Tag Archives: reading

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.

Halloween GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

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

Do You Need a Writing Degree to Be a Real Writer?

Hello writer bees!

Today, I’m posing a possibly controversial question.

Do you need a degree in writing to be considered a “proper writer”?

To some, getting a college degree makes you a bonafide writer, or a better writer than most. Others feel they can be storytellers without the diploma to back them up. And some young writers have a hard time choosing what they want to study, and if a degree in writing is even worth it.

I want to share my experience. Hopefully, it can give younger writers a bit of insight. Goodness knows I needed some insight when I was just a fledgling. For those of you who don’t know, I graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in English. What do you do with a B.A. in English? How did that experience impact my journey as a writer? I’ll be diving into everything, the good and the bad.

Why I Chose to Pursue an English Degree

Let’s backtrack first. When I was in high school, I discovered my love of writing. I had an amazing teacher who encouraged my artistic aspirations. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be a blogger or an aspiring author right now. As I decided what college major I would pursue, no other subject could compare to English and creative writing.

I had a lot of ideas for a potential novel. Writing stories in various genres really interested me. I loved fantasy and mystery and historical drama and everything in between. Ah, to be young and full of inspiration. Wanting to narrow down my focus and find my niche, I thought going for a English degree would help me find the genre I’d eventually publish in someday. Like “Congrats! Here is your diploma! Also, you are a mystery writer! Now go write a whodunit and be on your merry way.”

Earning my B.A. in English was a wonderful experience. It wasn’t easy. Lots of late nights, lots of reading material, lots of stress. And I don’t regret a single minute.

Writing Workshops

While in college, my fiction writing classes were full-on workshops. Gathering around with fellow writers, discussing each other’s stories. I learned how to constructively critique someone’s work and became more mindful of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. We read each others short stories and offered feedback in a really safe and sensitive environment. Don’t get me wrong, I was so nervous letting others read my work. But once you realize we’re all in the same boat, it’s not so scary. That was my first taste of a greater writing community.

Also, the very first draft of my current WIP sprouted in that class. Sharing that story in particular with my classmates was like the ultimate test run for my work-in-progress novel. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more about that particular workshop session.

Reading Everything

Remember when I said I was looking down to settle with one genre to write in? It didn’t quite work out as I expected. In college, I read everything. And I mean everything. Like I was reading Beowulf and Arthurian legend in the morning and Hemingway and Christie in the afternoon. Real talk? My narrator was born after reading an Edgar Allen Poe story. If anything, my horizon only expanded. Once I graduated, I was even more undecided about what genre I wanted to publish in. I really gained an appreciation for literature across all genres. By reading various genres and styles and time periods, a sturdy foundation was built under my feet. Maybe it’s strange to say, but I felt like I had a wealth of source material I could refer to and be inspired by. If that makes sense.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, is it?

Hard to Find a Job

After I graduated, It was tough finding steady work. I applied for many publications and ended up with a pile of rejection letters. Apparently, a bachelors degree in English isn’t enough to prove you are good at writing. That was a newsflash to me. I wanted to make a living as a writer, and it just wasn’t happening. Frankly, It was a dark time for me. Finally, I fell into freelance work, starting out as an unpaid intern. Around the same time, I started this blog. Then, more freelance opportunities opened up. And today, even though I’m stuck in a cubicle at an office day job, the passion for writing has not ceased. I’m still working on my goal to write a novel, after office hours, of course.

Final Thoughts

The B.A. in English gave me a solid foundation. My brain thinks differently about literature and storytelling because of my time as an English major. It was a valuable, rewarding experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Well, maybe a finished novel.

Do you need a degree to be a proper writer?

In my opinion? No.

You know that quote from Ratatouille, Anyone can cook? I believe anyone can write. A degree doesn’t make me, or anyone else, a genuine writer. We all have imagination and creativity inside of us. Anyone can write a story and be considered a writer.


Do you think you need a degree to be considered a proper writer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. And if you earned your degree in English/Creative writing, how has that experience impacted your journey as a writer? As always, I love to hear from you guys.

