Posted by: nancycurteman | September 15, 2011

How to Murder Your Mystery Novel Plot

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It’s no secret that a mystery novel with a poor plot is condemned to an early death. Here are some ways mystery writers murder their plots.

Opening the novel with backstory. This ho-hum strategy slows the story pace, destroys suspense and sends the reader off to bed. The mystery novel reader doesn’t want to know every detail in chapter one. Dribble backstory into the novel as needed to make sense of the action.

• Mixing up character roles. It is the main characters who experience the drama, conflict and transformations in the story, not the secondary characters. The

only role of secondary characters is to act as vehicles to move the plot along. Their personal stories and conflicts should be minimal.

• A static protagonist. The goal of any novel is to force a protagonist to change in some way. The plot must provide obstacles that not only make it difficult for the sleuth to reach his goal of solving the crime but force him to look into his soul, to analyze his motives or beliefs or values and ultimately to change as well as apprehend the villain.

Keep your readers involved. Don’t murder your mystery novel plot.

Other tips:

How Subplots Enrich Your Mystery Novel

7 Story Structure Weaknesses That Collapse Your Mystery Novel


  1. Thanks for the excellent advice, Nancy, which I reckon applies equally to the chick-lit/romance genre that I enjoy writing 🙂


    • Hi Naomi,
      It certainly does. I reference mysteries because that’s my blog topic along with travel.
      I’d love to know more about
      chick-lit/ romance. One of my characters is a young female doctor who practices in Khalitsha. Any ideas or referrals?


  2. […] your novel, so give it a good deal of thought. More Tips: How Subplots Enrich Your Mystery Novel How to Murder Your Mystery Novel Plot How to Create a Plot for a […]


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