Tuesday, January 20, 2015

[Link] 25 Things You Need To Know About Writing Mysteries


by Susan Spann

Mystery novels work a lot like any other genre, except that mystery writers murder their imaginary friends. To paraphrase the Hoover campaign promise, a mystery novel will deliver “a corpse in every pot.” (Mystery authors are twisted. We might as well get that straight from the outset.)

Mystery offers plenty of room for variation, too. Murder is universal—it can happen in any setting and any time. A sleuth can be a professional, an amateur, or a NINJA (though I’ve already done that last one), and your victim and method can vary just as widely. One warning, however: killing your imaginary friends is a lot like eating potato chips. Nobody I know can stop with one.

Sound like fun? Awesome. Let’s get going:

1. DEATH: IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER

Occasionally, a mystery succeeds with a central crime other than murder, but generally speaking purloined papers, missing mutts, and the seizure of family jewels doesn’t get you very far in the mystery world. (However, properly handled, the family jewels have great potential in other genres.)

On the positive side, if your imaginary friends are at all like mine, they’re better off dead.

2. PUT THE HATCHET DOWN AND FIND A SLEUTH

It’s easy to rush prematurely into the process of fitting imaginary friends for cement waders. When real killers rush the process, they end up in jail (or dead). The best way to keep your novel (and your career) off the writers’ version of death row? Plan it thoroughly. Plan it well. And plan to start with an interesting sleuth. Readers don’t turn the pages because they care about fictitious corpses. Readers want to help the cool kids solve a crime.

3. KNEE THE DICK IN THE GROIN

What’s better than an intriguing sleuth? A BROKEN ONE! Hooray! Is your detective emotionally damaged? Physically impaired? Addicted to Hostess Fruit Pies? Excellent: good times lie ahead.

If not, stop now and take a hammer to your sleuth’s emotional kneecaps. Bust those suckers good—and be creative. Divorces, tragic accidents, and dead relatives are dime-a-dozen. You can do better. Make your detective allergic to coffee, or phobic of houseplants. Squash her beloved iguana beneath a Zamboni and then force her to solve a murder at an ice rink.

You get the idea.

Read the full article: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/10/15/25-things-you-need-to-know-about-writing-mysteries-by-susan-spann/