The Rule Of Mystery Writing

rulesAs a new mystery author, you will find that there are certain rules that should be followed 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 show the story, instead of telling it to the reader. Keep yourself out of the story and allow your characters to life with each word.

Here are the rules:

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. Also, describing the weather is permitted, if your main character is having a discussion about it with someone. Always use the beginning to capture the reader’s attention and hold their interest, as the story develops.

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 don’t really need them in your story.

Seven: Use dialogue sparingly, since mystery stories don’t 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. The story will become boring as the action and the flow or the story is interrupted.

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.

If you follow these rules, you are bound to write a best-selling mystery novel. It will keep your readers interested and wanting to see what happens in the end. Furthermore, create a sleuth that has a rounded personality with problems and issues. Therefore, when your sleuth solves the mystery, their personality grows also.


Leonard, E. (2001) Writers on Writing
Retrieved on the World Wide Web on July 11, 2007