Writing Tips

5 Subgenres in Mystery Fiction Explained

Hello amateur sleuths,

The mystery genre is like ice cream.

Exciting. Delicious. And they both come in a variety of flavors.

Today, I’m breaking down some subgenres of mystery. Since some of these subcategories overlap with one another, I will try to focus on the 5 most notable subgenres in detective fiction.

Classic

A straight vanilla mystery right here. Everyone loves and respects a good classic done right, right? This has your traditional storyline where the investigator – who can either be a professional or a novice – solves a whodunit. A large chunk of the plot is centered around an inspector gathering clues and interacting with suspects. Depending on the sleuth and the target audience, the level of gore may vary. However, traditional mysteries tend to involve murder. In the end, the culprit is reveal and all loose strings are neatly tied in a bow. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nancy Drew are the prime examples of this mystery subgenre.

Nancy Drew GIFs | Tenor

Cozy

Looking for violence and sex and foul language? This is not the mystery subgenre for you. A cozy mystery is the kind of story you want to unwind with while wearing fuzzy socks. The tone is much lighter, and can even be considered wholesome and humorous. Book titles are pun-filled and corny. The crime is described in a less gruesome way. Typically, the sleuth is an amateur detective, nosy neighbor, or a knitter with some free time on their hands. Solving a mystery is like a fun hobby or satisfies their idle curiosity. These kinds of mysteries often include a fluffy companion, like a loyal canine or finicky feline. For a cozy mystery, solving the crime is all in good fun.

Old lady knitting gif 1 » GIF Images Download

Noir

Opposite of a cozy mystery. In noir fiction, like it’s film counterpart, the atmosphere is dark and gritty. The world is a cynical and hopeless place. Shadowy street corners. Femme Fatales a lighting cigarette. Hard-boiled detectives are flawed anti-heroes with ambiguous morals. Those are the common traits of noir. When it comes to what’s right and what’s wrong, the lines are blurry. Noir endings can often be open ended and open to interpretation. Is justice served? Is the detective a hero? All valid questions in noir.

She Devoured Men The Way She Devoured Cigarettes | Movie stars, Bogart and  bacall, Humphrey bogart

Police Procedural/Forensic

For readers who enjoy those CSI shows, this subgenre is for you. For this subgenre, the main focus is police investigation. And it’s as accurate to real life as possible. Think unsolved crime documentary. Usually, the main character’s occupation is in law enforcement, in some way. Whether that be a cop or a forensic scientist or a coroner. In this subgenre, a lot of time and detail is devoted to the forensic science side of a case. Autopsy reports, crime scenes and dead bodies are described in almost too vivid detail. Not exactly for the faint of heart. But hey, reading a story like this, you may actually learn something about police procedure in a realistic case.

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Supernatural

Need some spooky Halloween vibes? This mystery subgenre is centered around the paranormal, investigating things that go bump in the night. In a supernatural mystery, the story designed to startle and thrill readers, dipping its toe in fantasy and horror genres. Elements of the unknown, ghosts and mystical are mixed into the narrative. Haunted houses and misty graveyards would make an excellent setting, I’m sure. The supernatural mystery is a puzzle – for both the reader and the detective. Explaining the unexplainable is the main goal of the investigator. When the story concludes, there’s usually a logical explanation for the paranormal disturbances.

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What is your favorite mystery subgenre? And if you are writing/have written a mystery story, what subgenre would you categorize it under? Or what is your favorite mystery subgenre to read? Talk to me in the comments. I love to hear from you guys.

Hope you all are enjoying May of Mystery so far. If you have any ideas for future mystery posts, let me know!

Safe safe and keep writing!

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

15 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

Hello Writer bees!

Hope you are are staying safe and writing wonderful work. And if you are feeling stuck with your writing, that’s alright too. Sometimes, it can be hard to get the words on the page. Don’t be discouraged. Writer’s block happens to everyone, myself included. So today, I’m sharing some tips for beating the block and rekindling inspiration once again.

