Monday, September 28, 2009

Writing Mysteries & a Little Help from my Friend

A few weeks ago, when I was down to the wire on my book, I was stymied. I'd followed Donald Maass's fantastic advice in Writing the Breakout Novel about turning the villain at the end, and though I fought his advice from beginning to 3/4s through my WIP, when I finally found the motivation for a different killer, my beta readers were astounded at who it turned out to be. So if anyone says to me... I saw your antagonist coming half-way through the book, they have to be psychic--because even I didn't know ;).

The reason I decided to blog on this topic was because unless you're very, very talented and have a natural gift and perception at writing mystery, I think this has to be one of the hardest genres. When I'd finally decided to turn my antagonist, I wasn't sure if I should use his/her/it ;) POV (I'll never tell) so I consulted my friend Allison Brennan, who is a constant when it comes to helping us unpubs, and hasn't forgetten her time in the trenches. Allison had this to say about mysteries, and I asked if I could share her response with you. She agreed, and I think her answer was very wise. I hope you agree.

Mysteries rarely go into the villain's POV. People are anal about POV, but mostly just writers. If there is no good reason to go into his POV in the course of the book, don't. It will seem odd to the reader. You might want to revisit the other character's POVs to see if they are necessary, and if they are just make sure you wrap up whatever their concerns/fears were when they were in POV. There's nothing wrong with going into a POV at the end of the book (as long as you introduced the character earlier and there was no reason to be in his POV) but you need to make sure that there are enough clues for the reader that he COULD be guilty otherwise you don't give them a fair chance to guess who the killer is. But there's also no reason to go into his POV if your h/h can explain his motivations or he can verbally.

Make sense?


Allison Brennan
CUTTING EDGE on sale now!

It made all the sense in the world to this writer, Allison, and I'm very grateful. Thanks!


Edie Ramer said...

Allison always makes sense!

Have fun writing your mystery, Donnell.

Donnell said...

She does, doesn't she, Edie ;) Thanks for stopping by!