I hope all you mystery readers appreciate the work we writers put into killing people.

For me, a plot has to make sense, be satisfying, and follow logically. I try very hard to avoid TSTL moments (too stupid to live) where a character goes after the killer alone, at night, in a swamp, in high heels or whatever.

I want my readers to have a fair shot at identifying the killer, but I really hope they are surprised, too. In the book I finished reading this morning at breakfast, the clumsy cop who got in the way of the investigation was just a bit too inept for believability, and I knew he was The Guy.

Of course there have to be red herrings (NPI), not too many, though. And when there is a scene where the killer spills his/her guts to the protag, I require a really good reason for them to be spending time together, not just a desire to gloat on the criminal's part.

The denouement, the "unraveling", should be evident by the time we get to it. There should not be long scenes where the sleuth explains motivation or complicated factors. Hints interspersed in the story should come together, so the reader thinks, "I should have seen it coming."

What all this does is make it difficult to write a good mystery. I would never claim that I'm great at all these things, but it is what a mystery writer should strive for: logic and believability, with an ending that wraps everything in a package that makes the reader say, "That's good."

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Comment by Peg Herring on April 26, 2010 at 10:50pm
The weird thing for me is the unconscious/conscious effort. On the one hand, the story comes from my mind, and I never, ever think, "Okay, we'll have three possible suspects, and on page 321 the reader will find out which one it is." On the other hand, the writer has to consider the rise and fall of action and what the reader thinks as the story progresses. It's a delicate balance.
Comment by Charles A. Ray on April 26, 2010 at 4:03am
I totally agree with you. Writing a decent mystery with clues sprinkled appropriately, a red herring or two, and a believable sequence of events is hard work. I've written two mysteries and am working on a third, and I'm finding as I agonize over number three that I made a number of unbelievably dumb mistakes in one and two. Of course, that's what life and writing are all about, learning from our mistakes. At least, I did get good comments on the main character - people liked him because he was different from all the other PIs currently being written about.
Comment by Jack Getze on April 26, 2010 at 3:20am
Though there are major mysteries, secrets, and final revelations, my plots are all the same; man versus himself. We're all such fuck-ups, especially men.

:-)
Comment by Dana King on April 26, 2010 at 1:08am
I prefer stories with mundane reasons for their crimes, more crime stories than mysteries. Too many books lose my willingness to suspend disbelief when the mystery is too convoluted or the motives strain credulity.
Comment by I. J. Parker on April 24, 2010 at 12:38am
There are other compelling reasons, self-protection among them, as well as psychological triggers. Sex would rarely play a role, though there are crimes of passion where someone loses it. There is nothing wrong with a common reason for a crime as long as the detective has to dig to find it.
Comment by Gaile Hughes on April 23, 2010 at 1:11pm
I read somewhere that the majority of murders are usually committed for Money, Sex or Revenge and usually by a person known to or linked to the victim. How many of CrimeSpace's published authors adhere to that principle? Or, is that too mundane for the crime writer?
Comment by Peg Herring on April 23, 2010 at 12:20pm
That sounds like my kind of book, Dan! That's what I try for, too, not Poirot, just a determined sleuth who manages to stay alive.
Comment by I. J. Parker on April 23, 2010 at 12:51am
That's why I lean toward the "crime novel". It doesn't force you into contortions in order to spin out an unlikely tale of red herrings and hidden motives in order to let the protagonist demonstrate his superior intelligence at the very end. The novel should have more going for it than a guessing game.

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