Be honest and ask yourself, “how do I break out of this funk I’m in?” and “What’s stopping me from writing?” Depending on what you need, there are three courses of action to take. Whatever route you choose, find what works for you.

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Push to Writing – the need to shake up you writing habits.

  1. Write in some place other from your usual spot. No need to chain yourself to your desk. Write in a different room of your home. Or outside. A new, quiet place.
  2. Freewriting: Write the first things that comes to mind, whatever it may be. Follow where the words take you. On a time crunch? Take a 5 minute writing sprint and write as fast as you can.
  3. Set deadlines and stick to them. Reach for a daily wordcount goal that’s achievable and works with your schedule. Even if it’s only a 100 words a day. You’ll be 100 words closer to your finished draft.
  4. Try writing exercises and prompts. They can be a fun, well-needed challenge for some writers. But where can you find prompts? I post a Prompt of the Week every Monday. Check them out!
  5. Use a different writing tool. Instead of a keyboard, switch to paper or sticky notes or colorful markers.

Recharge – The need to step back from your writing endeavors.

  1. Take a break! A real one. Relax. And don’t think about your story. A little separation from your WIP is fine. Sometimes, lightbulb moments happen when you least expect. I speak from experience.
  2. Go for a walk. Alone, with music, or with a dog. Walks are great. Socially distanced walks while wearing masks is even better.
  3. Get cozy and curl up with a good book. Fuzzy socks included. Let your mind unwind and dive into a whole new world.
  4. Drink some coffee/tea/alcoholic beverage of choice. And stuff your face with your favorite food. Writing is hard work. Treat yourself to that tub of ice cream or bag of potato chips. I won’t judge.
  5. Sleep it off, or just lounge around. Rest, physically and mentally. There are times when the best ideas can come right before you fall asleep. Keep a notepad on your nightstand ready, in case you need to jot down ideas.
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Getting motivated and inspired! – the need to get pumped to write again, or find inspiration.

  1. Browse through photos; especially images that relate to your story’s genre. Create an aesthetic board featuring images that remind you of your story. If you are writing historical fiction, keep a folder of snapshots from that time period.
  2. Talk it out. Talking to another person, writer or non-writer, about your ideas can get those creative juices flowing. Find someone you feel safe with and who encourages you. Don’t waste your time with people who judge you harshly.
  3. Read some quotes from some famous authors. Gather inspiration from the authors who came before you.
  4. Connect with other writers. The writing community is a fantastic group of creatives. Make friends, chat about WIPs, support each other through those tough times. It’s nice to have someone in your corner, to have that support system.
  5. Be okay with writing trash. Not everything you write will be perfect. And that’s fine, that’s what editing is for. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for the story that future readers can connect with. That’s the real goal, isn’t it?

How do you get through writer’s block? What’s your advice to a writer who is struggling? Let me know if the comments.

Stay safe and keep writing!

— Lady Jabberwocky.

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How and When to Cut Unnecessary Characters From Your WIP

Hello writer bees!

Today, I’m sharing some tips on removing unnecessary characters from the narrative. No, I’m not talking about killing off a character, I’m talking about not giving life to begin with. While you are in the drafting phase, know that some fictional folks don’t always make it into the finished product. And that’s fine. How do you know a character is useless? When do you “kill your darlings”, as they say? Let’s figure that out together, shall we?

everything is trash, except for these books!; 9.26.18

My Personal Experience

This dilemma has actually happened to me before. Hopefully, you can learn something from my personal experience as a writer.

A couple months back, I decided to remove one of my suspects from my murder mystery WIP. I thought about it for quite sometime. He wasn’t a poorly constructed character, far from it. However, I realized, the story could survive without him, that his presence wouldn’t be missed if he was gone. And that was a problem. If Also, part of the reason I kept him around was because I wanted five suspects total. Bad idea. Now, I realize four suspects is enough. And perhaps this rejected suspect idea can be reused in another story someday. You never know.

