The Rules for Mystery Fiction Writing

My favorite reference book when writing my mystery novels.
My favorite reference book when writing my mystery novels.

As a new mystery author, you will find that there are certain rules, which you must follow when writing your novel. Read other mystery novels, in order to familiarize yourself with the rules and see how other writers incorporate the rules. Each resource will word or list the rules differently, depending on what website or reference book that you consult. There are many websites, which list tips and advice for new mystery authors.

Always use the beginning of the story to capture the reader’s attention and hold their interest, as the story develops. If you follow these simple rules, you will finally be able to write that best-selling mystery novel.  The story must keep your readers interested and compel them to see what happens to the main character at the end of the story. Furthermore, create a sleuth that has a rounded personality with problems and issues. Therefore, when your sleuth solves the mystery, their personality grows also.

Keep yourself out of the story and allow your characters to come to life with each word. Here are ten mystery writing tips that will help you get started from Mystery Ink Online.

     First: Never open your story, by describing the weather unless you are trying to create an atmosphere. Try to be brief in your description of the setting or you will bore your readers and lose their attention. In addition, describing the weather is permitted, but only if the main character is discussing the weather with a friend.

Second: You will want to avoid adding a prologue, because they are unnecessary and annoying. Actually, prologues usually belong in non-fiction writing, but there have been exceptions to this rule.

Third: Use only the verb “said”, when carrying dialogue between the characters. This way, the author stays out of the story and the characters take the lead.

Fourth: You should never use an adverb that modifies the verb…said. Since, it will disrupt the flow of the  words and make the story hard to understand.

Fifth: Always limit the amount of exclamation points that you use, to only two or three per every 10,000 words. This way, your dialogue stands out for each the reader, without the use of the exclamation point.

Six: Don’t words like “suddenly” or all hell broke loose”, since you do not really need them in your story.

Seven: Use dialogue sparingly, since mystery stories do not need much dialogue between the characters

Eight: Never describe your characters, since the characters should remain a mystery also. You should give them a voice, which speaks throughout your writing.

Nine: Try not to use too many details in describing the settings the characters are in.

Ten: Always omit the parts of the story, which you think that a reader will skip. A good mystery novel should keep the reader on the edge of their seat and begging for more.



Leonard, E. (2001) Writers on Writing

Retrieved on the World Wide Web on July 11, 2007