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How to Make a Compelling and Clever Mystery

Hello Everyone, I would like to preface this blog post by asking, how many of you like mysteries? Comment or dm me your answers. This will be used to see if I first share anything in common with my writing group in terms of genre. If not, please comment or dm your favorite genre to write. It can be only one word but it would mean a lot to me.

That being said let's get into how to craft a mystery that will keep your reader guessing until the big reveal. The first step is to establish a timeline for your mystery. She was killed on this day, she was found a week later. The case is not cracked until… and so on. To create timeframes you first need to plot. Now I will go into plot.

So for plot is is essential you put characters ahead of the story. Another thing to add to your timeline is your character arcs. Not every character has to have an arc but it is important at least the main character and antagonist and important side characters do. Arcs are important and plot can be developed around it. For example, Lou’s arc in the film Nightcrawler.

It is also important you build to everything. What I mean by this is don’t just throw in a twist that does not follow the logic established or rules in genera. That is not how you make a great twist that will leave audience members scratching their head. The best twists are hidden in plain sight until they are revealed. Like the detectives or protagonists in the film, you are looking at the wrong clues while the right ones are right below your nose.

As complex as the plots are in mystery novels, the characters are usually far more complex. Therefore, proper and natural character development must be used for relatable, complex characters. What I mean by this is you must first start with a character bio. (Reference earlier blog post on this subject.) Then place the characters backstory, current situation and future on the timeline until the end of the novel.

Don’t believe me when I tell you characters in mysteries are extremely complex? Look at book characters such as Libby Day from Dark Places, one of my favorite novels. Or Cassandra from Promising Young Woman, a film that had some influence on my novel. Plenty of examples are available online and you can even look up movies that demonstrate character arcs as well. This is possibly the easiest way to go about it.

I hope this helps and I plan to continue to make helpful blog posts like this but I would really appreciate if you just commented on anything below, haha. I’m just trying to make this more of a community that interacts within itself. Because that was my goal from the start. To develop a multi-faceted, writing community that is able to better each other through simply online discourse. I know I always appreciate feedback and I’m sure you do as well.

Well, that’s all for now. Till next time.

- Matt Gorrell (creator of


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