Help with Writing a Mystery

The first action is to pick a unique and unusual location. For a strange and unique mystery. This goes back to keeping things simple. Allow the wonder and confusion to stem from one part or the other of your story. Too much can create chaos in your reader.
Limit yourself to five or fewer suspects. Not only does this make your story more tight and concise, but it also makes it easier for your reader to keep track of the clues and hints.
Create subtle connections to each character to create cohesion. Your supporting characters are suspects by design. Each one should connect to each other in subtle ways. This will tie your story together in ways that will leave your reader reeling, but in a genuine way.

Eventually, it all stems down to; The intensity of your mystery will arise either from the characters or the intricacy of the crime. It is best to stick to one or the other, and you should have success.

Some Laws for Writing a Detective Story

1. A reader must have the same opportunity with the investigator for solving the crime.  All the clues must be plainly stated and reported.
2. No deliberate tricks or dishonesty may be placed on a reader other than those performed legitimately by the perpetrator on the detective.
3. There must be no love engagement.  The profession in hand is to bring a perpetrator to the bar of justice, but not to bring a lovelorn pair to their wedding
 day.
4. The detective themselves, or one of the official police investigators, should never turn out to be the offender.  This is plain trickery, on a par with offering someone a penny for a ten-pound note.  It’s false pretences.
5. The offender must be concluded by logical reasoning — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated admission.
6. A detective novel must have a detective in it, and a detective is not a detective unless he or she detects. Their purpose is to collect clues that will ultimately lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter being apprehended. If the detective does not reach their conclusions through an investigation of those clues, he has no more solved the problem than the pupil who gets their answer out of the back of the arithmetic textbook.
7. There frankly must be a corpse in a detective novel. No lesser crime than murder will suffice.  A couple of hundred pages is far too much bother for a crime other than a murder, or a few.  After all, the reader’s task and investment of energy must be rewarded.
8. The puzzle of the crime must be solved by naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic seances,  crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo.  The reader has a chance when matching his wits with a typical detective, but if they must compete with the world of ghosts and go chasing around metaphysics, they are surely defeated.
9. There must be only one detective — that is, but one protagonist.
10. The offender must turn out to be a person who has acted a more or less prominent part in the story (antagonist) that is, a character with whom the reader is familiar and in whom they take an interest.
11. The butler or servant should not be made by the author as the culprit. This is begging the question; it is a too easy solution.  The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that would not ordinarily come under suspicion.
12. There must only be but one offender, no matter how many murders are perpetrated.

Remove unnecessary words

On a different note to my regular diatribe, passive voice can also make your writing more concise, strangely enough, by removing unnecessary words, i.e. information that isn’t required to get the message across or are unimportant.
“John Doe was hit by a car and then rushed to hospital.”
“John Doe and what happened to him is the focus of this sentence, not the thing that hit him.”
Additionally, it isn’t important how he got to a hospital, only that he’s there. (I’m particularly upset at ending a sentence with a preposition) 
This passive construction is much more efficient than;
“A car hit John Doe, and then an ambulance rushed him to a hospital,” which sounds as awkward as ‘passive’ sounds when ‘active’ should be used.
It isn’t vague like passive can be, but it isn’t concise, either. Another example is “John Doe was charged with the murder of his wife, Jane,” which sounds much simpler than “Police charged John Doe with the murder of his wife, Jane,” or even “Sergeant James Ryan charged John Doe with the murder of his wife, Jane,” where it isn’t clear whose wife Jane is. (or this one)

If writing a short story that only should contain 1500 words then you could look for the words that just add completeness like;

“John sat down and read a book.”  –  6 words

“John sat and read a book.”  –  5 words

There is sat down and stud up.

Improve Your Writing

Some quick helping points that can improve the very next piece you write.


