Each genre has different rules and challenges. We have mystery, suspense, adventure, and romance. Each plot has to be carefully thought out before writing a story. The writing process between romance and mystery was quite a change for me, with a completely different mind set. With romance, you plan out the plot around the meeting of a couple. As you write, you develop some sort of charisma between the characters, making the reader feel excited that one day they’re going to hit it off and fall in love. You, as the reader, know the outcome.
But with a mystery, the reader is in the dark. The author has to come up with a plot that no one knows about until towards the end of the story and hope they haven’t figured it out. In a mystery, you may or may not allow your reader to know who the bad guys are, according to whether it’s just a mystery or mystery suspense. In a mystery, the reader doesn’t know who the bad guys are until the end of the book. With mystery suspense, the reader knows who they are and it makes for a more suspenseful outcome.
For example: In a mystery, the heroine hears someone knocking at the door. The person behind the door is a mystery to both the reader and the heroine. In a suspense, the reader knows who is behind the door and is yelling to the heroine, “No! Don’t answer it!”
I would like to discuss the secrets of writing a mystery or mystery/suspense. First: your hero and heroine must stand out from the others, but how? Choose a name, personality, and build, which will distinguish them from anyone else. Develop their personalities. Put yourself in their shoes. During this journey, the main characters will change for the better and there is always a happy ending where the reader throws his hands in the air and cheers for the good guys. I have ten rules for writing this genre.
1. You must have villains that make us shiver from their unscrupulous actions.
2. Sometime in the story, the hero is thrown into chaos. His life may be threatened. At first, he doesn’t know why but eventually finds out. Whatever the hero or heroine is doing, it is causing a problem and stirring things up.
3. Strange things happen. The heroine or hero gets a mysterious letter in the mail, people are following them, and they are startled from strange sounds in the night, etc.
4. Secrets are gradually being answered as the story develops. Little bits of information are found here and there. Perhaps the heroine is keeping a secret from the hero that could help the case and he eventually finds out about it. As they search for answers, they begin to find clues that bring them closer to their unanswered questions.
5. Emotions are up front. This makes the reader become part of the story and sit on the edge of his seat. The secret is: “Show! Don’t Tell!” When a person is afraid, her face turns pale, her heart beats rapidly, and she begins to tremble, etc.
6. The hero is pursued, captured, and is in terrible danger. Now you have to figure out how he or she will get away.
7. The reader will be ahead of the hero and can almost see the outcome as he begs, “No! Don’t go in there!” Remember: The reader knows who is behind the door in a suspense novel. The reader doesn’t know who is behind the door in a mystery.
8. The hero or heroine is supposed to succeed. But how? How will he or she get out of the situation? He must have a certain skill so he can beat the bad guys. Or an idea comes to her mind, and she tries it out and it works.
9. The Roller Coaster Ride: Our heart pounds with fear and we worry about the character’s life one minute and laugh the next. We sigh when the hero is being romantic and the next moment yell at him for not thinking. This is called a “roller coaster ride” of emotions.
10. Black moment: when all is lost, when it appears they will never reach their goals.
11. The Climax: The bad guy gets what’s coming to him. The hero rides to the rescue. The victims need to see the villain get his just end.
12. Resolution: All loose ends are tied up here. You answer any questions the reader might have missed during the story.
These are my rules for a successful mystery/suspense. At the end of the book, the reader applauds as he watches the bad guy get his just rewards. He cheers when the good guy wins. He or she sighs when the hero takes the heroine in his arms and kisses her. Then the reader closes the book and hopes to read another one that is just as entertaining as this one.