Monday, 18 August 2014

4 Things NOT To Do When Writing Mysteries

(1) Introduce your murderer as soon as possible but not at the same point in every novel. I love TV shows like Castle or Elementary but seriously, you make it so easy to know who the killer is. A) It's the guest star paid the most money or B) it's the person interviewed and dismissed early on.  Lee Lofland, who reviews the TV show Castle on his blog, and he says he can always guess the killer because it's the character they bring in early, ask a few questions, and dismiss.  Don't make the same mistake when writing your mystery novel. While it's important to introduce your murderer relatively early in the story, it shouldn't be obvious.

(2) Don't make your characters do stupid things. Turn on the bloody lights and leave the house! Why are you going into the basement in a nightdress with only a poker?

(3) Seriously, have your character tell someone where they're going. How much time would it take to send a tweet or text message? How often do you hear a detective say: "There's something important I have to do or check out." And then, what a shock, they're alone and in trouble.

(4) Just tell them on the phone already. Ever seen this: The detective receives a phone call from someone who says that they have an important clue but can't divulge it over the phone. Come over at once. So the detective arrives only to find the caller dead on the floor. I know it prolongs the suspense and the length of the novel but why can't you just tell them on the phone. 

What are your peeves when it comes to detective/mystery/thriller novels?

Photo: komehachi888 /Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

21 comments:

  1. Those are all good. The stupid ones annoy me the most. Most horror films are a series of stupid actions from start to finish.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love the corgi picture, Clarissa!

    Yes, especially the second one. And I've seen the 4th one quite a bit, too. Very annoying!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What Alex said. :) The one that gets me is the stupid actions like going to investigate 'things that go bump in the night' without protection. Matter of fact, as you said, just get out!

    ReplyDelete
  4. The one I hate the most is the one that is played over and over again - the third one. Gotta check out something, but gives no clue where they're going or why. They could at least leave the address or something on a piece of paper on their desk for someone to find later. The corgi is cute.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, Clarissa, I couldn't agree more! These are all things that annoy me! I especially dislike your second one. OK, fill your fuel tank, charge your 'phone and wear the right clothes for wherever you're going!

    ReplyDelete
  6. #2 for sure. If she goes into the basement in the dark wearing a nightdress and carrying a poker, the villain better have barricaded all the windows and doors, cut off the electricity, taken her phone and the loaded Glock from her nightstand. What I'm saying is if she's going to do anything stupid, don't make it look like she doesn't have a brain. Make it her only option. And maybe she has a second gun hidden down there :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And sometimes, by some miracle, the person manages to survive.

      Delete
  7. I do know I always scream "Don't investigate the strange noise by yourself, just get out of the house"!!! whenever this happens! LOL!

    Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  8. These are good points. #4 I see a lot on old shows of the mystery variety.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "There's no time to explain!" is another over worn expression in mysteries. I do love Castle, but the show isn't the best example of a good mystery. Great stuff Clarissa.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Having characters who make bad decisions is so common in any kind of horror or suspense that it borderlines on cliche.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw your post and I can see you too hate stupid characters.

      Delete
  11. Walking into a dark room or place and not turning on any lights. That's just dumb. Of course someone is hiding in the dark.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Clarissa ... sometimes I get frustrated - but the story is told - I just hope I understand what happens at the end .. as I've probably wandered off half way through ... and those phone calls are a wee bit irritating too ..

    Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great list! I like it when there are a few suspects, but don't necessarily when EVERY character is a suspect.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Good topic. I think your "don't make your characters do stupid things." My pet peeve is with the law enforcement characters. I have had to stop reading more than one mystery when the police character's behavior was so asinine that I couldn't take it anymore. It sure helps to have extensive knowledge in that area or find others to consult with to help make the story realistic.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, the phone call thing really chaps my hide! They have the killer or vital information and leave a message that says..."I'll tell you when I see you." Only they die. Ugh!
    Raquel Byrnes

    ReplyDelete
  16. Your list is perfect - even though, in real life, I sometimes find myself doing the really stupid things that we scream at the actors on the television or movie for doing - hear a noise outside and go check it out all alone. I know it's because in real life I don't fear that someone dangerous is really lurking in my yard . Yea, I know, that's how people get killed.
    In books , my pet peeves are the ones you mentioned. The worst is going to meet an unknown witness at a remote location without telling anyone. Drives me insane. I also get mad when they enter a suspected serial killer's lair without backup . I also hate when the writer goes too far trying to make the reader suspect someone we know will never turn out to be the killer. If the goal is to hide the clues with misdirection and the writer does it by focusing way too much on one other person then I automatically discount someone who could have been a viable suspect with a little less evidence pointing in his direction .
    I'm writing this on my phone so I hope it all comes out ok.
    I've missed you and am glad to be back in the blogging world .

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's a great list and I completely agree with every one, but entering a dark house and NOT turning on the lights has to be the stupidest - especially if you're alone. I live in a completely safe place/area and even I would never enter my house without flicking the light on (just inside the front door) first.

    ReplyDelete
  18. ooooooo the phone one. It drives me crazy! And yes, I want to see a show where the big name guest star is not the victim or the bad guy just a great red herring!

    ReplyDelete
  19. My pet peeve is the dark room. Your list is really good.

    ReplyDelete

If you don't have anything nice to say, say it anyway.

Popular Posts