Mystery Mayhem– Make Readers Crave More

Welcome, Lois D. Brown!

Lois is here to share valuable tips for writing a good mystery. Be sure to enter the rafflecopter for a vacation getaway!

Take it away, Lois.

Thank you, Lynn!

Robbed of Soul collageEvery story is a mystery in its own right. If there is no mystery, readers won’t invest the time. They want answers.

Will the girl fall for the right guy? Will the alien kill the human? Will the idiot teenager work through her pubescent angst? Will the protagonist find the murderer before she herself is killed?

I just released Robbed of Soul, an adult mystery that combines a modern-day murder with the 150-year-old legend of Montezuma’s treasure in Utah. While this is the fifth novel I’ve published, before writing it I boned up on some elements of writing an effective mystery.

Here are six of my favorites:

Point #1: A mystery is really a collection of smaller mysteries with one “biggie” that carries through the entire book. For example, there may be a murder investigation going on, but don’t forget about the unsigned note, the threatening phone call, an unidentified skeleton, a missing person, etc. 
Point #2: Once you know your plot, make a list of clues you can use in your story. And don’t forget the one “crucial clue” carefully hidden so readers will remember it only when the reveal is finally given.
Point #3: You have to have  red herrings—bits of information designed to mislead readers. If you don’t, your reader may figure out the mystery mid book. The is the kiss of death to any novel.
Point #4: Motive, motive, motive. For Robbed of Soul, I interviewed a veteran police investigator. He said in real life there are only a  handful of reasons people commit crime (besides mental illness). These are: revenge, jealousy, self-protection, personal gain, and love (or hate).
Point #5: Have the “right” number of suspects. Some say no more than six or seven serious suspects. Any more than that and you lose your reader.

Point #6: Unlike an “action” story, mysteries must contain promises to reveal more
information. These “promises” are what make your reader turn the page. Not the
car chase or the fist fight. Don’t forget that once you make a promise of information, you must deliver or incur the wrath of your reader and collect bad reviews.

Do you like books? Do you like Zions National Park? Join the ROBBED OF SOUL book launch giveaway and you may win 3 nights in a vacation townhome in Kanab, Utah.
(Thirty minutes from Zions.) A $450 value!
(Or a $100 Amazon gift card if preferred.) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rescued but psychologically damaged from a failed mission, ex-CIA officer Maria Branson takes the job of police chief in the quiet town of Kanab, Utah. Rest and relaxation are the doctor’s orders. She gets neither. Instead, a missing mayor, the spirit of a dead Aztec warrior, and the over-confident-yet-attractive head of Search and Rescue await her in a town whose past has almost as many secrets as her own. As Maria investigates a modern-day murder, she disturbs a world of ancient legends and deadly curses. Yet most lethal of all is Maria’s fear someone will discover just how empty her soul really is. 

Available at Smashwords, Google Play,
and Amazon – Robbed of Soul: Legends of Treasure Book1



Thank you, Lois. Those are wonderful tips for writing a mystery novel. Congratulations on your new release. Sounds like a great mystery!


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12 Responses to Mystery Mayhem– Make Readers Crave More

  1. Wonderful advice, Lois. Robbed of Soul sounds great. I have a hankering to write a mystery. I will keep these tips tucked away. 🙂

  2. Only a handful of motives – now I know.
    Putting together all those clues and mysteries is daunting. I admire those of you who write mystery.
    Congratulations, Lois.

  3. Never been to Zion National Park, but I’d love to see it! It’s tricky to balance all of the what-if’s and red herrings in a mystery, especially when the characters are running for their lives, from aliens, etc. but makes for a great read!

  4. Patricia says:

    Oooo, this sounds very much like a mystery I wrote about searching for Jesse Jame’s “lost gold” in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. It’s not published yet, but some day it will be.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. I’m pretty sure I’m incapable of writing a mystery (I lose track of what I’m saying half way through a sentence, let alone trying to plot intricate connections to have a mystery that makes sense!) but I love all those tips and will share them with a friend who is into writing mysteries.

    I’ve been to Zion at least twice (I have a travel mug from there even 🙂 ), but my favorite park in that area is Bryce Canyon…we named our son after it!

    • You’re so funny, Teresa! I don’t believe that you’re incapable of writing a mystery, but I can relate to losing track of what I’m saying half way through a sentence! I agree mysteries are challenging and Lois’s tips are good to keep in mind.

  6. yvettecarol says:

    Gosh, sorry I missed this post somehow! Matter of fact, I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. As a kid, I loved all the Enid Blyton mysteries, and then moved on to reading Nancy Drew. This is a good list. Worth keeping!

  7. Oh, that’s cool that you want to write a mystery, Yvette. I’ve never read any of Enid Blyton’s mysteries. Yes, Lois shared a wonderful list with us. Glad it will be helpful to you. Thanks for stopping in!

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