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Everyone loves a good mystery novel. Indeed, you've read some that are absolute page-turners, ones that have probably inspired you to try your hand at writing one. But like we mentioned in our Beginners Guide to Creative Writing article, creative writers must pride themselves on writing engaging content for their readers - this is not an easy feat, especially for a genre like a mystery which blends topics like fiction, history, and sometimes even the supernatural. But don't worry because we'll be giving you our best tips to help/guide you through the process of writing the perfect mystery that will keep the readers on the edge of their seats.

First, Immerse Yourself in Mystery Novels -

If you've read your fair share of mystery novels, that already gives you an edge - but if you haven't, start immersing yourself in what mystery fiction should read and feel like. An excellent place to start is with the classic and renowned titles from the queen of mystery herself, Agatha Christie. Her best-selling And Then There Were None (1939) is considered by some as one of the best' whodunit murder mysteries, so you can definitely learn a thing or two on how to keep readers on the 'hook.' 

She is also the mastermind behind binge-worthy titles such as Murder on the Orient Express (1933) and The ABC Murders (1946). All are full of compelling detectives, memorable suspects and have set the standard for a good murder mystery. Immersing yourself in the different worlds and stories can help spark creative ideas in you - you might pick up on an author's style or themes that you can apply in your own work.

Once you've reached the end of a book and the truths are revealed, grab a pen and paper and return to the first page. Then, diligently go through the plot once again and note how authors like Agatha Christie share clues, leave room for wonder, and how the questions were slowly answered.

Prepare the Plotline thoroughly -

Plot holes and a hurried ending can ruin a book, no matter how interesting the setup is. When you're writing a murder narrative or a detective story, iron out all the crime details before you start embellishing your story. Wisdom Times lists the six interrogatives: what, why, when, where, who, and how, and how these questions are actually used by scientists and journalists to approach topics they write about. This can also be applied to writing mystery - have a firm grasp of the six interrogatives of your plot and build your narrative and characters around it.

Open with Intrigue -

The more intriguing, the better. You can excite your readers by positioning a significant event, a powerful character introduction, or a blaring question at the start of your story. One example is Caleb Carr's The Alienist that opens with a gruesome murder scene. It immediately sets the pace for a strong, psychological murder fiction and lets readers know they are in for an exciting ride. Make sure to mix in many red herrings, cliff-hangers, and open-ended questions to keep your audience longing to learn more with every chapter.

Make Characters Multi-dimensional -

In addition to an engaging plot, readers often stay for characters they have come to like. Whether your main character is an amateur sleuth, a professional detective, or even just someone who was unfortunately dragged along for the ride, readers want to see strong character development and believable relationships between characters.

Take Gillian Flynn's crime thriller novel Gone Girl, for instance. It became an instant classic because of the intriguing premise and the multi-dimensional characters with questionable moral compasses. The novel's titular character, Amy Dunne, is definitely our anti-hero, but the readers end up rooting for her because of how empowered, cunning, and decisive she is.

Finally, Misdirect and Mislead Your Readers -

Finally, try your best to convince readers the path they're heading on is the correct one and that they're successfully keeping up with the story - only to do a 180-degree turn at the end. As much as readers enjoy the gratification of confirming their suspicions, great mystery novels make them say, "I never saw that coming!" Misdirection is part of the fun, and it makes for a more satisfying ending.

Remember to keep re-reading and re-writing your work until you feel that you will enjoy the story if you were a first-time reader yourself. Then, with our writing tips in mind, you're sure to keep the readers on the edge of their seats.

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