A bit of change had to be done. For consistency sake, scenes needed to be rearranged and edited, plot threads knitted together. Relationships between characters shifted a smidge. An aspect of their nature transferred to another character, adding complexity to their personality. Very quickly, I learned an existing character could do the work of an unnecessary character. Because I removed this suspect, I feel like my story is much stronger without him than with him. I believe like I made the right decision.

Function over Beauty

At the end of the day, every character needs a function. Why is this character in the story? What purpose do they serve? What role do they play? How do they move the plot along? If you can’t answer these simple questions, that’s a real problem. Try to put each character under the microscope and really consider what function they serve in the grand scheme of the story. Then, you can start weeding out the undesirables and letting the true stars of the show shine. And listen, just because one character doesn’t fit one narrative, that doesn’t mean you can’t recycle that character idea in another story. Maybe they’ll be a better fit somewhere else instead. Save ’em for the sequel, I say.

Plot Hole in One

No matter how useless the character, when you do decided to remove them, there will be an empty space. And you don’t want your reader to know or notice a missing piece in the narrative. Think of it like hiding a hole in the wall by putting a picture frame over it, if that makes sense. Be certain all plot holes are covered and tied up any loose threads. That all the relationships and personalities of the existing characters are solid. It might take some rewriting, but don’t be afraid of a little extra drafting. The end result may be even better after these rewrites.

No Tropes Welcomed

Look, frankly speaking, I don’t think “trope-free literature” is a thing. Don’t be surprised if you find a cliché or two in your work. Keep in mind, too many tropes and clichés will drag the narrative down into total boredom. If the character is considered an overused stereotype, they probably fall in the “cut” category. Insist on keeping this extra character? Okay. Trust in your instinct as a writer. Nothing a little reworking can’t fix. Be creative and original and break the mold of a trope. Flush out a character’s personality and motivation, giving their real depth and complexity.


Bottom line, every character needs a function. No one wants dead weight in their story. Really consider what purpose a character holds in your narrative. Weed out unoriginal characters. And if you do decide to remove the character, the changes should make the plot stronger.

Have you ever had to cut a character from your story? Are you considering it? Talk about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Keep writing and stay safe, writer bees.

— Lady Jabberwocky

Character Building with Ginny Di (Writing Exercise)

Hello Writers Bees!

Sorry for my absence last Friday. My boyfriend (Mister Jabberwocky) and I had a weekend getaway to upstate New York. It’s absolutely gorgeous this time of year and we had a wonderful trip. We even went to Sleepy Hollow to search for the headless horseman. No luck, though. Still, what an adventure it was. 

Speaking of Adventures….

You know what I miss? I miss playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends. During the Covid crisis, getting the adventure party together has been a challenge. Everyone is trying to stay safe, which is completely understandable. I’m just sitting on a DnD character that won’t see the light of day anytime soon.

Speaking of Dungeons and Dragons….

There’s this talented creator, Ginny Di, who does all this amazing cosplay and nerdy content on YouTube. If you’re interested in Dungeons and Dragons, I highly recommend her content.  She’s even got a Patreon. Anyway, she recently began a series of POV videos aimed towards character building and roleplay practice. Check out the video right here!

Basically, your role-play character is having their wounds treated. While tending to your injuries, the healer is asking you a bunch of questions. Her video inspired me to give this writing prompt a shot. This is my take on this conversation, featuring my DnD character, Poet the Tiefling Rogue. Enjoy!


Have you been dead before?

“Sure. Once or twice.” Straining to sit up, a shooting pain stopped her movement. An arrow was lodged in her abdomen. She winced and laid back down on the bed. “That doesn’t look good.” 

What’s your name?

“Poet.” No last name was offered.  “And no, I don’t know any good poems. Try the bard I came in with.” 

Where are you from?

“Originally, from way up North. Like off the map North.”

Do you miss it?

“Do I miss the ten feet of snow and the smell of dead fish? No, I’m happy to get away from that place. The people there are just as unpleasant.” She scoffed as she surveyed the blood and dirt covering her body.  

Ever plan on going back?

