Monday, November 21, 2011

Writing Mysteries Series, Part II by Cynthia Hickey

Last week we talked about characters. Well, what’s a good mystery without clues and false leads? Webster defines these things as:

Clue: something that guides through an intricate procedure or maze of difficulties; specifically: a piece of evidence that leads one toward the solution of a problem. 

The book gives the reader plenty of clues to solve the mystery.
Red Herring: [from the practice of drawing a red herring across a trail to confuse hunting dogs]: something that distracts attention from the real issue.

The plot of the mystery was full of red herrings.

Clues and red herrings are what makes a mystery fun! In order to keep my clues and “false clues” straight, I make a list. I already know who my characters are: main, secondary, villain, and suspects. It’s my suspects that lay my red herrings. Everyone is suspicious. Even loveable Uncle Roy. But there must be a believable reason for your suspects to be suspicious. i.e. Uncle Roy is hiding something. Money. He wants to take Aunt Eunice on an anniversary cruise. Our heroine finds his secret stash. Voila. Suspicion. But, the reader’s turned in another direction with a creepy carnival man who seems to deal drugs from his trailer. See where I’m going with this?

BUT, don’t leave too many clues to where your reader discovers the bad guy halfway through your book, but you must leave enough real clues that your reader can look back and go, “Oh, yeah. I see that now.” Outlining clues and red herrings are the most fun I have writing a mystery.


Multi-published author Cynthia Hickey has three cozy mysteries published through Barbour Publishing, with a novella scheduled to be released in March 2013. Her first mystery, Fudge-Laced Felonies, won first place in the inspirational category of the Great Expectations contest in 2007. Her third cozy, Chocolate-Covered Crime, received a four-star review from Romantic Times. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two of their seven children, two dogs, two cats, a snake named Flash and a fish named Floyd. She has five grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer.” Visit her website at

1 comment:

  1. Writing mysteries reminds me of setting up treasure hunts for children. After working hours to find a treasure, dream up clues, then physically go out and "plant" the things... they race through to the prize within minutes. That's when I see how much smarter (and enthusiastic!) they are than I first imagined, and it will take a lot more effort to stay ahead of them.

    Writing mysteries is like that.


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!