Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How do you write a mystery?

by Bethany Maines

As I approach the end of my third Carrie Mae Mystery manuscript (60,000 words and climbing!), I find myself more impressed now by a basic Nancy Drew, than I was when I was ten.  My characters are better than when I started writing.  My plotting is infinitely stronger. My grasp of grammar, may actually have gotten worse, but I do use less adverbs (and I actually know what they are), but it's this business of “mystery” that still perplexes me.  Clues? There should be some.  But how many? How obvious should be?  Is that too obvious? Too subtle? How many suspects are required? Is there a manual somewhere? I could really use a manual.

Partially, I’ve been avoiding this trouble by not writing standard mysteries.  I call them women’s action adventure because I think more mysteries could use a good car chase.  If you’ve seen Bullitt then you know that’s a movie that is holding onto its classic status simply on the strength of its car chase.  (It’s certainly not the strength of the jazz flute scene.)  But in April my first regular mystery, A Yearly Murder (working title), will be released and I find myself nervous that all the mystery aficionados will judge me. 

What if I didn’t put in enough clues?  What if the bad guy is too obvious?  What if I didn’t kill of Reginald creatively enough?  Serial killers and mystery writers – the only people who worry about being judged by their dead bodies. And I would worry about the psychological implications of that if I weren’t too busy worrying about whether or not I got my forensic research right. 

I hope that you’ll check out A Yearly Murder in April, and let me know if I got the clue quotient right!

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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