Genre Tips: How to Write Mystery

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From Helping Writers Become Authors:

Following closely on the heels of romance, mystery is one of the most popular fiction genres of all time. At its simplest, the genre is a puzzle for audiences and characters to figure out together. At its most complex, mystery offers a deep-dive into humanity’s most pressing existential questions and threats. Populated by manifold subgenres, mystery offers room for many expressions, but its intelligent and experienced audience expects specific details in its execution. Learning how to write mystery stories is, as it turns out, about so much more than “just the facts, ma’am.”

Mystery can be divided into several categories, including but not limited to:

  • Thriller (focusing on dangerous stakes for the characters caught up in needing to solve the mystery, such as The Fugitive)
  • Procedural (focusing on the techniques used in solving the mystery, such as in CSI)
  • Whodunit (focusing on the solving the puzzle, such as Sherlock Holmes)
  • Crime (focusing on professionals from both sides of the crime, which may be a murder or may be another type of lawbreaking, such as in The Departed)

There are many other subgenres, and many of these can overlap or be included in other subgenres that are primarily focused on evoking a certain milieu or atmosphere, such as:

  • Cozy (focusing on a “cozy” setting, low-key stakes, little gore or violence, and usually a citizen “detective”, such as Miss Marple)
  • Noir (focusing on a “dark” and gritty urban setting, such as The Maltese Falcon)
  • Comedy (focusing on a comedy of errors, again usually with little graphic violence and a bumbling hero who solves the case by happenstance as much as anything, such as The Man Who Knew Too Little)

Like romance, mystery often crops up as a subplot within stories that would primarily be classed as other genres. Or the story may be set entirely within the milieu of a different genre, even though it still follows the mystery structure. For example, mysteries may often take place in a fantasy setting, as with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series or Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers,oops, Helping Writers Become Authors

2 thoughts on “Genre Tips: How to Write Mystery”

  1. One day, I really must visit this Writers Helping Writers blog and see what goodies they have there. In the meantime, the actual post comes from Helping Writers Become Authors (trust me, it’s in the link even) 😀

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