Tag Archives: planning

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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Writer Finds a Real Job? (Big Blog Changes)

Hello writer bees!

If you have followed this blog long enough, you’ll know I’ve been job hunting for a long time. I’ve been a freelance writer for three years and even wrote about my freelancing experience. Despite my love of writing from home, I’ve been looking for steadier work, or at least a regular paycheck.

An opportunity has opened up. It’s a 9 to 5 office cubicle gig. Not exactly the most creative space. I don’t know if it’s for me yet, but I’m giving it a try. We’ll see what happens.

The next few weeks will be a challenge. Right now, I’m stressing if I can juggle this opportunity, this blog and my WIP. Learning to balance it all is difficult. A tough decision, but Lady Jabberwocky may need to go on the back burner for a couple weeks.

So, what does this mean for the blog? Frankly speaking, I’m not exactly sure what kind of content to post at the moment. Writing prompts are scheduled into October, so you guys will still get weekly prompts on Mondays.

Sadly, there is a chance of no more Friday posts for awhile. I haven’t had the heart to pull that trigger just yet. If you guys have any ideas for post ideas, let me know in the comments. I’ve considered writing 100 word stories. Or maybe answering questions from you lovely folks. That could be fun, right? Again, we’ll see what happens.

I’m adjusting to a big change in my life and still figuring things out. Please be understanding during this time. This blog will always be a space for writers and storytellers alike. I hope to continuing blogging and engaging with you wonderful readers, it’s truly a passion project I don’t want to let go of just yet.

Thanks for sticking around, writer bees. Keep writing and stay safe.

Lady Jabberwocky Victoria

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

NaNoWriMo 2019: Week Two

Hello, hello Writer Bugs.

I can’t believe we’re halfway through November already. Progress has been made. Small progress, but progress nonetheless. Better than week one, at least.

At the start of the week, I has some trouble gaining traction. My project is on one giant GoogleDoc, and it’s getting difficult to manage. I finally understand why people use story writing/plot outlining software. So, I decided to write on separate blank doc, and It helped me get past writer’s block and focus on the scenes that don’t have a definite placement in the main story yet.

As of now, I’m closing in on 10,000 words, which I will hopefully reach by the end of this weekend. That would bring up my total to 30,000. Honestly, I’m trying not to worry about word counts. I’ve written everyday this week, (gold star for Lady Jabberwocky), working on my WIP. I’ve been rewriting existing scenes for a better flow. I’ve also been creating new scenes to slow down the pace and shine a spotlight on characters and their relationships. Slowly but surely, I’ve been writing.

And lemme tell you guys, I want to edit SO BAD. I’m sticking to the writing, but man, everything needs edits. I’m still holding out until December to do revisions. Let’s see how that works out. This weekend, my boyfriend and I have a wedding Saturday and a DnD game Sunday. All fun things I’m looking forward to. But I’ll still find some time to write, fingers crossed. Maybe I’ll do some word sprints too.

How’s your NaNoWriMo project going? How are you guys holding up? Also, do you have any suggestions for story writing or outlining software? Leave a comment, I love to hear from you writer bees!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

NaNoWriMo 2019 – The Goal, The Plan, The Anxiety

Hello, hello, writer bees.

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. And although I’m a bit nervous, I accept this intimidating challenge. I wanted to share with you guys my hopes and my game plan for National Novel Writing Month.

The Goal

Okay. My goal isn’t the traditional 50k in November. Currently, my draft is hovering around 20,000 words. And it’s looking pretty rough. It’s a rough rough draft. So for NaNoWriMo 2019, my word count goal is 40,000 words, making for a total of 60,000 words.

Frankly, my real goal is to write more often. Daily, if possible. Even if it’s just small increments everyday. Unfortunately, my WIP has been simmering on the back burner for too long. I want my humble little draft to take one step closer to becoming a full fledged manuscript. That’s how I want to finish NaNoWriMo this year.

Planning and Prepping

So, considering my goal, I figure that averages about 10,000 words a week. That’s possible, right? The skeleton of the story is there, scenes just need to be bumped up or added. I’m working on an outline as I write this post, but am open to new ideas that come along during the writing process. I guess that makes me a plantser? Half planning, half “winging it”. Hopefully, I can scrape something together before November starts.

Part of my prepping involves looking back at my previous NaNoWriMo experience. Learning from past mistakes. Taking my own advice. I acknowledge my weak points as a writer and I’m trying to push through them. Like writing without editing or deleting scares me. That’s one obstacle I’ve struggled to jump over.

