Tag Archives: mystery

How to Build Suspense In Any Genre

(This is a repost. Because this lady is on a mental health break. Thanks for understanding.)

Hello writer bugs!

Whether you are writing a mystery or a horror, or even a romance, suspense can be a total game changer in any kind of story. Here are some tips that will have your readers hanging on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

What is Suspense?

Dictionary definition:
A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. A quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.

Simply Put: The fear of the unknown. Keeping the reader guessing. Who is the true murderer? What’s in the haunted mansion down the lane? Building suspense means offering the reader a question that they feel they must learn the answer to. The trick is to prolong giving them that answer while maintaining their interest.

Now, let’s talk about techniques you can use to help build up suspense in your story.

Solid Villains and High Stakes

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A stirring tension and conflict can be crucial in any genre. Great antagonists who challenge the protagonist create that exciting conflict. Explore the villains motivations. Why has he set this evil plan in motion? What is his connection to the hero? Throw away the idea of a villain who only wants to rain on a parade for no good reason. Really flesh out the character and make them a worth opponent for the hero.

The stakes must be high. Whatever is at risk, whether it’s a loved one’s life or the world’s safety, needs to be important to the protagonist. So important that they will jump through any hoop the antagonist throws at them. And if they fail, they would be devastated.

Point of View

Focus on the character’s perspective. See the world through their eyes. Let the reader learn information as the character does. Narrowing the point of view is an excellent way to build tension. Unlike an all knowing, omniscient narrator, the character won’t know what’s around the corner and what will happen next. Consider who tells the story, and how the story gets told.

Think about it like this. Imagine shining a flashlight into a dark room. You only see the beam of light, and not the rest of the room. The freaking Frankenstein monster could be standing in the corner, and you wouldn’t even know. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

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Pacing and Ticking Clocks

Experiment with style a bit. Short, fragmented sentences give a feel of breathlessness. Brief pauses will add weight to a scene. Keep in mind about the pacing of the overall story. The longer answers stay hidden, the longer some readers will continue reading. But don’t hold out for too long, readers may loose interest. It’s all about leaving a trails of information breadcrumbs for them to follow.

The use of time is another way to build suspense. Everyone can relate to the feeling of time running out. Your MC should be working against the clock. That’s why scenarios like “You have 24 hours to find the girl” work so well. Will the hero make it in time? What will happen if time runs out?

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After a Dark and Stormy Night

Hope you guys use these techniques when adding some suspense to your next story. What’s your favorite moment of suspense in a book or film? When I think of suspense, I always think of the movie, Speed. Keanu Reeves and a bomb strapped to a bus? Classic suspense thriller.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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Month of Mystery Wrap Up!

Hello Writer Bees!

May of Mystery was awesome, in my opinion! Thank you all so much for stopping by and celebrating mystery fiction with me. All of your comments were wonderful. Felt like you guys really got into the spirit of detective fiction. In case you missed it, here is a wrap up of all the posts from May of Mystery.

Mystery Prompts of the Week

Main Friday Posts


Another Genre Themed Month?

This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for awhile now. May of Mystery was fun and all you amazing readers really seemed to enjoy it. If I do another month dedicated to a specific genre, what genre should I focus on? Fantasy? Horror? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Apologies for the short post this week. I’ve been feeling sick and exhausted, but I didn’t want to let you guys down. What do you want to see next on this blog? Talk to me in the comments.

Stay safe and keep writing!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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Scream For Ice Cream and Murder (Mystery Short Story)

Hello Writer Bugs!

For this post, I’m sharing my response to one of the mystery prompts of the week, describe a crime scene. Here’s a short story, featuring the detective duo from my WIP. Let’s go back to the scene of the crime.

Warning: This scene may be disturbing for some readers. Contains blood and a dead person.


I’m not going to sugarcoat this. There was too much blood for an ice cream parlor. No pun intended.

The cops needed an extra hand on this one. It was a curious case. And curious cases in Coney Island tend to fall under Mister Barnaby’s territory.

As the detective and I entered, the little bell by the door jingled. It was what you’d expect from your classic ice cream corner shop. Squeaky linoleum floor. Squeaky red barstools. Buckets of dairy. Cash register full of dough. Dusty chalkboard that listed all their sweet treats.

I checked out the menu. “15 cents for a sundae? The crooks. Though a chocolate cone does sound pretty good.”

