Posted by: nancycurteman | September 1, 2011

Don’t Interrupt Your Mystery Novel Reader

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Mystery novel readers like a smooth, seamless read without interruptions. They love to be caught up in the plot and will not tolerate writing that distracts them from their goal of helping their sleuth discover the villain and bringing him to justice. Here are some writing mistakes that will interrupt your mystery novel reader and may even cause her to close the book in disgust.

Long, tedious passages that describe everything a character does bring yawns: Sara slipped her feet into fuzzy slippers, shuffled to the bathroom, opened the cabinet door, took out the toothpaste, spread a half-inch strip on her blue toothbrush, wet it under the faucet, brushed her uppers and lowers, rinsed, gargled with mouthwash, then ate a piece of toast in the kitchen. “Oh no,” she moaned, “Now I have to brush my teeth again.” Your reader is now moaning louder than your character!

Metaphors and similes that distract instead of describe: Her soft voice whispered in his ears like a diesel engine.  His black heart was nothing but a wad of licorice. A reader would certainly have a difficult time making any connections in these two attempts at poetic description.

• Perfect protagonists and venomous villains: George was not just a handsome, virile, athletic male; he had a generous heart and a pure soul. His brother, Gus, had no soul at all. His deep-set eyes, perennial scowl and explosive outbursts of anger signaled a heart as black as coal. Your reader knows these two people could not exist in real life or even in fiction.

• Beware of coincidences: Just when the vicious killer was about to leap on the wounded hero, a gigantic rock tumbled from the cliff above and crushed him (not the hero but the killer). Coincidence cheats the mystery novel reader because the mystery story is missing its most important part, the brilliant discovery and apprehension of the antagonist by the clever protagonist.

Mystery novel readers are smart. They know what they want and don’t want. They do not want interruptions to the enjoyment of their puzzle.

More Writing Tips:

4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t Tell.”

7 Story Structure Weaknesses That Collapse Your Mystery Novel

How to Open a Mystery Novel

6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel


  1. A fun read as well as good advice. 🙂


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