Every author wants to write page-turning fiction. You’ve heard the first rule of writing: don’t be boring. Of all the genres, mystery fiction makes it easiest to avoid boring readers and generate excitement and suspense.
Of course, there are pitfalls. One of the biggest dangers is focusing too much on the mechanics of plot and forgetting to create wonderful characters your readers will love.
Remember — your plot is what your characters do.
Here’s a question for you.
Mystery fiction: “how do I make this exciting?”
Try asking yourself every day (whether you’re writing mystery fiction or any other genre): how do I make this exciting?
When you look for opportunities to create excitement, you’ll find them.
Now let’s look at some tips to help you to create excitement and suspense.
1. Avoid info dumps. Mystery and suspense benefit from keeping things to yourself
A couple of years ago I suggested that you kill your TMI habit:
Want to write better fiction? Here’s the simplest way — kill your Too Much Information (TMI) habit. Keep your readers mystified as much as possible. Of course, there’s a real art to this. You want your readers to be in suspense, rather than confused and annoyed.
It’s worth reading the article linked above to get up to speed on arousing readers’ curiosity so that they keep reading. Anytime you stop your story to tell readers things you think they must know, you risk losing readers.
Avoid flashbacks, because they stop your story dead. Nine times out of ten, flashbacks involve information you — the author — needs to know, but readers do not.
TMI kills suspense and ruins mystery: here’s how to avoid it
Three words: write in scenes.
SHOW (scenes), rather than tell (narrative.) Whenever you’re telling, ask yourself: is this something readers MUST know, or could they work it out for themselves?
Your novel consists of scenes and narrative. When you have too much narrative (“telling”) you’ll lose readers. More importantly, before that happens, you’ll lose interest in your novel. (Or short story.) Endless narrative is boring.
2. Teach readers a little something, and write a bestseller
In 1990 Patricia Cornwall published the first installment of her long-running Scarpetta crime novel series, which is now up to 24 books. She started the forensic examiner/ CSI craze singlehandedly, and it’s still going strong.
Why are forensic examiner/ CSI novels and TV series so popular? A primary reason: readers learn about death in a mildly-scary way.
Many trend-setting, bestselling novels teach their readers something they didn’t know. Consider Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels — The Da Vinci Code et al.
When used as an adjective, “novel” means “new, unusual.” It’s worth keeping this in mind if you want to write fiction readers find exciting.
3. Keep it punchy: put readers in the center of the action
If you want to generate excitement and suspense, your writing must be visual.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
From Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, a novel I appreciate more every time I read it:
A vaquero with a loose manner that everybody was getting ready to hang at the first excuse anyway passed out from drink one night and let a blister bug crawl in his ear.
From R. D. Wingfield’s Hard Frost: (DI Jack Frost Book 4):
Now that there was no need to lie in the open on wet grass, the rain had eased off. He didn’t drive straight home. For some reason he detoured and took the road by the golf course, finding himself coasting down Cresswell Street where he stopped outside the house and switched off the engine.
Today, readers expect material to be presented visually.
When you’re writing fiction, you don’t need a multi-million dollar budget for each novel as movie producers do for a film.
However, you need readers to use their imagination. Provide food for readers’ imagination, and you’ll write novels which sell.
If you haven’t given mystery fiction a try, do it. You may well find that as you kickstart your own imagination, you do the same for readers, while having a lot of fun.
NEW, “Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense”
Word for word, mystery authors earn more than authors of most other genres, including romance.
Check out our new report, “Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense”. You’ll discover how, why, and what types of mystery fiction are selling today, and how to develop a mystery writing career.
All authors do; no one sets out to write a boring novel.
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.More info →
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
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