Right now, I’m stressing a bit and waiting for the NaNoWriMo excitement to fully kick in. Imagine that nervous feeling before jumping off the high diving board. That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. What if I run out of ideas and my writing fizzles out? And maybe it’s just me, but it seems like everyone else is having fun prepping with their neat, organized outlines and I’m over here with my ugly baby of a draft. Seriously? However, I’m working on staying optimistic. Perhaps we can polish up this draft, it’s worth a shot.

What’s Happening on Lady Jabberwocky?

Glad you asked! During this November, I will be posting weekly updates on Fridays/Saturdays. That way, you all can follow my NaNoWriMo adventure. I really do want to put in the effort this year. So, I hope you guys come along for the NaNoWriMo ride with me.

Thank you guys for your support and lovely comments. Best of luck to all those participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Lady Jabberwocky

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What’s Next for the Lady Jabberwocky Blog? (Announcements)

I’m back, writer bugs!

Thanks for your patience and support during my break.

I really needed time to brainstorm ideas and make (evil) plans for this site. I think you guys will be pretty happy with what is to come. As terrifying as it sounds, I’m trying to take blogging more seriously and make my own opportunities.

Very quickly, let me go over what’s next for Lady Jabberwocky.

First off, I have officially upgraded this blog to premium level. Keep your eyes open for changes on the site. Some pages may be under construction, so bear with me. Best case scenario, I can organize all my posts in an easy to access way. If anyone has advice on rearranging posts into sections/categories, please leave instructions in the comments. I’m a lowly writer trying to figure this stuff out, but it is a challenge I accept nonetheless.

Now, in regards to content itself. I’m opting to post twice a week, Mondays and Fridays. Unfortunately, I’m taking a break from Words for Writers Wednesdays. But you can still find them on the blog, in case you need a bit of encouragement.

More posts about freelance writing are coming. I’m surprised so many of you seem interested in my insane occupation. Also, more stories are coming. And who knows? Maybe even a fiction series, just for you guys! Plus, I’ll still be sharing writing advice for all you budding authors out there.

Nothing is set in stone yet, I’m still ironing out the details. Although there are finishing touches to be finished, I am truly excited (and so nervous) for the changes coming to my humble little blog.

Posts will resume this Monday, September 23rd.

How can you support a writer and her blog? Become a Patron! You support means to world to me. Thanks everybody!

3 Tips on Creating Likeable Antagonists

Mayday! Mayday!

You’re writing a story, minding your own business, when suddenly, a character you’re creating is taking a nose dive right into unlikable jerk territory. Let’s try to save your character from being total terror.

Whether they be hot tempered, or rude, or just have a nasty attitude,  you have created a character who is nothing but bad qualities. An unpleasant fellow in every regard. Yes, there are antagonists and villains and personified rain clouds, however, is that all they are? Just… the bad guy?

Here are some tips for creating a character we love to hate (and not hate to hate).

Changing Point of View

If your story involves multiple narratives, consider having your jerk character try on the narrator hat for a bit. How do they see the world? Are they really as nasty as they seem? What are their home lives like? Is there a reason for their misbehavior? Take a walk in their shoes. By doing this, it can give the reader insight to that character’s backstory and perspective.

Create Obstacles

Let there a be a struggle that shows another side of their character. The reader will gain a level of empathy for this character if they see them face some kind of hardship. Maybe the character learns from their past mistakes? Or feels guilt about something? Or has to face a real, serious conflict, either internal or external. Give the character a hill to climb over.

Give Them a Redeemable Trait

Anything. There has to be something good. No matter how horrible and cruel someone is, there must be some redeemable quality. Are they charming? Quick witted? Hard working? Show some level of respect or affection towards another? Like animals? (Who doesn’t like puppies?) You catch my drift. Any sort of positive trait to balance out the not so positive traits.


Don’t just have a character who is only recognized by the reader as being a terrible person. Real characters, like real people, need a balance in order to be complex.

Hope this helps some writer out there. In the comments, let me know who your favorite bad guy character you love to hate.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky.

More Stories (And Maybe Some Updates) Are Coming

Hello Writer Bugs.

I apologize for the delay with this post. Busy week. Lots of ideas. You know, my usual existential crisis.

This will just be some quick announcements.

First off, more stories are coming to this blog. Flash fiction stories, real life stories and possibly a much longer series. Originally, I wanted to hold back on posting too many stories, from fear of being like a pretentious writer or something. But my wonderful boyfriend told me that if artists share their artwork on their sites, why couldn’t I share mine?

Also, thanks to my generous support on Patreon, I have been considering upgrading this blog and actually paying for WordPress. If any of you have advice on upgrading WordPress plans, please let me know in the comments. Clearly, I need all the help I can get.

Bottom line; There may be some schedule and site changes in the future. The gears are turning over here, writer bees. It’s a goal of my to make this blog something special, for you guys.

Let me know what you want to see more of on this blog. I’d love to hear from you.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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

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