Also, get your magnifying glasses ready! May of Mystery is right around the corner, less that 2 weeks!

Stay safe and keep writing,

Love,

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.

See the source image

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.
See the source image

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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Celebrating 500 Followers!

Hello Writer bees!

Lady Jabberwocky has hit a big milestone. I’ve reached 500 followers on WordPress. That’s unbelievable, that’s halfway to 1000. My brain can’t compute those numbers right now. Thank you all so very much.

It’s been a long week for me. My new job has been a challenge. Life has been a challenge. But to know that you all are rallying behind me keeps me going. I’m lucky to have such wonderful followers.

In honor of reaching 500 followers, I’ll let you in on what plans I’ve been brainstorming for Lady Jabberwocky. Lately, I’ve been considering some new additions to the blog, ones I hope you all will appreciate.

First would be adding a tip jar to the end of my posts. If you want to be generous and throw this dog a bone, the option will be there. No pressure to you guys. It would really help support this writer.

Also, I’d like to start having a book of the week, a spotlight on great works of literature. It’d be my way of supporting and encouraging readers and authors alike. The plan is to have a link to a book recommendation at the end of each Friday post. These ideas are still be on the drawing board, but I might test them out in my upcoming posts. Keep your eyes open!

Thank you so much for your support and interest in my humble little blog. Seriously, Lady Jabberwocky would not be here without you lovely folks.

Stay safe out there and keep writing!

Love, Victoria (a.k.a. Lady Jabberwocky)

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Need a burst of inspiration? Try one of my writing prompts of the week. Interested in reading my recent dabbles in 100 word stories? Check out The Basil Sprites and Death by Dinner Conversation.

100 Word Book Blurb Writing Contest (Cash Prize)

Hello writer bees!

The lovely folks at QueryLetter.com told me about this awesome writing competition coming up, and I wanted to share it with you. Not your ordinary contest, they want book blurbs of non-existent novels. Sounds like a fun challenge. Here’s more on what their looking for.

Write and submit a back cover blurb of 100 words or fewer that sets the stage for a novel, establishes the characters, and raises the stakes in a way that makes readers want to find out more.

The top prize is $500. In the midst of the apocalypse, $500 can go a long way. Deadline is September 15, so hurry and submit your entry soon. Read more about the contest and it’s rules right here.

Aside from this competition, this site has some awesome posts about query letters and manuscript advice for aspiring authors. I recommend checking out their blog.


Interested in reading my recent dabbles in 100 word stories? Check out The Basil Sprites and Death by Dinner Conversation.

And for those entering the contest, best of luck!

Stay safe and keep writing, writer bees.

— Lady Jabberwocky

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My Life in Books Tag

Hello Writer Bees!

Since I recently celebrated my 300th post and 400 followers, I figured I do something lighthearted this week. And I haven’t done a tag in quite a while. So, this is my life in books.

Shoutout to TinyNavajo for doing this tag. Be sure to check out their awesome book blog!

Find A Book For Each Of Your Initials

V – Vengeance is Mine! by Mickey Spillane

A – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

P The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (featuring my favorite femme fatale.)

Count Your Age Along Your Bookshelf

I’m 27 years old and the 27th book on my shelf is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. It’s on my TBR list, I heard the play was amazing.

Pick A Book Set In Your City/Country

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’m from New York. I also have Lillian Boxfish takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney and Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine. A proud New Yorker, if you couldn’t tell. And I can’t resist a good NYC story.

Pick A Book That Represents A Destination You’d Love To Travel To

The Jewel Box by Anna Davis. I’ve always wanted to travel to London, or the U.K. in general. I’d love to visit Doyle and Christie’s old stomping grounds.

Plus, I have a few Hemingway books, like the Sun Also Rises and the short stories collection. It’s a stretch, but I’d like to take my boyfriend to Key West someday, to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home and to get him a Cuban coffee.

Pick A Book That Has Your Favorite Color On It

Surprisingly, the only lavender on my shelf is the title text color for The Mirror of Merlin by T.A. Barron. Although, I do love the blush pink on Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz.

Which Book Do You Have The Fondest Memories Of?

