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Sunday, April 24, 2022

On writing a mystery

cj Sez: On the writing front, I’m trying to think up another challenge for the protagonist detective/sleuth in my mystery work-in-progress.

   Writing a mystery presents a challenge and learning curve to me. Thriller and romantic suspense genres I have managed to accomplish to some degree (i.e., traditionally published), but a mystery is a whole ’nother story. Here’s what I know so far:

   What is the same among those genres is that my protagonist detective/sleuth should be likeable, have some personality quirks, and a bit of backstory baggage to be dropped intermittently into the story (no info dumps, please).

   My sleuth has a confidant, which is another recommended device. There’s a blossoming love interest to add a little jazz. Each of the major characters, including the bad guy, will have a piece of history or secret that affects how they speak and react and which, I hope, generates mixed feelings—reader dislike tinged with a degree of sympathy.

Jeffery Deaver: “I like the way words go together and I like the gamesmanship of poetry. It is such a challenge.”  

(cj Sez: It’s why I love to write haiku, and it works the same way for me with novels.)


   The clues and red herrings are my biggest struggles. What do they read like, really? Where and how do I place them to invite the reader to try to solve the mystery but not reveal so much that they know the answer too soon? 

   I don’t plot. I’m a pantser or, more accurately, a pathfinder. Once I know how the story starts and should end, I find my way through the manuscript by throwing roadblocks in the paths of my characters and figuring out how to have them logically escape. But for a mystery, I’ll have to do some ::gasp:: plotting.

cj Sez My method exactly.
   I once read that many mystery writers, including New York Times best-selling author Hallie Ephron, struggle with these same issues . . .  that makes me feel better. I do know that, like all first drafts (second, third, et al.), my characters, clues, and red herrings will change with each future edit cycle, and also the denouement.

   What I really like about this writing-a-mystery-challenge is that I’m learning new things. My personal goal has long been to learn something new every day, and this project is certainly helping me reach my goal. How about you? Do you have a personal goal?


Mark your calendars … There’s going to be A Facebook PARTY, and you’re invited!


Harbor Humane Society’s 
"The Big Fang" all-day virtual event


   A whole day of author posts, questions, answers, give-aways, and prizes. I’m on tap from 5 to 6 p.m. and will have a give-away, so stop by and put your name in the virtual hat for a drawing.

   And, if you happen to be in the Holland, Michigan, area, there will be an in-person book signing (complete with coffee and donuts) from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Harbor Humane Resale Store.

THE BIG FANG benefit anthology from Harbor Humane Society includes cozies, capers, and humorous crime and mystery stories from 22 authors. 


Ebook link:


   That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Let me know if you found a nugget in here you can use or can improve upon.


P.S.  The Haunted Bookshop has signed paperback copies of my books in stock. TO ORDER my author-graphed books or any book of your choice on-line from an indie bookstore, contact The Haunted Bookshop here:  

P.P.S. Re THE BIG FANG: If you order from The Haunted Bookshop and want your book author-graphed, let them know, and I'll pop down there and sign it for you. Thanks!

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