Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Secrets Behind Creating a Memorable Detective Character

Hello Writer Bees!

At the center of any great murder mystery is a great detective. Whether they are an amateur sleuth, a private inspector or a member of law enforcement, this is the character, or team, that is the heart of any whodunit. Let’s talk about the behind the scenes secrets to creating a detective character.

Be Inspired By Classic Detectives

Buster Keaton in Sherlock Junior (1924)

Before you dive right into character creation, consider the fictional detectives from classic murder mysteries. Right off the bat, we think of notable inspectors like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Of course, there are many more sleuths in detective fiction, explore and read as much as you can. Diversity is crucial in this research. Once you’ve read a bunch of different mysteries, focus in on a few characters. What stands out with them? What about them catches your attention as a reader? Really think about makes those characters memorable. Be inspired by the characters and artists that came before you. Then, put your own twist on the conventional detective and be original.

What’s in a Name?

You gotta admit, some detectives out have some pretty unique names. The kind of names that turn heads, and draw people in. No, this does not mean you must frivolously choose the most ridiculous name you can think of. Be mindful about the character’s name. Feel free to play around with uncommon names. Ever heard of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson? There’s a reason those names stick in our minds.

Image result for poirot gif

If you are a loyal follower of the Lady Jabberwocky blog, you’ll know that I am currently deliberating over names for my detective. I’m considering where he is from and what sounds easy on the ears. Since he will be the main character, his name must resonate the reader in some way.

Method to the Madness

Image result for detective poirot order quote method

Next, let’s talk about method, how the detective works. Do they use brute force and bust heads to gather information? Or do they inspect for clues with a magnifying class? Or is there a special ability at work? Whatever the case, there must be a rhyme and reason to every action during their investigation. However, it’s more than just method. It’s how they navigate the world and how they interact with other people. What’s their relationship with their sidekick? How do they interrogate suspects? Really take a walk in their shoes.

The Need to Investigate

Not only should you consider how they investigate, but why they investigate. Why are they inspectors? Why does the detective solve cases? Behind every sleuth lies their motivation, the drive that compels them to unravel mysteries. Are whodunits just big puzzles for them? Or do they have a high moral values? Or are they personally connected to the crime in some way? Explore the reason why your character is in this business, or at least in a position to investigate and find the culprit.

Related image

Plus, this would be a good time to think about a catchphrase. A bit cheesy but some characters do well with a tagline. For my main character, he lives by the idea that “Life should end in a period, not a question mark.” A personal philosophy like this one can highlight one’s motive and goal, and help the reader understand the character better.

Quirks and Odd Habits

It’s those little idiosyncrasies that make a character realistic. Detectives should be eccentric, odd balls. They should have quirks and peculiar traits, like something is a little off about them. Yes, Poirot is a genius, but what makes him memorable is his need for order and precision. Does your inspector have any odd habits when in thought? If you think about it, we all have our strange quirks. For this character, dial those traits up a notch, to be extra weird and interesting. Frankly, they should be borderline alien.

Image result for columbo gif

Wrapping Up May Of Mystery

When creating a sleuth, every decision must be a conscious, specific one. Be mindful of their name, how they work, and what odd traits define them. Think of a detective as another breed of fictional character. Trust me, the world does not need more carbon copies of Holmes.

The case is officially closed. With this post, May of Mystery comes to an end. It really was a fun month, writer bees. Hope you all learned something about detective fiction. What genre themed month should I do next? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Also, I just want to take a minute to proclaim my undying appreciation for my first patron, Mister Michael from NY. I love you to the moon and back. Check out my Patreon and help support me and this blog. Every little bit helps. Thanks everyone!

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Prompt of the Week: The Case Has Been Solved!

Write your own version of the parlor room scene. The detective gathers the suspects together and points out the killer.


#MayOfMystery

Write your response in the comments below. Best entry gets a shout out next week!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky


Go support the Patreon!

The 3 Types of Evidence and Mistakes to Avoid When Dropping Clues

Hello writer bugs!

Get your magnifying glasses ready, cause we are hitting the pavement and looking at clues for your next murder mystery. What’s a whodunit without some hard hitting evidence? First, let’s talk about the three types of clues that are involved in a typical mystery.

