3
Jul

How to write a Best-Selling Mystery Novel


There is a simple template for how to write a best selling mystery novel.
The Plot

Chapter one must have a hook that compels the reader to keep turning pages. Perhaps it’s a hard-boiled detective bringing the killer to justice, or a romance with the boy next door. Along the way, you’ll laugh or cry, be scared or surprised, along with the hero. When the story ends, you hope there’s a sequel because you want to spend more time with the characters.

Conflict

A compelling story must have something that prevents the main character from easily fulfilling his goal–conflict! If the CIA agent catches the villain on page one, there is no adventure. If the girl’s heart is broken in the first chapter, where is the romance? If someone isn’t looking for the lost puppy, he’s just a puppy.

Supporting Characters

Besides the intriguing main characters, a good story has compelling supporting characters. They are the friends, relatives, or even the protagonist’s pet–someone to interact with the main character. They may provide the conflict or help bring about a resolution, as in my Black Cat Mysteries, where Black Cat aids in solving mysteries.

Beginning-Middle-End

A good book has an exciting beginning, a compelling middle, and a satisfying end. The beginning of the story jumps into an event that convinces the reader to travel this journey with the main character. A mystery to solve, a romantic conflict or a specific goal must be revealed within the first few pages to keep the reader turning pages.

The middle is the crux of the story, where the character struggles to overcome the obstacles, but events go from bad to worse, and when all seems lost, we come to the exciting conclusion. The reader leaves laundry in the dryer and dishes in the sink to see how our hero solves the problem.

The ending must tie up all the loose strings, solve all the puzzles and reach a conclusion that is acceptable to the reader. Did you ever read a 300 page novel and the main character dies on the last page. You want to heave the book against the wall!

The Satisfying Conclusion

In a satisfying conclusion, the hero gets the girl, the killer is revealed, the interplanetary six-headed monster is relieved of at least two of his heads, or the puppy finds a home. The conclusion leaves the reader satisfied and wanting to buy the sequel.

The Right Editor

Now, the nuts and bolts: An author needs a good editor to look for spelling errors, poor punctuation, poorly written sentences or scenes that don’t make sense. She suggests corrections in a constructive manner to help the reader becomes one with the protagonist or at least travel alongside the hero.

The Book Cover

The book cover is snappy, good looking, brightly colored with an easily read title and intriguing picture, which suggests the story line. The appealing cover tempts the potential buyer to read the summary on the back and then, to buy the book. Mission accomplished.

That’s all there is to writing a best seller. Easy-peasy, right?

Comments

  1. Ellen Cardwell says:

    You make it seem so easy! But if it were, more good mystery novels would line our shelves.

    Keep them coming, Elaine.

  2. Elaine Faber says:

    That's the point. No matter how easy it sounds, it really isn't! We just keep trying.

  3. Patricia Fuqua Lovett says:

    Great article, Elaine.

  4. Elaine Faber says:

    Thanks, Patricia. I'm sure you could add some other great advice to this list.

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