Oscar, now is not the time.” He sighed, eyes inspecting the shattered front window, glass shards on the porch steps. Thick eyebrows pinched together on his wrinkled face. “Someone broke this from the inside, not the outside.”

“What’s that mean?” I shoved my hands in my pockets and took a guess. “Someone was locked in?”

His shoulders shrugged. “Perhaps to make it appear as though there was a break in. Our culprit is none too bright. The world is full of imbeciles.” Leaning on his walking stick, the detective teetered towards the bar. Behind the counter, a trail of blood drippings. A red handprint stamped on the doorway leading to the backroom. The temperature plummeted. In the cluttered storage, jars of sprinkles and candies lined the shelves.

“Didn’t Officer Lester say the body was back here?”

More splashes on red on the floor. A path of drippings led to the ice locker. Strange, the walk-in fridge was locked from the inside. Like something out of a locked room mystery we’d listen to on the radio. It took some fiddling, but eventually, I heaved the heavy vault open.

Between tubs of cream and cake boxes, a round man – Sal Pellegrini – slouched on a chair, with an ice pick lodged in his neck. “Jesus Christ,” My stomach twisted into a knot. “Yikes, right in the jugular. What happened to you, big guy?” Apron splattered with red and brown mess. Skin turned blue. Dark purple fingernails. Frost lingered on his thinning hair. He smelled like vanilla and death. In his left fist, a crumpled piece of paper. A recipe card. I handed it to the old man. “Any ideas on this one, boss?”

His eyes flicked back and forth, like he was reading something. “I remember this. Newspaper article published on September 29th, 1921. Mr. Pellegrini’s family recipe was deemed the best Strawberry Shortcake in New York.” He teetered closer to the body, a shaky grip on his walking stick. “Well, everything make perfect sense now.”

“It does?”

“Of course. It would seem someone tried to steal the famous cake recipe. When Mr. Pellegrini refused to hand it over, his attacker stabbed him in the parlor room.” The detective hummed, glancing around. “Somehow, he fled from his attacker, but was losing too much blood.”

“You got all that from a blood trail and a crumpled piece of paper?”

“Certainly.” He pointed to the brick wall that Mr. Pellegrini’s back was leaning against. “Move that one.”

A single brick disconnected from the wall. When I pulled the loose brick out of its place, we found a hiding spot of more recipe cards. Chocolate fudge, Vienna cake, Lemon sponge cake. Old recipes passed from generation from generation. “He locked himself in, to protect his family’s heirlooms, I’d imagine. Hid his prized possessions in plain sight. Quite impressive.”

“Or absolutely insane.”

“Regardless, a killer is still out there. There is more work left to be done.”

Mister Barnaby turned to leave the ice cream parlor. As always, I followed him, like a shadow. But not before I helped myself to a chocolate ice cream cone, with extra sprinkles.


This is the last post for May of Mystery. Thank you all so much for sticking around. Hope you all enjoyed!

Stay safe and keep writing.

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

What Its Really Like to Write Mystery Fiction: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hello Writer Bees!

Over the years, I’ve received comments and questions about what writing my whodunit is like. Plenty of times, I’ve talked about my murder mystery WIP here on this blog. My main characters have even appeared in a short story or two. When I started this blog, I wanted to help encourage other writers in their creative endeavors. However, I also wanted to share my honest experience as a writer. The ups and downs that come with a writer’s journey to publication.

So, in the spirit of May of Mystery and sharing my writer life, here what’s its really like to write a mystery.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Why I Chose to Write a Murder Mystery

When I was in college, My interest in the mystery genre grew. I started reading detective fiction, like Holmes, Poirot, Marlowe, etc. Those books inspired me to imagine my own dynamic duo. At the time, I was writing an epic fantasy story – which didn’t get past chapter two – and the detective on the back burner kept nagging me, “write about us instead!”. Then, when I finally had the opportunity to give mystery writing a shot – in fiction writing class, no less – I fell in love with my sleuths and their sleuthing and the 1920s NYC setting.

Looking back, I’m not surprised I chose to write a mystery, based on my personal story preferences. Plot twists, complex characters and dialogue-heavy tales are a thrill to read. There’s something oddly satisfying about an extraordinary event happening then unraveling to reveal the truth. It’s like that feeling of fitting the last piece of the puzzle into place. That’s what a good mystery is, right? Something out-of-the-ordinary suddenly becomes a clear picture. It’s exciting, magical even.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Creating the characters is my favorite part. Suspects are awesome to craft, giving each character probable cause and motive to commit the crime. Nothing in this kind of story is black and white. Every character has their good and bad traits, and everyone has the potential for evil. You don’t know who to trust. That’s what makes suspect characters – and sleuthing protagonists – feel realistic.

