I think that murder mysteries are popular because the reader gets to participate in solving the puzzle. As you read, it’s almost like a contest to see who will solve it first. The reader or the sleuth! It’s also fun for the writer to try to create a mystery that keeps the reader guessing till the very end. So, what are some of the things you need to do to write a good murder mystery?
First you have to decide what type of murder mystery you want to write. A police procedural with a detective for your sleuth, an amateur sleuth who has a compulsion for being nosey, or a private investigator. Or you might decide to use a semi-professional like an investigative journalist, for instance. But whatever you choose, there are certain things that remain the same.
- If you have an amateur sleuth, there must be a plausible reason why he/she wants to solve the crime.
- Have at least 4 or 5 suspects. With this many, your reader may very well be surprised by whodunit!
- Make sure all your suspects have a motive, the means, and the opportunity to kill the victim. In other words, it has to be possible that any one of them could have committed the crime.
- Each of your suspects must have a believable motive whether it be jealousy, revenge, greed, etc. If they don't, your readers will spot it a mile away.
- Don't keep your readers waiting too long for the murder to happen. Whether your victim is already dead when the book starts or later on, have it happen within the first three chapters.
- Distract your readers with red herrings.
- Create a character who your sleuth or detective can discuss the case with.
- And here is a golden rule. Your readers must know everything that your sleuth or detective knows. In other words, don't keep secrets.
- Make sure that all loose ends are tied up before the end. There's nothing more frustrating than having unanswered questions.
- Keep your reader in mind at all times.