See the source image

Physical Evidence

Probably the most likely of evidence, these are the tangible clues. Something left behind at the scene of a crime? Or a blood stained murder weapon? Or even a piece of DNA, like hair or fingerprints? These are the clues the detective can touch, hold and smell. The kind of evidence they can physically interact with.

Thematic Evidence

As writers, we often throw readers a bone in the form of hints. While a bit cliché, tense situation tend to happen during stormy nights. Villains often wear dark colors. As the audience progresses through the story, they sense those little nuances you establish. Like the story itself is holding up signs in the background.

See the source image

Verbal Evidence

Not only is who said what important, but what is not being said. Body language and social cues come into play. What is the tone of a suspect’s voice? What is said in an argument or a secret whisper? How do they react during a murder investigation. Sometimes, mysteries become a game of questions and answers.

Mistakes to Avoid

So planting clues can be tricky. You don’t want them to be obvious with a big neon sign, nor do you want then to be completely hidden. Finding the right balance is critical. Here are some pitfalls to steer away from.

See the source image
The Overused to DeathThe hackneyed clues that are so overdone, they’re never taken seriously. Accidently revealing secrets, victims writing their last message in a pool of blood.
The Overcomplicated Clues written in some bizarre code never fly too well. Evidence that requires something to be deciphered take up a lot of time. Also, their highly unrealistic. A murder mystery isn’t exactly an escape room. What criminal takes the time to leave his plans in Morse code?
The Obscure Trivial Pursuit Consider what is common knowledge for the average reader. Obscure trivia can be a hindrance. Be sure to give the proper information behind the evidence.
The Obvious LiesA detective cannot lie to it’s audience. In the midst on an investigation, an object can not be one thing, then mistaken for something else. Detective’s must be forthcoming.

Hope this helps you guys in your mystery writing pursuits. Be sure to check out this week’s prompt as well as the post on Ronald Knox’s Rules of Detective Fiction. Have a lovely weekend, amateur sleuths!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Prompt of the Week: What’s Behind Secret Doors

A secret passage is discovered. Where does it lead?


#MayOfMystery

Inspired by last week’s post on Ronald Knox’s Rules on Detective Fiction.

Write your response in the comments below. Best entry gets a shout out next week!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky


Go support the Patreon!

Do Ronald Knox’s 1929 Rules on Detective Fiction Still Hold Up in 2019?

Hello my amateur sleuths!

Today, we are breaking down the fundamentals of mystery writing. Did you know that an author actually wrote rules for writing detective stories in the 1920’s?

Ronald Knox was a prominent figure in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. As a mystery loving priest, he published the Ten Commandments on Detective Fiction. Are the rules still relevant or outdated? Let’s investigate, shall we?

1.The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

True enough. If the author introduces the real killer towards the end, readers will feel cheated. How can they suspect a character that came out of nowhere? The criminal needs to be introduced within the first couple chapters of the story. Also, the audience, usually, isn’t allowed to enter the thoughts of the murderer. Their inner workings should remain unknown to the audience, until the very end.

2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

Now, I disagree with this one, just a smidge. If done right, multiple genres can be featured in a single story. Maybe a sprinkle of supernatural could work in a murder mystery. It’s all about balance. As long as the integrity of the whodunit remains solid, other genres can join in. A little fantasy and magic never killed nobody.

3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

I mean, he has a point. A second secret passage won’t garner as much surprise as the first secret passage. One hidden room is enough. Don’t push your luck.

4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

Fair enough, Mr. Knox. Basically, this rule applies to all made up devices. Hard to acquire poisons from foreign lands or complex inventions are far too unlikely and far too easy. Using an unusual method cheats the readers from unraveling the mystery themselves. Remember, detective fiction is meant to challenge the reader mentally, like a puzzle.

5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.

No, we’re not talking about those of Chinese descent. The term ‘Chinamen’ refers to evil mastermind character, maniacal laugh included. Antagonists need real motives. Their reason for committing a crime must be plausible. No sinister villains are welcome in a detective story. This is a battle wits we are talking about.

6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

Frankly, this rule reminds me of those classic Scooby Doo cartoon, where clues fall into their laps. As tempting as it sounds, coincidences, chance happenings and bizarre hunches are just too easy. Every clue must be discovered on purpose, with purpose. Don’t just hand over clues on a silver platter. Make your detective, and the reader, work for every scrap of information.