Dropping clues can be fun too. Like I’m some Easter Bunny leaving presents behind. Let me just hide this bloody murder weapon behind this bush. Since my murder mystery is set in 1924, it’s an extra challenge. No modern technology is present and forensics is minimal. I really have to consider what would be evidence in a murder investigation for this specific time period.

And it sounds cliché to say, but I really do like my detective protagonist and his assistant. Detective Barnaby and Oscar Fitzgerald have this great banter that’s a pleasure to write. I enjoy writing about them investigating together. I wonder if Doyle felt the same way about writing Holmes and Watson’s relationship. When an audience is reading a mystery, they connect to the detective. They root for the hero(es) to unravel the mystery.

Tricky Business

For me, outlining and narrative pacing are my weakest points as a writer. Always have been. I’m working on it. Structuring the sequence of events in a mystery can be difficult sometimes. Timing is everything. When do the readers and the detective learn this piece of information? Is it too early in the plot? Too late? Does this timeline make sense for this investigation? I’m still learning how to perfect the perfect outline.

Also, I’ve been told my pacing is too fast. My narrator is a fast talking New Yorker, how could I not tell a story with some pep in its step? Finding the right tempo is tricky. I’m learning I don’t have to speed through things to keep readers engaged. It can’t all be drama filled and actioned packed. There needs to be moments of relief, a calm pause now and then, to break up all the excitement. All while maintaining the intrigue of a mystery.

What You’d Be Surprised About

With any genre, I’d imagine there’s some level of research involved. Some of it can be lovely, like researching 1920s fashion. Often times, the search history on my computer – or my wandering thoughts in general – can lead to pretty disturbing things. Most mysteries involve murder, so I have to consider all elements of death. Cause of death, details of a corpse, crime scenes, blood and guts. It’s not for the faint of heart. And when creating suspects, I have to highlight the worst in people. Does this make me a dark and twisted person? Probably.

Final Thoughts

Look, this is my first time writing a full length novel. I don’t have all the answers. Writing is a constant learning process. But I’m happy I have this blog to share my writer experience. Mystery writing is a challenge, it’s true. In the end, getting through these challenges will have been worth it, because I will have a complete murder mystery story to be proud of.


Hope this post gave you a little insight into my experience as an mystery writer. If you want more posts on my personal writer journey, let me know in the comments.

For the mystery writers out there, what is your experience writing mysteries? For all creators, what is your biggest challenge crafting a story? What is your favorite part of writing? Talk to me in the comments, I’d love to hear from you guys.

Stay safe and keep writing!

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Are S.S. Van Dine’s Rules for Writing Detective Stories Still Accurate?

Hello amateur sleuths!

Welcome to the start of May of Mystery, an entire month dedicated to mystery writing. Two years ago, I broke down Ronald Knox’ Rules of Mystery Writing. Surprisingly, he’s not the only author who has created rules for mysteries. In 1928, S.S. Van Dine published “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories”.

Are these guidelines still relevant to today’s detective fiction? Or are they outdated? Let’s investigate, shall we?


1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.

Absolutely. A mystery story is not only a tale for readers to enjoy, it’s also a puzzle for readers to solve. It’s a game. All the clues must be on the table. Both the sleuth and the audience must have equal opportunity to unravel the mystery in the end.

2. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.

Red herrings and plot twists are one thing. Misinforming the readers intentionally is another. Readers are counting on you, the writer, to tell it to them straight. If the antagonist tricks the detective, they are tricking the audience as well, and that’s fine. Withholding information, lying to, or just messing with readers for laughs? That’s bad. It’s a disservice to the audience.

3. There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.

I disagree with this one. Stories can be multi-layered and fall under more than one genre. A love interest never killed nobody… Wait, let me rephrase that. Having a romance element mixed in with a mystery plot is not impossible and need not be discouraged. Heck, it could even add to the suspense of the plot, if done correctly. You don’t have to be chained to one genre. Balance is key. A love interest, or a spark of romance, in a murder mystery is fine, in my opinion.

4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It’s false pretenses.

