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Why the Hell Can’t I Write a Mystery?!

This is what I ask myself every time I sit down to write a new novel or short story that features any kind of mystery. I get stuck in my head and suddenly all the clues, the procedures, and the plot disappear from my mind like the Dove dark chocolates I keep in the freezer. Where do they go?!

I get so hung up that my mind goes utterly blank. It’s like all the true crime podcasts, all the mystery novels, and all the dark, atmospheric crime miniseries I watch say toot-a-loo like that fly that’s been trapped in my house for 2 weeks.

So what do I do when this happens?

I remind myself to start at the most logical place. If (god forbid) something happened to someone I loved and I was tasked with finding out whodunit, where would I start? Often that means starting with what that person was doing leading up to their murder. Who were they with? What were they doing? When were they killed?

Then I take a look at possible suspects.

Who had the motive to kill this person?  (ps: this often leads to some great backstory about the victim, which in itself can often present even more suspects)

From there, I pick one suspect and focus on him/her. This is your red herring. I’ll delve into this person for awhile until it becomes clear that they couldn’t have done it.

Then it’s back to the drawing board (of suspects).

Who has a secret they want to keep and why did my victim threaten that?

This is what leads to connections I may not have seen before, and can sometimes lead to plot twists.

About this time in the story I’ll throw in a new clue that points directly to the murderer (even if the sleuth doesn’t know it yet).

All along the way I throw in lots of moments when my protagonist’s life is threatened. Other victims will often pop up, and then eventually, the murderer is revealed.

Taking a peek at what goes through my head when I’m writing is about as pretty as grabbing a flashlight and peering into the dark recesses of a clogged drain. But when you find a diamond ring, it’s suddenly worth it.

Do you love mixing metaphors too? Then you might like my Super Secret Club!

author, books, writing