mysteries: dos and don’ts

hey guys! I’m writing a mystery right now and it’s almost done, but I thought I’d ask you guys what you like and don’t like in a mystery anyways. so, what makes you put one down?

I don’t like it if the ending is too obvious. Like if someone dies and it turns out that their spouse killed them. It’s a bit too predictable in my opinion

I watched a show where a pregnant woman died and everyone thought it was her husband because they were on bad terms. The twist was that it was her best friend that killed her. I like unpredictable mysteries like this

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The house at the end of the street has such an unpredictable twist.

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Don’t do the Twin Thing: where all evidence points to Person A being the culprit, but it turns out that they have a secret twin no one knew about, themselves included. :rofl: I mean, it’s so easy, but feels like such a copout.

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Yeah, predictability is always something that makes me cringe when reading mysteries of any kind. In general, the ending needs to make sense and when you re read the book you should come across parts that make you go “ohhh, that’s a hint!” but I shouldn’t be obvious from the start.

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I haven’t heard of that trope. What is it?

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That’s such a lazy way to end the book I literally cannot deal with it.

Or when the plot twist just makes exactly zero sense… like the whole point of a plot twist is that when you go back and read it again you see that there’s foreshadowing and stuff, it shouldn’t just be something dumb that shocks your readers.

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If you watch Sherlock:
It’s never twins.

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Writing mystery is a fickle thing to write. You have to stand a fine line between appeasing those who like to pick thing apart while also appeasing to the simple readers who only want a twist.

So, subtlety is your game. Foreshadow ina way so broad that it looks part of the natural flow. Be smart, and okay things by the ear.

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A good mystery should have a really good twist that makes the reader have to read back on certain words and meanings to realise that the twist has been foreshadowed or hinted at in some way.

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Mysteries should have winding plots. You may want to keep things from getting boring by putting in twists and turns. Like for my murder mystery, my MC was kidnapped by the murderer. They had found one of the friend’s sister’s (who was dead). They’ve found a weird tunnel under the house. I just added layers to the story. Haha

You should also make sure the ending is a bit unpredictable. People will predict it, but making sure that it’s not obvious is something you may want to look into. It keeps the reader on their toes.

On top of that, you can also use the ending as a cliffhanger if you wish. Otherwise, make sure many of the chapters end on cliffhangers. It keeps readers guessing.

You also want to start right where the plot begins—or really close to it—so you don’t spend forever on building up the tension and then it’s like a hundred pages in and the plot finally kicks off. It’ll bore readers. :woman_shrugging:

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Partially because that happens in like 60% of real life cases

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As a writer of mystery myself, I am good at reading through the tricks writers use guiding and signposting the reader’s imagination. Therefore, I like when it’s done with skill, and I dislike it when solutions are too obvious. Yet, they shouldn’t be too unlikely either. An optimal solution to the mystery comes as a surprise - but as a surprise that shouldn’t have been a surprise, because there were hints and clues the reader could pick along the way. After an optimal solution, the reader slams his forehead with his hand and exclaims “of course!”, yet entirely enjoys this experience.

What I really like is well-sculpted characters. They must be interesting, yet psychologically credible. Side characters should not be ignored either. One doesn’t need to write open their entire back story, but the back story should be in the writer’s mind so that the characters and their motives read credible. Avoid shallow characters unless shallowness is the very thing you want to portray in them. However, remember that it isn’t plausible if every single character is a deep mind. Also, avoid making all the characters sound like versions of the same prototype. There should be diversity in their thoughts and conduct.

If the story is supposed to be realistic, then details and facts should match. There should not be awkward errors and totally implausible solutions. However, if the story is fantastic or magic reality, then it doesn’t need to be realistic - but it still needs to be internally consistent (i.e. things should consistently follow the logic of the fictional world of the work).

If the main characters are policemen or spies, the writer should demonstrate some knowledge of these fields - for example, in terminology, methods and procedures. There is of course no such need if the main characters are amateurs or ordinary people who just landed with a mystery.

Yeah, but I think writers should focus on the things less spoken about.

Maybe instead of only writing about the majority, they could bring light to the minority. I think that’s the definition of creativity.

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Yes! And mystery always involved getting creative :slight_smile:

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It’s a huge issue when the red herring (aka the character that the author tries to make the reader THINK is the culprit but really isn’t) is obviously a red herring. This is a common thing in a lot of modern mystery books and tv shows. A lot of writers make it way too obvious that the perp isn’t REALLY the perp by shoving them down the audience’s throats and then coming up with a real culprit clear out of nowhere. And that leads me to the second issue, when the red herring gets more development and backstory than the actual culprit. I’ll reach the end of a mystery and know little to nothing about the real killer, but I’ll know everything about the guy who the main characters only thought was the killer.

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