Mystery Writing: Putting the Puzzle Together

I realised recently that for me the best way towards writing a murder mystery novel is to see the whole thing as a puzzle.

As the writer, I have to think of all the individual puzzle pieces: characters, motivations, subplots, locations and the things vital to any mystery story: a good murder (or two), clues and red herrings.

A linear story is relatively simple to put together. Things happen in chronological order and that leads to an outcome where the character is in a different place from where they started.

A mystery novel is somewhat different. You still want your characters to end up in a different place at the end, whether regarding their location or personal development. But in between you have to place specific items that are important to the mystery at the heart of the story.

You have suspects and usually a police force that investigates. When do they find which clue and how does that clue connect to this suspect? What does each character know? Are they telling the truth or are they lying, and if so, when is the lie revealed? When do you interview which character and how much do they reveal? Do they lie to cover up a murder or a different secret altogether? Are other characters involved in it?

All these different pieces make up the puzzle, but your job as the writer of the mystery story is to place the pieces across your story in such a way that it makes a compelling tale that isn’t cluttered with clues and red herrings. Instead the story needs an investigation that flows naturally and explores each character/suspect without creating plot holes or forgetting to wrap up subplots.

Thinking of having to write in such a way makes me sweaty with nerves, because I might know how it should be written, but writing it is still a whole different – pardon the pun – story!

I’m taking a deep breath as I embark on this very task to bring you – and myself – the best possible cosy murder mystery that I possibly can!

I will continue to keep you updated on my progress and throw in some teasers here and there about the story and its characters!

Anything in particular you are curious about? Let me know in the comments!

And for my fellow mystery writers, can you relate to any of this or is your method of writing your mysteries completely different? Do let me know in the comments also!

x Sandra


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