1. Know your reader, and this means more than knowing a few demographics (how old they are, their average income, etc.). To know your readers means you understand their fears, frustrations, and aspirations. Writing from the reader’s perspective will dramatically change the way you write.
2. Know your objective.
3. The pieces you write like blog posts, press release, video script, or anything else, need have only one aim. I can call this objective the Most Desired Result, or “MDR.” Knowing your MDR forces you to write with crystal-clear focus.
4. Use short words; you don’t need a thesaurus.
5. To convince, you must be clear to understand. Utilising short words is one of the best ways to make your meaning clear. So, don’t show off how many big words you can use.
6. Use short sentences. Your thoughts come across more clearly in short sentences. A bonus is that short sentences prevent you from confusing your readers.
7. Use short paragraphs.
8. Let’s imagine you come to a webpage filled with a large block of text. There are no paragraph breaks. Are you likely to read it? Most people would say no. Make your writing skimmable, scannable, and scrollable. Use short paragraphs.
9. Use active language.
10. Active language is powerful and interesting. In contrast, passive language is tedious. How do you identify which is which? In an active sentence, the subject is performing the acting: “Bill fixes cars.” But in a passive sentence, the target of the action becomes the subject of the sentence. For instance, instead of saying, “Bill fixes cars,” I might say, “The cars are fixed by Bill.” 
Passive language presents your idea inadequately. It does feel “backwards.” Also, it is more difficult for many readers to understand. Write with power. Use active language.
11. Write recklessly, re-write ruthlessly.
12. When you eventually write your first draft, it’s okay if it’s appalling. In other words, write carelessly. After you have your first draft on a document (or in memory), filled with strength and power, you can clean up any “messes” you might’ve made. Be ruthless when you edit and re-write.

Passive and Active Voice in Writing

When you write a sentence, it can either be written in the passive voice or the active voice.
* The active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. For example, ‘Brian replaced the flat tyre’.
* The passive voice describes a sentence where the subject is acted upon by the verb. For instance, ‘The flat tyre was replaced by Brian’.
In most cases, writing sentences in a passive voice is discouraged because it can obscure the subject of the sentence, and mislead the reader. It also regularly creates a wordy and clumsy sentence construction.

Defining Passive Voice
Every sentence contains, at a minimum, a subject and an action. The subject is the person or thing the sentence is about, and the action is what the subject is doing.
When the sentence is in the active voice, the subject is doing the action, and the subject typically arises before the action in the sentence. For example:
* I run. I is the subject. Run is the action. The subject doing the action appears before the action, so it is clear to the reader who is doing what.
When a sentence is in a passive voice, the subject is being acted upon by the verb, and the subject usually appears after the action. In an example:
* Running is something I do. Here, the action is Running, and the subject is I. The sentence is in a passive voice because the person doing the action (I) is not introduced until after the action.
Sometimes sentences also contain objects – or the thing being acted upon. This can make it more difficult to define whether the sentence is in a passive voice. For example, here is a sentence in an active voice:
* Philip hits the ball. ‘Philip’ is the subject. ‘Hits’ is the action. So the ‘ball’ is the object.
That same sentence in passive voice reads:
* The ball is hit by Philip.
* The ball is the object – which is not the subject of the sentence because the ball is not doing the action. Therefore, it should be after the subject (Philip)

Tips to Recognise the Passive Voice
Often a sentence in passive voice does not inevitably sound “incorrect” or wordy. However, it is still proper to write in active voice when possible.
To recognise that a sentence is in a passive voice, watch out for these keywords:

* Be
* Is
* Are
* A
* Was
* Were
* Has been
* Have been
* Will be
* Being

 

Your First Draft Will be Terrible, But That’s Ok

Once, I wrote the first draft of a short story that stank so bad; I had to open up a window while reading it.
I felt like ripping it up or pressing delete and then beginning again.
I spent a long time to discover the job of your first draft is to be, and it’s ok if your writing is lousy and unedited.
It’s a good thing that my first drafts are for me alone, and yours should be too.
You will sit down to write the first draft; you will likely lack self-confidence or feel indifferent to what you’re about to make.
You may likely feel that you’re writing and feeling stupid.
Most successful authors seldom experience a white-hot flash while working on their first drafts. A lot of writers question themselves and think about pressing delete.
They don’t do that though.

Alternatively, there’s a determined (and coffee caffeinated) person plugging away at his or her manuscript one word at a time, looking at their word-count and all the while thinking:
“It’ll do for now”, “I’m almost there”, “I can fix this later.”
You can fix it later too, but wait, you’ve got to finish your first draft.
You’ve got to reach the end and stop reorganising your outline or having the ‘Shiny new Idea syndrome’.