True. The detective cannot be the culprit. That’s like saying the protagonist and the antagonist are the one in the same. That actually makes no sense. Like, where’s the conflict? He’s right, it is false pretenses.

5. The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.

For a clue to accidently fall into the detective’s hands? Where’s the fun in that? Coincidence very rarely happens in an investigation. Sure, that may happen in cartoons, but that’s taking the easy way out. Think of real life investigators. I’m sure they’d love a murder weapon to just fall from the sky. Make sure the evidence is found by means of detection and deduction, not gift wrapped with a bow for the sleuth.

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6. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.

You need a detective in detective fiction? Shocker. Well, you don’t necessarily need a professional detective, an amateur sleuth or private investigator works too. I do agree though, whatever the main character’s job is, they do need to detect. No matter their profession, the protagonist must dissect clues and actively investigate the crime.

7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader’s trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.

For a minute, can we just appreciate “the deader the corpse, the better” line? Pure gold.

In my opinion, this point shows its age. The central crime of a detective novel doesn’t have to be a murder. It usually is, but it doesn’t need to be. There are plenty of mysteries out there focused on a kidnapping or a robbery or another major crime. Those can be just as compelling as a murder mystery.

8. The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic seances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.

I understand where he’s coming from with this one. In the real world, yes, a detective must find clues by rational means. However, if a mystery does dip its toe into other genres – say, fantasy or supernatural – them magical means could be plausible. But, for the most part, sleuths should be grounded in logic. Finding evidence in such a mystical way does cheat the audience a bit, unless a fantasy element is heavily present in the plot.

9. There must be but one detective — that is, but one protagonist of deduction — one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn’t know who his co-deductor is. It’s like making the reader run a race with a relay team.

Clearly, this man did not live long enough to see the animated wonder that is Scooby-Doo and Mystery Inc. You can have more than one detective on the case. Many great mysteries have dynamic duos or reliable Watson-types in them. Multiple characters can work together and share the glory of solving a case. A team of sleuths can share the spotlight, each member bringing something different from the investigation.

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10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.

Agreed. Don’t introduce the culprit halfway through the story. That’s cheating. The reader must have an opportunity to solve the case alongside the detective. The antagonist should appear in the beginning of the story and be actively involved in the plot, one way or another. Otherwise, you risk duping the audience, in an unfavorable way.

11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that wouldn’t ordinarily come under suspicion.

True enough. ‘The butler did it’ is a bit cliché. When you have a line-up of suspects, think about who, on the surface, looks least likely to commit the crime. That character might be the best choice for a compelling antagonist.

12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.

Keep in mind, this list was written in 1928, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was published January, 1934. That being said, it is possible to have more than one culprit. Typically though, yes, there is a main criminal performing the crime in a given story. Someone has to be the bad guy, right?

13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.

Personally, I’m not a fan of stories involving secret societies and mafias. At the start of any mystery, the suspects need to be on the same level of suspicion, the same playing field. And yes, if one of the suspects is a freaking crime boss or hit man for the mob, that does not bode well for the plot. It may even fall into the ‘too cliché’ category.

14. The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure. 

Again, I believe a mystery can dabble in other genres, even fantasy. In any world – real or otherwise – the murder must make logical sense. I do think the means of murder and detection must be realistic. When things feel too farfetched, readers will lose interest.

15. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face-that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.

When it comes to evidence, you must be upfront with the audience. All the pieces of the puzzle have to be on the table. They don’t have to make a crystal clear picture, but all the relevant clues must be gathered before the ending. Remember, timing is everything. Be aware of when and how the reader and the detective learn the facts of a case.

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16. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no “atmospheric” preoccupations. Such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.

Well, too much description can be boring. No one likes a word vomit. Details set the scene and paint a picture for the reader’s imagination. On the other hand, subplots can actually benefit the story as a whole. Also, flushed out character are important. Character must have depth and feel genuine if an audience is going to connect with them.

17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities. 

Basically, the culprit should be someone the audience least expects. That makes for an ever so satisfying plot twist. This relates to the point regarding mafias. If one suspect in the lineup is a rogue with a long crime record, that character being the killer may come across as predictable.

18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.

What an anti-climatic ending that would be. All that investigating and clue hunting for nothing. An actual waste of time, for both the reader and the detective.

19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction — in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader’s everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.

