Is there a mystery to writing a murder mystery? After all there are only so many elements to think about in the genre; right? There must be a setting. There must be a plot. There must be a murder. There must be a murderer, killer, or someone held accountable. There must be clues for the reader that are recognizable by a careful reader. There must be a protagonist who is normally the investigator or detective who follows a process to reach a conclusion on ‘who dunnit’. And most importantly there must be characters who pull the reader into the world or setting of the novel.
There are those who believe that writing a murder mystery is easy as long as you accept some basic rules. First rule is that many think that a murder mystery is a game in which the most attentive player will find the murderer first, as long as the author has not played mystery games by delaying exposing evidence, hiding facts within layers of description, or not laying down a general understanding of the peculiarities of the setting or characters, known to the author, but not shared with the reader. Is writing a murder mystery a game? My experience is that the author should be writing a story which includes a murder, a protagonist, a setting, a plot, and a killer. Unlike a game, the murder mystery should have a rhythmn that makes the reader wish to know more about the characters and their situation as they progress in their reading.
Let’s consider discussing for another day the concepts of Plotting Backwards, Interesting Beginnings, Readers slowly getting what’s happening, Readers’ recognizing clues, Planting all necessary information for the reader to solve the crime, Police Procedures or Detectives’ Methodology, and finally the Denouement whether it be a kick in the gut or a slow realization.