8 Tips on How to Write a Mystery – The Urban Writers

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Keep 'Em Guessing: 8 Tips on How to Write a Mystery

by The Urban Writers

When you are learning how to write a mystery novel, you need to first understand that it is considered a subgenre of crime fiction or detective fiction. A primary character in a mystery novel is on a journey to solve a crime.

A mystery, often known as a whodunit or detective narrative, builds suspense by not exposing the antagonist's identity until the end of the novel. Readers are invited to help in the investigation by mystery authors who leave clues throughout the plot.

The Different Types of Mystery


This genre is usually a blood-less crime such as poisoning and it is a victim that nobody really likes. It is like a good riddance type of scenario. If the puzzle of the mystery is appealing and you don’t really care for emotions or excitement, then this would be a great choice.


A caper mystery is known to be comical. The plot is entertaining, whether it involves a clumsy investigator or a witness that has lost the plot (if you know what I mean). And even knowing there might be a dead body laying on the ground, it helps the reader to have a laugh, and in turn, relax.


It's just as it sounds: hardboiled. It's a hardcore mystery with a lot of violence and gory information. The detective is a professional who frequently battles their own issues in their head.


Softboiled mysteries are similar to Hardboiled mysteries, but with a lighter tone and less emphasis on the specifics.


A domestic mystery is one in which an animal plays a role in helping the owner solve the crime. Book clubs, bakeries, and other such establishments are examples.

Police Procedural

These stories emphasize police investigations. It is usually a team effort with department politics and clashing personalities. Police procedural makes for good book series.

Mystery book


Since it is its own genre, it's relatively straightforward. A mystery with ghostly components and unidentified messages adds a layer of suspense to the mystery and allows for some interesting twists.


This genre is all about the mood. The main character is usually a professional mystery solver which has character flaws. The mood is grey, bleak, and unforgiving.


The tension is high in suspense, yet it moves at a slower speed. It keeps the readers wondering and turning the pages all the time. This isn’t just a whodunit, this genre is a mystery where the hero is being pursued and we have to wonder if the hero will survive.

Romantic Suspense

This is suspense but with romance. Assuming that the hero wins at the end is a double payoff of seeing justice prevail and love that conquers all.

To qualify as romantic suspense, it needs to be exactly half suspense and half romance. The characters also have to end up together and they can’t be together at the beginning of the book.


This genre is where the readers root for the criminals. It is usually some elaborate heist and we are rooting them on to pull it off.

Amateur Sleuth

This is a very common sub-genre where a layperson tries to solve the murder of someone that they have a close personal connection with. It emphasizes the personal connection. This is where the crime is left unsolved and it is up to them to do it themselves.

Crime novels

The Structure on How to Write a Mystery Novel

Several mystery books deviate from the usual formula. But, in general, most books follow a similar pattern:

The Offense

The audience is exposed to the crime that the plot revolves around.


The detective is attempting to solve the mystery. They interrogate each suspect, look for clues, and pursue new leads in the hopes of catching the criminal.


The detective discovers a new clue, an unexpected lead, or a flaw in a suspect's alibi, which surprises them—and the reader—and shifts the investigation's focus.


The detective solves the mystery by uncovering the final piece of the jigsaw.

The Conclusion

The criminal has been apprehended, and all unanswered questions have been answered.

The 8 Mystery Writing Tips That We Have All Been Waiting For

Whether you're writing your first mystery novel or simply wanting to improve your mystery-writing abilities, there are a few things to bear in mind as you write.

These mystery writing tips that I have listed below will not only leave your readers in suspense but will also have them coming back for more!

The Cliffhanger

It is important to have your reader hooked right from the start. You want them to bury themselves in the content and turn the pages furiously to find out what happens next.

The hook can be anything, but a decent way to start is by presenting the crime right away. Of course, this isn't how everyone does it, so do what you believe would work best for your novel.

Create an Eerie Atmosphere

Without the correct tone, even the most surprising story twist would fall flat. Set a mystery tone that quickly immerses your readers in your novel's world.

A dark environment, such as an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere or a deserted cabin in the woods, detailed language of the case's unsettling aspects, and intriguing dialogue. This will immerse your readers in the action and entice them to keep reading.

Slowly Reveal Information

Consider how your reader will react to the way you pace your story as you write. Control the amount of information you provide, as well as how and when you reveal it. Every mystery novel has a core plot, but it's generally constructed around smaller moments that keep the reader's attention throughout.

Create Characters Who Are Strong and Compelling

If you're writing a mystery novel, you'll need characters who have a purpose. Why are they a part of the investigation? What does this have to do with them, and why is it important to them?

Your characters should have a personal connection to the case or at least a sense of purpose in it. In the end, the case will only strengthen them, and during that time, they will be pushed to their limits.

Leave a Trail of Evidence

Make the reader feel as if they are a participant in the story. Throughout the story, leave clues that will allow them to play a part in uncovering the mystery.

It shouldn't be too obvious, but the reader should find them intriguing and fulfilling as they go through the various possibilities.

Crime scene

Add a Few Red Herrings to the Mix

Red herrings are "leads" that mislead your characters (and readers). Red herrings can be rather predictable in some aspects but may be a lot of fun to write, provided they're properly woven into the story and the evidence lines up.

It provides meaningful filler as well as character development. Plus, it will keep your readers on the edge of their seats.

Read Other Mysteries

If you pay attention, great mystery books are filled with writing advice. Read best-selling crime fiction by new authors as well as classic mystery books.

Return to the starting page once you've reached the conclusion of the book and the mystery has been solved. Reread the story, noting how and when the author provided clues and employed deception to both solve the mystery and heighten the tension.

Do Research Well

If you're going to poison the victim, make sure you use a real poison name and understand how it works. If there is any police work involved, be sure you are familiar with the proper procedures.

Make friends with the cops in your neighborhood or work at the library for a while. Readers will notice if any of the technical aspects are incorrect, and as a result, lose confidence in your writing skills.

Final Words

You can start outlining your story once you have your characters, ideas, and a list of suspects, and clues. The plot usually revolves around the efforts of a (real or amateur) investigator to solve the crime.

You should discover a personal or professional cause to make it crucial for the detective to solve the crime. This is important if you want your reader to be invested in what happens in your work.

Disperse your clues as you go, organize your plot so that it begins with a bang and then rises in suspense and excitement until it reaches a climax just before the book's conclusion. This high point should occur when the crucial clue appears or when the detective realizes its significance.

Mystery thriller writing is so much fun and is perfect for letting your imagination run wild. When you start writing, remember to just write and edit later. That way when you read over it again, you may come up with more ideas of things to put in. If you follow the tips I have given, you will be on your way to writing a successful gripping mystery novel.

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