This week on Hide and Create, Joshua Essoe, Debbie Viguie, Moses Siregar and Jordan Ellinger talk about writing a good mystery.
One of the most important things in constructing a mystery is determining why your readers care about the mystery. Is the victim someone likable and innocent? Will readers want to avenge the victim’s death? Is one of the suspects wrongly accused and needs to be vindicated? Is the sleuth somehow personally involved or emotionally connected to the case?
So I’m going to say this because it bears saying, even though it’s obvious. When you’re writing a mystery, make sure you write believable characters. Nobody should be a cardboard cutout. Everybody should be real human beings that come alive for your readers. I would argue that mysteries are very much character driven stories. Your sleuth is going to have to be an intelligent person and ACT like an intelligent person. But remember to keep that sleuth human, give them flaws, make them relateable.
Finally, if you’re submitting, you have to know your sub-genres. The kind of details and language you use will dictate your readership, therefor your target audience. I found a really helpful list of sub-genres from Writer’s Digest. There are a lot of genres listed, including mystery, and all are helpful.
P.S. Yes, I did mean “Ten Little Indians” in the recording!