“Maybe. I might have some unfinished business with the lighthouse keeper up there. I’m in no rush. My gang and I have some other stops to make first before we head North.” 

Do you have any nicknames?

“Other than ‘damn charlatan’ and ‘devil spawn’?” Poet donned a wolfish grin. “Friends call me Poe, for short.” 

Tell me your favorite animal.

Poet tilted her head to the side in contemplation, staring at the leak stained ceiling. “Cats. I like how nimble and mischievous they are.” “This might be strange to say, but I think cats and tieflings are similar, if you think about it.“

Do you have a lot more clothes at home, or is this kinda… it?

”I’ve got more clothes in the wagon. Sometimes, I need to change my appearance quickly.” Her fingers touched the torn coat beside her, the fabric embroidered with various constellations. “This one was my favorite though. I should get this patched up.” 

How’d you get that scar?

A red scar swiped across the side of her ribcage, standing out against her lavender skin. “Run in with an angry mob. I’m not well liked in some circles. Hard to believe, I know.” 

Are you a jokester, or more of a serious type?

“A sense of humor is never a bad thing.“ Despite the pain, she snorted a short laugh. “Serious people are such wet blankets, aren’t they?”

Tell me about the last great meal you had.

“My companions and I roasted a whole pig over a campfire the other night. You ever have crispy pork skin? Delicious.” Like a content feline, her tail swished at the memory. “We were right by the beach. Sharing stories and drinking leftover rum. It was… A real treat.” 

What’s your favorite food?

“Love a warm beef pastry. Or that cinnamon apple pastry from Dorbinshire. Basically anything wrapped around flaky dough that you can hold in your hand is my favorite. But a hearty rabbit stew is nice from time to time too.” Tongue trailed across her fangs. “Oh and rum. Lots of it. With lime juice.” 

Are you a picky eater, or will you just kinda eat anything?

“Willing to try anything once.” Her shoulders bounced as she smiled. “That’s the best part of traveling from place to place. You’ll always find a decent meal, no matter where you go.” 

How well do you deal with pain normally?

“Terrible. I tap out at the first bit of pain,” At that moment, the healer removed the arrow sticking out of her body. Poet clenched her fist, resisting the urge to scream. “You little bitch,” She cursed, then reluctantly apologized to the healer. “Sorry, force of habit.” 

Do you enjoy being part of a group?

“Depends on the group.” She hummed. “For years, it was just my partner and I, out on the open road. Now, things are different. My current allies aren’t so bad. A bunch of knuckleheads, if you know what I mean, but not bad at all.”

Any party member in particular that you worry about?

“My partner, Endymion. He took a hard hit during the fight. I didn’t think he was going to make it.” The next part of her answer came with some hesitance. She smiled despite herself. “He has been my closet companion for the longest time. I’d be dead in a ditch if it wasn’t for him.” 

Are you keeping any secrets from your party?

Poet’s silver coin eyes glanced at a nearby mirror. Within the reflection, a hazy silhouette of a spector haunted her. A chill tumbled down her spine. Her body tensed, hearing the sound of faint cackling in the air. “Yes.” A simple, tight-lipped answer.

Do you like traveling all the time, or do you just put up with it?

The conversation moving towards travel let her muscles relax. “Yeah, I enjoy waking up in a new town every couple weeks. I can’t stay in the same place for too long, or I start to feel antsy.”

Are you an insomniac, or one of those lucky bastards who can fall asleep anywhere?

“Haven’t had a full night’s sleep in quite awhile. Most often enough, I’m staring at the ceiling, praying for a couple measly hours of shut-eye. Being a light sleeper doesn’t help much either.”

How old are you?

Old enough to know a lady never reveals her age.” Poet propped herself up on her elbows. “Also old enough to drink. You wouldn’t happen to have any booze around, would you?”  

Are you worried about how things will change when you’re older?

“Never really thought about that before.” Her face pinched in contemplation. A cozy retirement didn’t quite feel her speed. What would the Tiefling do when her bones gave up on her?