Before you ask, gemütlich means pleasant and cheerful. I had to google it. Although, there’s not much cheerfulness in a detective story. Every suspect needs a solid motive. Whether those are personal means or not, that’s up for debate. Thinking about it now, I suppose people are driven to crime due to personal reasons. Make sure each suspect has a clear motive or carries an ounce of suspicion, like any one of them could have performed the crime.

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Last point is the lightening round!

20. And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author’s ineptitude and lack of originality.

  • (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. With modern day investigation techniques, I’m sure this is possible.
  • (b) The bogus spiritualistic seance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. Yeah, I don’t think that would work. No good.
  • (c) Forged fingerprints. On the fence with this one.
  • (d) The dummy-figure alibi. Sure, that’s probably fine, right?
  • (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. Love this! Saw it happen in an old noir film. Made me laugh. 10/10.
  • (f)The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. Evil twin trope, a classic.
  • (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. Somewhat overdone in fiction, however, knockout drugs do exists. I’m on the fence with this one too.
  • (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. Has this guy never heard of a locked room mystery?
  • (i) The word association test for guilt. Not sure what this means, but I’ll take his word for it.
  • (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth. Hate these. Nobody has time for that.

What do you think of Van Dine’s rules for writing detective stories? Do you agree or disagree with any of them? Talk about it in the comments.

Stay safe, keep writing and happy sleuthing!

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

May of Mystery is Back: A Month of Mystery Posts

Hello Writer Bees,

Exciting news! May of Mystery is coming back to the blog!

For all the new readers, allow me to explain.  

Every year, I dedicate the entire month of May to all things detective fiction. I call it May of Mystery. Each post will have a mystery theme to them. This includes the Prompts of the Week too. Perhaps you will be inspired to write your own murder mystery. Truly, I’m just looking forward to shining a spotlight on fictional whodunits.

How well did your inner sleuth solve the cases in these books? | Detective  books, Detective gif, Book series

Interested in reading some previous May of Mystery posts? Check out these articles below.

I genuinely do love this genre. Foggy, cobblestone streets. Sleuths searching for clues. The big reveal at the end. What’s not to love? And I know I’m not the only one who likes to cuddle up with a cozy mystery from time to time.

After all, my WIP novel is a 1920’s murder mystery for a reason. There’s a part of my brain designated for crime scenes and clues only. Maybe I’ll share some of my experience writing a mystery, or an excerpt from my WIP, if you guys are interested. Which reminds me….

Calling All Mystery Fans and Amateur Sleuths!

While I do have some ideas in mind, I want to hear from you guys. What do you want to know about mystery writing? What interests you about detective fiction as a genre? Since I’m writing a mystery, is there anything you want to know about my experience? Now’s the time to ask! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on my Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

Dust off your magnifying glass and put on your detective caps, ’cause writer bees, we have a mystery on our hands.


Hope you all are staying safe and staying creative. Keep writing and enjoying the springtime weather.

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

Writing During Lunch Break: My New Favorite Writing Time

Hello Writer Bees!

Last week, I celebrated my 800th follower milestone, which I still can’t get believe. You guys are so amazing and supportive. Some of you were curious about my writer experience. So today, I’m sharing something new that makes me happy. With all the struggle going on in the world, it’s nice to be reminded of the small things in life that make us happy, right?

I started a new job back in August. A 9 to 5 cubicle job in an office. And as someone with no prior experience, being an assistant is tough work. The stress can be overwhelming sometimes. I’m managing as best I can. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were given the option of eating lunch at our desks. And the socially awkward introvert in me was thrilled by this. Don’t get me wrong, everyone working in the office is super nice. But, I like a little time to myself now and then. Translation: I like to hide from society now and then.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been working on my WIP during my lunch break. It’s like this quiet, hour long vacation, in the middle of a hectic day. Did I forget to mention eating while writing is my favorite combination? Seriously. What’s better than munching while making fiction happen? I absolutely love it. I look forward to this short lived writing time everyday. Maybe it’s the change of scenery, or me being away from home distractions, I actually get some writing done. Sure, it might only be 100 to 200 words a day. Still, I’m slowly creeping towards my goal of a finish novel.

Frankly speaking, I’m a night writer. Always have been. I prefer to write during the nighttime. To burn the midnight oil, as they say. My brain just feels more creative in the wee hours of the evening. Not sure why. And now, I can’t stay up as late as I used to when I was a freelance writer. However, writing during my lunch break has been a nice change of pace. I’ve fallen into a new routine. And I’m excited about it. This is a same small window of time, everyday, dedicated to writing and editing and outlining. Maybe that’s what I needed all along, to shake off my writer’s block.

