Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Mystery Or A Suspense Novel?

Funhouse mirrors and rollercoaster rides! Those are the keys to understanding the difference between a good mystery novel and a suspense novel. I’m referring to Carolyn Wheat’s book, How To Write Killer Fiction.

First, Carolyn Wheat explains that a mystery novel is like entering a funhouse at a carnival where everything is distorted. In one mirror your tall and skinny, and in the next short and fat. You make false starts based upon what you see and you go down many dead end alleys. Then she illustrates how the suspense novel is more like a rollercoaster ride where you hang on tight and hold your breath. It’s fast paced making quick twist and turns.

I haven’t finished reading this book yet but I am enjoying the first part where it breaks down the mystery novel. It touches on everything from the history of writing mysteries to how to plant clues and then cover them up.

If you are a mystery writer, keep in mind that your reader is always two steps behind your sleuth. Mystery fans expect to receive the same clues as your main character and they enjoy trying to solve the puzzle before the MC can.

The construction of a mystery novel takes some forethought and if you have a detective, a police officer or coroner then the study of procedures comes into play. If your writing a murder mystery, no killer wants to be caught so what does yours do to cover it up? Lie, plant evidence, or point to someone else?

One satisfying ending is where your reader slaps her forehead and says, “Of course, how did I miss that!” However, this book shows that there are several ways to a satisfying end and it explains why certain endings fail.

This book has a whole lot more to explore than what I’ve covered here, and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to write well organized and satisfying mysteries. Next blog I’ll cover what Carolyn Wheat has to say about the suspense novel.

Meanwhile write what excites you!



Cheryl said...

Great post Lori! I will never be able to write a good mystery and have great doubts about my ability to write suspense either. I used to read them all the time when I was younger, but I'm telling you I never got it. The culprit was always a big surprise to me.

I think it's wonderful too that you are taking what you've learned and sharing it because just like romance and erotica, there can be a blurry line between mystery and suspense for people.

I can't wait to see your next blog post.


Jean said...

Thanks for sharing Lori. Now I really do need that book. And actually, I was at Books a Million yesterday and looked for it. Unfortunately, they didn't have it.

I did come home with a new book though. It's "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers".

I'll let you know how it is. One reason I got it is cause it has exercises at the end of ecah chapter. Very cool:--)


Snow said...

Wonderful post, Lori.

I love mystery and suspense. And love making the reader crazy with the twists and turns.

Thank you for sharing this with us.
I'll keep an eye open for your next post.

I'm going to have to try and get the book too.


Laura said...

Thanks Ladies,

I'm glad you've all enjoyed this review...stay turned for more!