7 Things you need for a great mystery

Readers love a good mystery. One where they are surprised at the end. But how can you deliver such a suspenseful story?

  1. A strong hook
    • Does it grab the reader’s interest by teasing some further discovery?
    • Does it pose a question the reader will strongly want answered?
    • Does it contain dramatic potential?
  2. Active reader involvement in piecing together information
    • Make the reader your number one detective
    • Leave clues throughout
    • Have multiple possible explanations
  3. Red herrings
    • A clue or piece of information which is or intended to be misleading or distracting
    • A character who seems to be more suspicious than he actually is
    • An object that seems to have more significance than it ultimately will
    • A clue placed by a villain to send investigators down the wrong path
  4. Suspenseful dialogue
    • Having one character lie, giving information that contradicts what the reader already knows
    • Have a character say something bizarre or unexpected
    • Have a character withhold information or be non-cooperative
  5. Effective, descriptive mood and language
    • Setting – think of Hogwarts castle or the dark forest beyond
    • Descriptive language – be thoughtful about the adjectives and verbs you choose
    • Characterization – what your characters say and do, how they look and what they hide
  6. Well-structured chapters
    • Open in the middle of an unknown setting
    • Open your chapter in the middle of a tense situation
    • Begin with the discovery that something previously thought true is actually false
  7. A satisfying conclusion
    • Answer the pressing questions you’ve kept readers asking
    • Reveal truths about characters falsely suspected
    • Relate clearly to the beginning
    • Leave the reader feeling inclined to read your next novel