You Need to Write Every Day – Despite Not Getting Paid

I’d written and published four journal papers, a few conference papers and a PhD Thesis containing forty thousand words, but I still had a lot to learn about writing fiction and a long novel.
I hadn’t tried to find some time outside of work to write every day, as other things were consuming my needed time.
I told myself my novel would keep until tomorrow and that I could write at the weekend when the time was less important.
When I finally had the guts to sit down in front of the blank page and do my work, I could barely remember where I left off, as I didn’t know about outlines and I was just pantsing the story.
It took too long to pick up from where I left off the previous time. If I missed a weekend writing session because of, unknown things always interrupt, that meant I went an entire week without writing my novel.
I needed a daily writing routine that I could fit in around my job and my lifestyle, but I didn’t have that essential structure implemented in my life.
Then, along comes a short story competition that is inexpensive to enter and you get feedback from the judges. I had to write a short story limited to 1500 words about one person that was the only one to see an alien. I found the contest, entered it and realised I only had one week to find a scenario and write the first draft so it could be submitted for a week’s workshop where myself and the other contestants would read each others story and critique. It took hard work to generate a story and edit, critique and submit. If I had been writing every day, then things would have been more natural and fluid in reading my work. The more you do something, the more it becomes natural.

There’s More to Writing a Book than Just Writing

With non-fiction books then the learning and expressing the subject of your manuscript would be essential. A fiction book is more or less the same. Wheather it’s in present-day or a few hundred years ago or in the future, then you need to be aware of currency, eating and drinking material. Off-world Sci-fi or fantasy also needs to be checked as you don’t want characters in a fictional world going for a chicken evening meal and paying for it in Dollars. You must spend time reading outside of your comfort zone, reading the work of authors you admire and the novels of authors you detest.

You must take notes, write down and learn to arrange your ideas before you start your book. I was asked on a writing course to study poetry. My first thoughts were, “Yuck, I hate poetry and will never write any.” But, I considered Shakespeare and looked into his work and discovered he was the Iambic Pentameter master (which is poetry and sonnet material), and that may be a reason his work is still loved 400 years after his death.
If you fail to feed your mind, then don’t expect it to serve you quality ideas when you next sit down in front of the blank page.

Writing a Novel

1. It’s so Easy to Talk About Writing a Book, But…
When I was at University, I used to read a lot of Raymond Chandler and Tom Clancy books about Philip Marlowe and Jack Ryan. I even went to see The Hunt for Red October at the cinema. I recently read Andy Weir’s The Martian and saw the movie, but the novel can set you in reality, and the film can only show you things that the filmmakers can provide. The one-third gravity being an example. I then saw Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the movies and thought as that was Jack Ryan I’m sure Tom Clancy wrote a novel. He didn’t as he died before that story had begun.

I started with an undercover agent in Russia, who was about to get instructions on a case. I did not plan or outline anything. The thought just occurred to me, so I began the novel, as I was Pantsing it. I finished the opening scene and then thought, “What happens now?” There is more to creating a story that imagination can give you in one moment, and it stopped there. What followed was a year and a half of deciding which type of outline and which sub-genre of crime fiction in which to write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing a Story Takes Time…

1. Writing Should Be Learned

I’m not, or ever have been, an insatiable reader. In my youth, I loved James Clavell’s Shogun. Our family had little capital, though, to spend on books, and I infrequently thought about using the school library for entertainment reading. The library was only a place to inquire, copy out of encyclopedias.

I’ve been a storyteller my entire life, though, so when someone proposed I write a book, I thought, Why not? (in the words of Jeremy Clarkson) How hard can it be?

Um, it’s kinda hard, and it surprised me) to learn that you don’t just sit down and fluidly pen a story. There’s a craft to it, something a practised reader knows intuitively from the many hours spent with a book in their hands.

2. Writing Does Take a Lot of Time.

Pick up a book and look at the page. See those words? Yeah, they made it into the final novel. For every one of those words, there were lots of others that didn’t make it into the book. Someone wrote all of them. That took time, the one thing a lot of writers lack.

You have to scrape time out of the day to do it. You may have a day job or a family. This time devotion can be problematic to find the time. You might need to lose sleep, lunch hours. Eventually, your loved ones will complain, and you’ll need to figure out how to balance your real life with your dream. When you do, email me your secret. My husband is starting to complain about the scant fare at our establishment.