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Monday, February 6th 2012

5:11 AM

The top 10 things to know . . .

I’ll take mystery for $1,000.00, Wink.

  1. Make sure your villain is as strong as your protagonist.  It takes a stupid sleuth to find a stupid criminal.  No one wants to read stupid.
  2. Short sentences build tension and a sense of danger.
  3. Take a breather.  Take the time to set-up your scenes so you have peaks and valleys in your storylines.
  4. Feet.  Your protagonist has to be proactive, scenes of talking heads are boring.  Make sure your character has their feet on the ground and is moving.
  5. Learn how to bury clues.  Nothing frustrates a reader more than when the villain isn’t introduced or a presence in the story until the last ten pages.  Your villain should be on the page without screaming “I’m the villain!”
  6. Use your breadcrumbs.  Make sure your protagonist has a logical reason to go in a certain direction, even if it’s misdirection.  If you victim was killed with a special kind of gun, then your protagonist should be talking to suspects who have access to that special gun.  Or – using poison?  Make sure it’s something the average person can get their hands on.  You can’t get arsenic on eBay.
  7. Give your protagonist a life besides crime solving.  Make them human.  Do they like to cook?  Do they go home every day and eat Spaghetti-Os?  What do they do in their down time?
  8. Means, motive and opportunity.  Think about these carefully.  Make sure your suspects have at least one of these things and always make sure you villain has them all.
  9. Don’t depend on the ringing phone.  It’s okay for the protagonist to get sidetracked every now and again but don’t make the solution a 1 phone call away and just keep having him/her miss the call.
  10. If possible, have someone else read it.  Someone who knows the genre.  Make sure they don’t have it figured out by page ten.  You want them to be on the edge of their seats until the very end.  And that end? Once you solve the crime, you’re done, so don’t fall into the pattern of having your protagonist explaining how he/she solved the crime.  Put it on the page.  Let us all see it along with the protagonist.

Happy murder and mayhem!

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