7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.

Where’s the fun in that? Listen to Knox, it’d be a disaster to have the detective be the culprit. Plus, you’re killing any chance for a sequel. No pun intended.

8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

For fairness, the detective and the reader must have equal opportunity to solve the case. However, the sleuth can keep some less obvious clues to himself. Just collecting the insignificant clues in his/her pocket until the big reveal, the parlor room scene. The reader knows every hint, but just isn’t sure how important each piece of information is.

9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

I object to this one. Although he wasn’t smarter than Holmes, I wouldn’t consider Watson an idiot. Seriously, Watson could pull his own weight. The sidekick can have brains too. Heck, they may even become as asset for a detective during an investigation. Instead of being slightly below the reader’s intelligence, why can’t a sidekick’s intelligence be slightly below the detective’s brainpower?

10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

See, I feel like nowadays, audiences are thrilled by surprise doubles. Not all doubles or twin need a heads up in advance. (Side note: Have you guys been watching Cloak and Dagger? Talk about shocking doubles.)


Yes, all of these “commandments” have been broken in detective fiction before. However, some of these rules are still relevant by today’s standards. Murder mysteries are complicated games, whether you choose to take note of the rules or break them is up to you. You’re the writer.

What do you guys think of Knox’s rules from 1929? Do you think they still hold up to today’s whodunits? Let me know in the comments.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Words for Writers Wednesday: The Deader the Corpse, The Better – Quote by S.S. Van Dine

“There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel,
and the deader the corpse the better.”
– S.S. VAN DINE


#May of Mystery! And check out this week’s writing prompt.

Support a Starving Writer’s Patreon

3 Tips on Writing the Twistiest of Plot Twists

Hello Writer Bugs!

Need to shake up your story? Send your readers on a wild rollercoaster ride with a good ol’ fashioned plot twist. That’s right, kiddos, in the spirit of MayOf Mystery, we are going to talk about plot twists. Think about it. Every great mystery story has at least one plot twist that leaves the audience gasping in surprise and shock. Let’s break down some tips and tricks to incorporate plot twists into your stories.

See the source image

Foreshadowing is Everything

Dropping breadcrumbs of information is crucial. Basically, foreshadowing is about dropping small clues in the beginning that become something much bigger later on. Hand your character one clue and have that piece of information develop into something else. In terms of a mystery, the briefest mention could turn into a crucial piece of evidence. How does this handkerchief left at the crime scene tie to the murderer?

If done right, the reader can reread the story and pinpoint the clues hinting the big reveal. However, be careful of foreshadowing too much, making a surprise reveal predictable. If that happens, consider deleting some of the hints, so your plot twist is more of a shock.

See the source image

Redirect with Red Herrings

For good measure, toss a couple of Red Herrings into the pot. What is a red herring, you ask? By definition, it is a phrase that means “something, especially a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting.” Think of it like giving the reader a wrong answer, which in turn, leads them to a false assumption. A piece of info that sets them on a path to nowhere. Redirect their attention and keep them guessing.

For a mystery, have the detective follow evidence they believe is true. Then, turn the tables on your own characters and have them react to the evidence being false. A dead end, so to speak.

See the source image

Eliminate the Obvious

Not sure what kind of plot twist can be added to your story? Try brainstorming a list of every possible, obvious thing that could happen. Then, throw that list away. Plot twists should come out of left field and be completely unexpected. There’s no fun in a predictable plot twist.

Make the reader, and the characters feel certain about something. “This is definitely the murder weapon. This was how the victim was killed.” If you assure them that there is only one possibility, them tricking them will be easier. When things aren’t as they appeared to be, that’s when heads start to spin.

Plot Twists as a Plot Device

A moment of surprise in your story can be a powerful tool for any writer. Trust me, there is nothing more satisfying for a author than pulling the rug out from under the reader. Just grabbing their assumptions and flipping them upside down. All in all, be aware of the clues you choose to show your reader, and wait for the right moment to make your big reveal. That is the key to any plot twist.

Talk to me, Writer Bees

What are your favorite plot twists in fiction? And what’s one surprise reveal you’ve written in your stories? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you guys.

May the plot twists you write be extra twisty.

Write with Heart,

Jabberwocky