Solutions Showcase

Solutions Showcase: Tips for Writing a Mystery

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When writing a story, especially a mystery, character development is extremely important.

Writing can be very difficult, essays, book reports, but writing everything off the top of your head is even harder. Especially if you are writing a murder mystery story. You may not know how to create the murderer, the protagonist, or the supporting characters. Characters, story plots, and ways to avoid writer’s block are all keys to writing a good story.

For any story, and especially murder mysteries, characters are very important. They can be the heroes, the secret murderer, or the best friend. For the main character or protagonist, make sure to give backstory to his personality. If they are anti-social, explain if they possibly had an embarrassing incident in their life or a rough family household. If they are popular, what makes them popular, and why is their popularity is important to the story. Also determine if the story is told in first or third person, so that you can decide if the character shows his emotions straight forward, or told by a narrator.

For the murderer, make sure you know who it is ahead of time, so that you can involve them early on in the story. Explain the motive, and reason they killed someone. Maybe they had a feud with another family. Or maybe they are physiologically disturbed and don’t have a valid reason. And possibly both of those combined. In order to have a good murder mystery, you must have a good murderer.

Try to make the reader get attached to the characters. Build up the characters future. Maybe even write a cliffhanger, making them want to keep turning pages. Writing in supporting characters and “the best friend” give you ability to play around with fates. You control the pieces on the chess board, each move is up to you. Create a love story, or maybe even a character death. If a character dies, you want the reader to care and have an emotional reaction. Give a character a personality, make them funny, dark, or give them sarcastic one-liners. If the reader loves a character, events that affect that character always makes the reader more involved.

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Eventually, all of the clues ought to connect to your larger mystery story.

Story plots can be the hardest part to write. Without a good plot, you don’t have a good story. Always keep in mind the simple beginning, middle, and end theme. The way I wrote my story was by creating an outline of each chapter and the events that occur. Sometimes, outline ideas don’t always make the final cut, but will provide a general direction. When trying to figure out the storyline, think of the start and end point. Where do you want characters to end up? Does the murderer get caught, or do they manage to escape? These questions will help you along the way. Knowing the way the story ends will help guide you where you end up. The first couple chapters can start slow, dive into the characters and give them introductions. These first chapters are good to setup foreshadowing for upcoming events. They allow space for creative ways to set the scene and give a good description to what’s happening. Also, these are times to begin side storylines, like a love story or a friendship.

The middle chapters are where clues and evidence will start to unfold. Slowly the story begins to speed up into the end. This should not be the climax, but a build up for what’s coming. Include pieces of the puzzle that start to come together. Hint possible suspects for the murderer. These chapters are also a good area to involve a character death if you choose to have one.

The last chapter or chapters are where all of the pieces conjoin and the reader finds out who is the murderer. All of the writing you’ve done has led you to this point. Make sure to write suspense leading up to the big reveal. Make the reader want, or maybe even fear to turn the page. A good ending can be the best part of a story, and even can set up exciting sequels.

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The reader should be able to make connections to previous clues spread throughout the story.

You will face many challenges along your writing journey. Many road blocks will delay you, and sometimes you will crash. When I wrote my piece, I was facing writers block for middle chapters. So I wrote the last chapter, giving me the ending I wanted to reach. If you face challenges like that, complete chapters you have ideas for, then fill in the ones that remain. If you are stuck and cannot think of something to write, sleep on it. When an idea comes to you, try to write it down immediately. If you wait and say, “I’ll write it when I get home.” you will forget it. Sometimes you can go weeks without knowing what to write. The best thing is try to write down anything. Word by word, then ideas will strike!

Writing a Mystery isn’t always easy. Some aspects are easy, some are hard, and some are just time consuming. Characters, story plots, and ways to avoid writer’s block are very important to writing a good story. Never ever give up because eventually the mystery will be solved!

img_0071Ethan Webber is a freshman at Mount Saint Joseph. He wrote this article as part of his Solutions Showcase project.