For now, I’m making the most out of this pocket of time and appreciating every second.

Moral of the story, find the time to write, no matter the time of day. Even if it’s only a half hour. Even if it’s only 100 or so words. Progress is progress. Little by little, we all reach our goals eventually.


What time of day do you write in? And be honest, do you sneaky work on your WIP at your day job? Talk to me in the comments!

Keep writing and stay safe!

— 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

Celebrating 600 Followers – Excerpt from Mystery WIP

Hello Writer Bees!

It looks like I’ve reached 600 Followers on WordPress! What a great present!

Thank you for all of your kindness and support. Every sweet comment makes me smile. Between my new job, preparing for the holidays, writing a novel and updating this blog, I’ve been juggling a lot lately. Knowing I have such wonderful readers out there keeps me afloat.

So, to celebrate this milestone, I’m doing something I rarely do. I’m sharing an excerpt from my WIP, as terrifying as that sounds. Usually, I don’t like others reading my unfinished drafts, but tis the season for exceptions. You’ve all been so lovely to me, I wanted to share a piece of my NaNoWriMo project with you all. Be gentle, I’m still drafting. Enjoy!


 This is my story just as much as it is his story. Fifty-fifty. And I’m going to tell it to you straight.

If he didn’t have his morning paper and cup of coffee by eight o’clock sharp, then he claimed to have a headache for the rest of the day. This meant that I too would have a headache for the rest of the day.

As I left our shoebox apartments, a brick of humidity hit me square in the chest. The Summer of 1924 was unbearably hot. A gift, perhaps, to make up for the blizzard filled Winter we had. Sure, I could go on and on about the smell of rotten garbage and livestock sweat, but I’ll spare you from that cruel and unusual punishment. 

Welcome to Brooklyn. More specifically, Coney Island. Even more specifically, Mermaid avenue. You will find the irony in this street name later on. Trust me. 

You know, some fools out there think that the streets here are paved with gold. That opportunity is dripping out of leaky faucets. Some will even cross oceans just to touch their nose to the sidewalk. What a bunch of suckers.

Forget about those glossy postcards, dispensing pictures of an unspoiled city. Of course, you’ve got those classic landmarks swarmed by tourists, like Central park, Empire State building, that place on Houston street that sells the best bagels. Don’t be too impressed. Let me tell you about the real monuments, the kind I strolled through every morning. We got monuments not found in brochures.  Those are the ones you should be looking at. 

Like the guy who digs through garbage cans named Mister Thumbs.  No one knows his real name. Everyone calls him Mister Thumbs. Each day, he smiles at passers by and jabs his thumb to the sky, happy as a clam. Rumor has it that he lives in a mansion.

Off Neptune street, a dewdropper fished for spare change. An exhausted mother, with raccoon eyes pushed a wailing bundle of colic in a carriage. And let’s not forget the string of Mrs. Popov’s unmentionables being hung in an alleyway. Those are the real genuine landmarks.  

My usual trek through the jungle wasn’t too complicated. Any fool with half a brain could follow the route. Cross Mermaid Avenue, pass the church, walk all the way to the hardware store. Jazz music  poured out of the windows overhead. Church bells clashed with a rebellious trumpet. I weaved through the bustle. You can’t help but find yourself marching to a beat. It’s an insistent, impatient cluster of bees settled under your rib cage. And if you stop, you get trampled over without a second thought. 

They call New York the great melting pot. And it is, really. But they never tell you what’s in the pot. What’s cooking for dinner? Ma called it a big stew, use whatever leftovers from last night’s supper that you’ve got. It will all taste fine, just the same. Gravy is gravy. 

You know, this may be the biggest city in the world, but there are these tight knit pockets no one ever hears about. Makeshift families of neighbors that relied on each other. Where everybody knows you, your mother, and those distant relatives. I always liked that about the city.  Every borough, every street is a home town. The patchwork of this quilt is top notch.


Hope you enjoyed this snippet from chapter one. That was my narrator, Oscar Fitzgerald, showing off his side of Brooklyn, 1924.

I’m opening the floor to you guys. What do you want to see more of on the blog? More on my personal experience as a writer? More creative writing tips? More short stories? Let me know in the comments. I’m really interested in what you all have to say.

Once again, thank you all for the support. Stay safe and keep writing!

— Lady Jabberwocky

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