Some Tips on Writing a Mystery/Crime story

As the deadline for submissions to the 2021 Indie Authors’ Mystery/Crime Anthology draws near, here are a few tips for those who are struggling with the concept and deadline.

Your story could fall into one of the following categories:

1.    Mystery fiction includes police procedurals, private detective, and cozy mysteries. A crime has already been committed (usually a murder), and the story is about finding out who did it.

2.    Horror fiction includes gothic, paranormal, and non-supernatural stories. A crime is being committed (usually a murder), and the reader is forced to watch it as it happens.

3.    Thriller fiction includes psychological, action, crime, political, espionage, legal, and science fiction stories. A crime is about to be committed (usually a murder), and the protagonist has to try and stop it from happening. The reader becomes invested in this.


As I stated previously, stories in any genre can be turned into a mystery by following a few of the following tips:

How Do I Write A Mystery?

Mystery writing is quite popular in today’s fiction. According to statistics, forty percent of best sellers involve some sort of suspense.

Writing a mystery is especially enjoyable for the writer if they enjoy puzzles and developing a formula for solving a crime.

You will need to create a sleuth, Private Investigator, Curious teenager…this could be a professional, such as a police officer/detective or somebody who happens to like uncovering mysteries. 

There are many famous fictional detectives. The great part about writing a mystery is that it follows a typical plot.  Reading mysteries from other stories and novels will reveal several different mystery forms used by experienced and well-respected writers.

For instance: Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin write mysteries. Their detectives, Harry Bosch and John Rebus, solve the crimes.

You need to carefully consider the following when using the crime genre to tell your story:

1.    Does your idea fit into a general crime writing genre? Or a sub-genre? 

2.    Have you chosen an appropriate setting? Use the environment that will add the most suspense. 

3.    Do you have a beginning that will engage readers? And beyond the beginning, is the pacing of your story sufficient to create an air of suspense?

4.    Do you have an intriguing crime? The crime does not have to be grisly or off-putting. It should ask a question that the reader wants the author to reveal. 

5.    Have you chosen the right victims? Your victims do not have to be likable, but we should feel empathy for them. The best way to do this is to show the suffering of their loved ones. The victims also have to give their detectives clues to the antagonist’s identity, making sure the victim fits the crime.

6.    Is your protagonist likable? If not, is the charming, clever, or empathetic enough? You can also get away with writing about an amoral protagonist or an anti-hero if you do it properly. 

7.    Have you included the usual suspects? You need the four main characters (to be discussed in Friday’s Blog 8/13) in crime writing more than in any other genre. These four characters are the devices you need to tell the story. The most essential character to develop is the antagonist because they often define your protagonist’s story goal.

8.    Is your antagonist believable? Does your antagonist have the motive, the means, and the opportunity?

9.    Have you included enough clues to keep the reader interested? You must consistently tease the reader with new information—giving them just enough to make them want more, but not so much that you overplay your hand.’

10.Have you added red herrings? Use these to mislead the characters for a while, but don’t add too many. They can become annoying and tiresome.

11. Have you included enough danger? Alfred Hitchcock said, ‘Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.’ Readers want your protagonists to struggle before they solve the crimes.

12. Do you have enough cliffhangers in your book? I don’t mean significant cliffhangers. I’m talking about those endings dotted throughout the story that make your readers want to turn the page.

13. Do you have a believable ending? Does your ending answer the question asked in Number #4 above? If the story doesn’t answer the questions, the storyline is incomplete.

So, join me for the next blog – where we will discuss the main four character types needed to tell your story,

~Mustang Patty~

Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' 'Innocent for the Moment,' and 'Moment by Moment.' This is a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. Additionally, I've written a collection of short stories about my dogs, Howie and Bernie - with a 2nd Collection coming in late 2021. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2021 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on on August 1st of 2021. (The 2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology is currently available on - the collection includes 30 stories, written by 18 different Authors from three continents.) I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 37 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

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