Monday, November 28, 2011

Writing Mysteries Series, Part III by Cynthia Hickey

We’ve talked about characters, clues, and red herrings. We’ve typed The End to our wonderfully twisted mystery. We’re finished. Or are we?

Nope. You must read straight through to make sure everything lines up. Let someone you trust read it, also. If they figure out your culprit too soon, it’s back to the drawing board. Often, you can insert a character who only pops up once in a while to throw your reader off track, yet not change the line of clues leading to the conclusion. Remember: THERE MUST BE A REASON FOR EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN YOUR STORY. 

Every character must have a purpose for being there. Every clue must lead the reader and character down a path you’ve set before them. Every red herring must appear true. A poorly written mystery will have the reader flinging your book across the room. A cleverly constructed one will have your reader eagerly awaiting the next installment. Mysteries are challenging to write, but oh, so much fun.

If your mysteries are continuous, as mine are, you need to wrap things up in the last one. Each book has its own puzzle to be solved, but if you started a romance in book one, then it must end in a happily ever after in book three, or the last book in your series.
Being a person who prefers to write without an outline, I’ve discovered this is virtually impossible to do with a mystery. I had to get my paper and pencil and outline the crime. Who was present? Why were they there? Why would anyone suspect them? What happens next, then next, you get the picture. An outline is invaluable in writing a mystery. You need something to refer back to when your thoughts get as twisted as your plotline.

I hope you’ve learned a thing or two, and I can’t wait to read your mystery in print.


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

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