A good mystery is like your favourite drink (you can quote me on that :)). You want it uninterrupted, probably cozing up in your favourite spot. Or it’s familiar, a safe order in this world filled up with a whole wide range of genres. I don’t really know where I was going with that analogy.
Maybe I just want a drink as I write this.
But seriously – a good mystery!
It is so satisfying to guess the perp (especially when you guess right), to fit the pieces together as the writer keeps dropping hints, keeping you on the edge and that final ‘aha’ moment when everything is explained and you were way off the mark.
So I thought, with all my experience of reading mysteries, I could write one. And I gave it a shot.
My comfort genre is contemporary YA…and romance. It’s my go-to to read AND write. Maybe because I’ve soaked up enough of those stories, I can tell the fetching tropes and probably determine easier where I would want the story to go because I have thought the same while reading. I find that those stories just come alive for me. To be honest, I also used to shy away from the romance but I found I was good at it. Like in stories sent out to competitions, it was usually the romance stories that got any spotlight. I figured I should start listening to everyone else and not hold on dearly to some other label. It doesn’t mean that I’m not trying my hand at others but I’m not dismissing something I’m good at either just because I hoped it would look different.
Anyway, I tried my hand at mystery. I personally felt like I hyped it up just enough, I mean I know this sounds like absolute bragging, but I felt it was a nice hook. Questions all around which I would want in a mystery, get people reading further, keep them guessing, get them invested – all those things a good mystery does. All that could be known with my first paragraph was that there was a crime committed. And I was so lost as how to continue. Utterly unbelievably lost!
Do you usually go into the story with the end in mind or does the author also get shocked at the end, you know, with those stories that write themselves? Does the lighting have to be moody to get the creative juices flowing?
And how do you drop the stepping stones, do you look back at your writing and find somethings sticking out and go ‘great, I can use that.’? When I think of this, I think of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders (and I am slowly but surely on my way to reading all or most of her books). How the clues were there all along and only Poirot could unearth them. Sure, it seemed like there was a deliberate misdirection in the book – which I also thought I would incorporate – but the reveal was shocking. At least to me.
Even with all my quiet learning, I was failing the story. I mean, I didn’t even have the basics of a good mystery which is the crime. I kept thinking it would come to me as I write, something dark and sinister – a punch worth all the buildup. It didn’t. I wrote away anyway. I thought I had my perp and then I fleshed her out and she was soft and likeable and I got so attached I decided to scrape that. Guess what I did next?!
I gave the perp a romance story. (I know, I know, what was I thinking).
Anyway, I needed to submit the story and I was coming up to the deadline without the mystery filled out. So I played it safe and swam back to my little lot in the sea of writing.
I’ll definitely give it a try again. I don’t think I have properly written a mystery, so without the pressure of a deadline, I would want to know how it goes.
In the spirit of a good mystery, if you don’t mind, please share one good mystery you’ve read recently.