You have a five year plan, or are you just taking it day by day?

“Day by day.” Poet watched as the healer finished up with the stitches. “Life is unpredictable. I’m not the type that makes a fuss about future endeavors.”

You have any special talents or fun hobbies you could pay the bills with if you sheathed your sword for good?

“I can read your fortune, if you’d like. I got cards in my pack. And I brew potions too. Want to buy some? I’ll give you the family discount. 100 gold a pop.” She gestured to the three glass bottles full of sunset orange liquid.

Is there somebody you’d trust to help you take out your stitches, or are you more of a do-it-yourself kinda person? 

“I can take care of them myself. Don’t have much medical experience but I’ll figure it out. I always do.” Carefully, Poet rose from the bed and began collecting her belongings. “Endymion says I’m stubborn and never ask for help. I refuse to be some damsel in distress.”


Hope you enjoyed getting to know Poet the Tiefling a little better. With NaNoWriMo right around the corner, I think a lot of writers will find a character building exercise helpful. Whether you play dungeons and dragons or not, anyone could use this prompt to workshop their characters.

To all my DnD players out there, how are you keeping your DnD spirit alive during quarantine? And for the NaNoWriMo participants, how are you prepping for National Novel Writing Month? Talk to me in the comments, I love to hear from you guys.

Stay safe and keep writing!

— Lady Jabberwocky

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A Crash Course in In Media Res

Hello Writer Bugs!

Today, I’m sharing with you a writing trick that will hook readers from the first sentence. Yes, you heard right. Grab the audience’s attention instantly with In Media Res.

Confused by this Latin phrase? Don’t worry, I’m simplifying this narrative technique. This is the crash course in In Media Res.

Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Start in the Middle (In ...

What is In Media Res?

Glad you asked! The term In Media Res translates to “In the midst of things.” This means a story hits the ground running and begins in the middle of a scene. Forget about lengthy exposition or flowery description. Start in the middle a conversation or an action sequence. Later on, you can drip feed readers information and backstory through flashbacks and dialogue.

Why does this trick work? Because it piques the audience’s curiosity. And that’s any writer’s goal, to catch the reader’s interest. It makes them feel like they have to catch up with the plot to learn more about the characters and their world. Think Alice chasing after the white rabbit.

No Context? No Bueno.

Yes, there’s is a wrong way of applying this writing technique. If you start a story too late, and don’t give any bits of context on characters and setting, the audience will be lost and confused. They wont’ keep reading if they have no idea what’s going on.

Be smart about when and where you choose to start the opening scene. You want to hook readers while giving them enough context to keep their attention. A fine line on balance on, I know. However, when you use in media res right, it can turn your story into a page turner.

Stories that Start In Media Res

Want to see this technique in action? Check out some of these attention grabbing titles.


Hope you guys found this post helpful. In media res can be a powerful tool in your writer arsenal. And if done right, you’ll have your readers on the edge of their seats.

What are your favorite stories that jump right into the action? And what do you think of this writing technique? Have you used in media res before? Lemme know in the comments. As always, I’d love to hear from you guys.

And please click all the links, it helps support this blog.

Stay safe and keep writing!

— Lady Jabberwocky

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Get a Clue: The 3 Types of Evidence In Mysteries

Hello writer bugs!

What’s a whodunit without some hard hitting evidence? Clues in mysteries can lead the detective and the reader down either the right path or the wrong path. I’m breaking down the three types of clues a sleuth will find during their investigation.

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Physical Evidence

Probably the most likely of evidence, these are the tangible clues. The kind of evidence the detective can physically hold, feel and smell. And remember, this item can be planted to frame someone else.

Examples:

  • Forensic evidence – Hair, fingerprints, blood etc. If you are writing a historical mystery, research how detectives used science to solve cases during that time period. You’ll be surprised.
  • Personal items – This could be anything, from jewelry to hand written notes to photographs. Whatever the object, it connects the culprit to the scene of the crime or connects the killer to the victim.
  • Murder weapon – Possibly the most important piece of evidence in a case. A bloody knife or a smoking gun can tip the balance of any investigation. Really consider where the weapon is found. Was it found near the dead body or was it disposed of?