When I was a kid, I hated reading. Ironic, really, since I later became a writer. One day, the Scholastic book fair came to my school. While searching through the books, I found Bone (Book One): Out from Boneville. Then and there, I fell in love with graphic novels and fantasy/adventure stories.

(P.s. – Am I the only one who remembers Scholastic book fairs? Or am I just old?)

Which Book Did You Have The Most Difficulty Reading?

The Museum of Extraordinary Things. I liked the premise, but pace wise, it was a little on the slow side. I’ll probably give it another shot, though.

Which Book On Your TBR Pile Will Give You The Most Achievement When You Finish It?

This extra-thick collection of Hercule Poirot stories, written by Agatha Christie. It has over 50 short stories. Eventually, I’ll read through the entire tome of mystery.

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Tag! You’re It!

Well, this was fun. If you guys decide to do this tag, let me know. I’d love to hear what’s on your bookshelves. And please click the links, it really helps support this blog.

Stay safe and keep writing, writer bees!

Love, 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

To the Teacher Made Me a Writer

In the spirit of International Women’s day, I’ve decided to take a sentimental stroll down memory lane today. Let me tell you the story of the teacher who made me a writer and changed my life.

So Back in High School….

Let me give you an mental image of the kind of kid I was in school. An average B student. Definitely not one of the cool girls. I was awkward and lanky and a total mess. And I had no idea what I would do with the rest of my life.

In Freshman year, I wrote my first fictional story and discovered I actually liked writing. English was my favorite subject. Here was the problem. In my personal life, there was no one to encourage me to pursue my talent, nor acknowledgement that I even had a talent.

Until I Met this Teacher

For now, let’s call her Miss J. She was my English teacher in both my Freshman year and my Senior year. And she saw the potential in me that I didn’t even know existed.

Miss J was a kind and lovely person. She introduced me to literature that initially inspired me to write. Works like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Of Mice and Men’ And Greek Mythology. The first story I ever wrote was probably in her class.

Speaking of Mythology, towards the end of Freshman year, my high school wanted to remove Greek Mythology from the curriculum and planned on throw away a bunch of books away. The horror. Before they were tossed in the garbage, she gave me one of those books. Torn and tattered, it will always remain on my bookshelf.

Struggles with Self Esteem

This one time, we were assigned to write a scene inspired by Hamlet, the play we were reading at the time. I was so excited that I worked extra hard on this two page script. Even researched authentic Shakespearean language. After I handed it in, my teacher was genuinely impressed and asked if she could read it to the whole class. I told her ‘no’.

And even today, I still regret that decision. See, my confidence was under the floorboards at the time. I was incredibly self conscious, and felt like I was rubbing my great story in everyone’s face, and then everyone would hate me. “No, no, it isn’t that great. Surely, my work isn’t the best in the class.”

Man, some days, I wish I had a time machine and could tell my younger self to not be afraid of showing my talent. That being awesome at something won’t belittle others. And honestly, I still struggle a little with that low self esteem logic today.

One of her many sweet notes.

Words of Encouragement

In my Senior year, Miss J asked us to write journal entries, which she would read. I was still nervous about others reading my writing. To break from that fear, I decided to just be funny. My journal was filled with my (embarrassing) humorous observations, kind of like what you see on the blog today. And she loved them.

So, I kept writing. She said I had a natural talent as a writer and that I had a quirky voice. Thank goodness for that quirkiness. I was amazed and humbled and happy. My silly scribbles made someone laugh. Nothing was more fulfilling. Miss J wrote me these encouraging notes, pushing me to pursue a career as a writer. I still have those notes. The most touching note from her is scrawled in my yearbook, hoping that the next time she hears my name, it’s because I’d have won the Pulitzer prize. (Insert tears here.)

Her note in my yearbook, from 2011.

To a wonderful teacher, I’d like to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know where I’d be right now if it wasn’t for your encouragement. You inspired me to pursue creative writing and made me the writer I am today. And you also inspired me to start this blog, where my quirkiness has room to roam and where I can encourage other writers to write their story.


[This is a repost, but an important post, nonetheless.]

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