Sarah Rubin: top 5 tips for writing a mystery
This month sees the release of Sarah Rubin's tantalizing mystery novel Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue; the first book in a brilliant new investigative series with tonnes of charm and humour. Here's Sarah's top five tips for writing a page-turningly gripping mystery ...
1. In order to write a truly mysterious mystery, the first thing you need to do is plan your crime. Are you going to rob a museum? Steal the crown jewels? Kidnap the president? Think like a criminal and work out the details of your dastardly scheme.
2. Once you have a crime, you need someone to solve it. Give your detective something special: a skill or trait that helps them see the clues other people might miss. My detective, Alice, loves numbers and sees mysteries like giant maths problems. Maybe your detective is a gourmet chef?
3. Plant your clues. You know all the details of the crime, so you know what evidence the criminals will leave behind. Make sure your detective finds it! But if you want to be tricky, mix in a few fake clues too. A really devious mystery needs plenty of red herrings.
4. Don't make things too easy for your detective. Add a handful suspects to share the suspicion. Remember, everyone keeps secrets. Some of your characters might be hiding the fact that they forgot to do their homework, or ate the last slice of pie, but one of them is hiding a criminal past. It's up to your detective to figure out who.
5. The most important rule of all? Play fair! At least half the fun of reading a mystery is trying to solve it before the brilliant detective. It's no fun when the author keeps a key piece of evidence secret until the very end. Give your reader all of the same clues you give your detective. If they solve it first they'll be proud of their skills, if not then they'll be amazed by just how clever your detective (and you) really are.