Thematic Evidence

Here’s where the creative in creative writing comes in. As writers, we often use subtle nuances as hints to the reader. Think about how the audience experiences the story, the surrounding atmosphere of a scene.

Examples:

  • Weather can set the vibe of a scene. Tense situations tend to happen during dark and stormy nights.
  • Villains, especially Femme Fatales, wear light colored clothing then gradually transitions to a darker appearance.
  • That “invisible” character that is just too quiet and too innocent. Like the shifty looking butler or maid ducking in the background. You know who I’m talking about.

Verbal Evidence

Sometimes, mysteries are simply a game of questions and answers. Not only is who said what important, but what is not being said too, meaning body language and social cues.

Examples:

  • Verbal – How do suspects answer the inspector’s questions? How do they talk about the victim or the crime itself? Consider the tone of their voice. Do they sound abrasive? Defensive? Anxious?
  • Secrets – Everyone has their secrets. Who is gossiping about who? What lies are being told? What happens when secrets get exposed?
  • Body language – This is the “show, don’t tell” rule comes into play. Instead of writing “He was acting nervous”, describe how the body moves when someone is nervous.

With all three types of clues mixed into the plot, you will definitely had one solid mystery on you hands. What’s your favorite detective story? Lemme know in the comments!

Keep writing and stay safe!

Lady Jabberwocky

Watson Who? Tips on Creating A Detective’s Sidekick

Holmes and Watson

Poirot and Hastings

Nick and Nora

These are just some of the iconic duos of detective fiction. Where would an inspector be without their trusted companion? Today, I’m talking about the detective’s partner in crime, the “Watson” of a story and what to consider when creating this character.

The Function of the Foil

Opposites attract, right? The purpose of a foil, or a foil character, is to highlight the traits of the main character. Their contrast in personality or appearance reflect and highlight the specific traits and quirks of a protagonist.

For example, if the detective is level-headed, maybe their sidekick is impulsive. If the detective is a total genius, maybe their companion is a bit oblivious. Play around with the duo’s personalities. You might find their differences make them even more compatible.

For the People

Not only does the sidekick serve their detective, they also serve the audience. Usually, the “Watson” is charged with narrating the story, and every step of the investigation. They pull information about the case from the inspector, or from their own observations, and present them to the reader.

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As a close ally, know the inspector well. Keep the detective human. When the main sleuth is hard to read, their companion acts as a bridge between a distant detective and the audience. Through their interactions with the sleuth, the partner keeps the detective human, and that is such an important role in a mystery plot.

Dynamic Duo

The heart of any mystery is the relationship between the inspector and his companion. Partners balance each other out. Let there be a solid comradery and playful banter. Readers want to see how these two characters play off one another. Oftentimes, the sidekick is there for the detective to bounce theories off of. Think about it, Watson is an extension of the detective’s thought process.

Are they roommates? Lovers? Acquaintances? Have fun with their relationship between the inspector and their companion. Readers want to root for a dynamic duo. Sure, they may not be on the same page all the time. During their sleuthing, morals and consciences will be tested. A little conflict between the two makes things interesting.

At the end of the day, a sleuth’s sidekick can be a valuable addition to a mystery story. Really consider the kind of partner your detective characters need by their side during an investigation.

Who are some of your favorite detective duos? Lemme know in the comments!

Stay safe and keep writing!

– Lady Jabberwocky

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Do Ronald Knox’s 1929 Rules on Detective Fiction Still Hold Up in 2020?

(With May Of Mystery right around the corner, I’ve decided to repost this article for last year. Enjoy!)

Hello my amateur sleuths!

Did you know that one famous 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 plotwise. 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.

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 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

3 Tips on Writing the Love Interest

Happy Valentine’s Day, Writer Bees and Bugs!

