive powers, you introduce a twist and leave them biting their nails.

Construct Convincing Characters
Character development is especially important when it comes to writing mysteries. This is because mysteries have suspects and if these suspects are one-dimensional or based on stereotypes, the story can quickly become boring. You want your characters to be complex because that’s how people are in real life. Your character development should be nuanced, revealing as much about their personalities and motives through speech as much as their actions. When your character development is strong, it adds a lot of flavour to the mystery and keeps the readers engaged.

Introduce Obstacles
While solving the crime is itself an obstacle, it’s necessary that you don’t make things easy for your characters, especially your protagonists. You don’t want them to discover clues easily. You don’t want them to have epiphanies. You need to make them work hard, to face peril, to struggle. While you do offer little victories, the greater the obstacles they face, the more magnificent their final triumph. And that is just what the reader wants as well. After all, they all know that the crime will be solved and the culprit apprehended. What they want to know is how exciting you can make it.

Here’s a bonus tip for all you mystery writers. If you want to write a great mystery, read as many mysteries as you can. You will not only enjoy the stories but also learn the art of mystery writing from other accomplished authors. You will also get exposure to different writing styles and get to understand the techniques used by them to heighten the suspense, throw readers off the scent, and pull all the elements together to create a riveting mystery.

So what did you think of our tips? Did any of them help? Write to us and let us know how your experience in crafting a mystery.

Prashant Pinge

Prashant Pinge

Prashant Pinge is an acclaimed author of children’s fiction. Prashant’s books, Raja & the Giant Donut (Leadstart Publishing) and Adventure on Wheels (Scholastic), were shortlisted for the Economist Crossword Book Award and the Raymond Crossword Book Award in the Children’s Writing (jury) category in 2011 and 2016 respectively.

The Mystery Of The Missing Archaeologist, has been published by Booksthakam, and will be released on Amazon on May 20, 2022

The Mystery Of The Missing Archaeologist: A Panchgani Detective Club Adventure

The newly formed Panchgani Detective Club comprising siblings Rhea and Rishi Agarwal and the Srivastava twins Anoushka and Ishaan decide to investigate the recent kidnapping of an archaeologist. They struggle to find clues until a pen drive mysteriously turns up at their school campus. The prime accused also happens to be the very same person who had earlier given evidence against the twin’s father, a former archaeologist. Things are further complicated by a couple of school bullies, a strict vice principal, and a campus break-in. And just as they’re on the verge of a breakthrough, things start going horribly wrong. The children must now use all their deductive powers to solve the case!

Here are the pre-order links to both the versions of the book:

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