Love is in the air, even in fiction. No matter the genre, a love interest can add complexity and conflict to any story. If your MC is feeling the love, then check out these helpful tips on creating a character’s sweetheart.

Experiment with Chemistry

Love at first sight doesn’t make for an interesting story. Maybe attraction at first sight, sure. For the most part, feelings must develop gradually, not instantly. No matter what stage in the relationship, take the time to build up and explore that chemistry. A great lover could become an even greater foil for another character.

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Also, keep in mind the kind of relationships your characters would pursue. What’s their sexual preference? Are they interested in one night stands and flings? Or are they looking for a serious relationship? OR are they even looking for love in the first place? These factors will dictate how their romantic relationship lives and breathes over the course of the story.

Flaws, Glorious Flaws

Look, how many hot billionaires with six packs are there in the world? Seriously? Don’t create a character that is the ideal partner. Give them flaws. Real flaws. Consider physical and/or personality quirks. Are they short and stubborn? Are they pessimistic with a crooked nose? Be creative but be careful making a completely unlikeable character. Find that balance.

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A romantic interest shouldn’t just be a cookie cutter person. They must be able to stand on their own, as a complete character. Their entire world cannot revolve around another person. Whether the love interest is a main character or a side character, at the end of the day, readers want complex, relatable characters.

The Big Bad Conflict

No romance is perfect. Every couple has their struggles. With an internal or external battle, conflict is needed so things aren’t so lovey-dovey. Maybe one is afraid of commitment? Or are outside forces (society, race, war etc.) are straining their bond? Give the couple obstacles that they can (or cannot) overcome together.

Try tying the their conflict to the overall plot line, that way, the relationship won’t seem forced or out of place. Set the stakes high to ensure the problem is meaningful enough to the characters. Like a problem bigger than leaving the toilet seat up.

Bottom line, love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and that’s a good thing. Embrace those imperfections and write a real romance.


How do you guys write love interests? Any tips? Talk to me in the comments. And Happy Valentine’s day everybody!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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What’s in a Name?: Tips on Naming Characters

Hello hello writer bugs!

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, naming a character is like naming a child.

Whether it’s for a main character or a background character, the names you choose should be significant. Names can tie characters to the setting, to their roots, or just hold a greater symbolic meaning. How do you find the perfect name for a character? I’ve got some tips that are sure to help.

Baby Naming Websites

Baby naming websites for mommies-to-be are actually really helpful. Check out the extensive lists and dredge up some ideas for names. If you are looking for a name that begins with a certain letter or a specific cultural origin, you’ll be able to search names that fit your criteria.

A Name with Meaning

Sometimes, names have a deeper root meaning. And those meanings can fit into a character’s personality. You’d be surprised what some names translate into. Not every reader is going to make those connections, however, you, as the author, will know. A meaningful name may influence a character’s identity.

For my MC, his first name is Graham, which means ‘grey home’. That image really connects with his gloomy and mysterious personality.

Historical Context 

If your story takes place in another time period, keep in mind the historical context. Names that are common today may not have been 100 years ago. Find out what names were common at the time. If you Google something like ‘names from 1920s’, a list of popular names from the 1920s will probably pop up.

Also, check the Social Security Administration website for ranked list of common names of the decade. It’s pretty useful, and it’ll give you a feel for the time period and what inspired names during that era.

Sound it Out

When in doubt, sound it out. Say the name out loud. If it doesn’t sound right, or its difficult to pronounce, or just sounds like a mouthful, then something’s off. Keep trying. Once you’ve found a name that suits your character, it should just click. Like, “huh, that one sounds right.”

Consider the Entire Cast

Try not to have characters’ names sound similar, or readers may be confused. Think about your fictional crew as a whole and note if names sound too alike. By differentiating characters, readers will have an easier time following the story and connecting with individual characters.

One time, in fiction writing class, a classmate had two characters named Flip and Clip. Unironically. Don’t have a Flip and Clip in your story. I’m still confused about it.


How do you go about naming your characters? Lemme know in the comments!

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Become a Patron! // Writing Services // Follow Me on Twitter

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