The idea for my new novel was birthed back in November. It started out as an idea that I was noodling around with and I’d put it on the back burner until January, when I decided to use the idea to craft my thesis novel. After a false start, I retooled and decided to try my hand at turning it into a Sci Fi Mystery novel. I’d never attempted anything remotely like a mystery before, so I did a little research on how the genre is approached and did my best to stay within those bounds. It was hard for me. First of all there is no dead body at the beginning. Bad stuff happens, but it doesn’t start with a murder. I still thought I had enough to get there, but the further along I got the more it seemed to veer away from the mystery tropes. It was confounding me, but now I have clarity. I am writing a Thriller, not a Who Dunnit?
There’s a great post over at Indelibles. Mystery vs. Suspense: The 8 Keys. Cindy Hogan condensed the ideas from a book by C. Wheat called How to Write Killer Fiction into these eight keys to differentiate the two genres.
1.It’s all about the clues-your character needs to sift through the clues to find order.
2.You have suspects and there is only a few-as clues are uncovered the list of suspects narrows.
3.You’ll write in some red herrings- false leads that take the character away from the truth
4.Your “detective” has skills to uncover the “murderer”
5.Your reader is 2 steps behind the detective-reader doesn’t discover who-done-it until the very end
6.The question is who killed X?
7.Information is withheld-this creates tension.
8.The satisfaction of reading is intellectual-most emotion is buried and hidden beneath secrets-you, as the reader, want to discover, figure out who did it.
1. It’s all about surprises-your character is plunged into chaos.
2.There are betrayers and the hero’s world gets bigger and more dangerous
3.You have cycles of distrust-characters that the hero trusts turn out to be untrustworthy
4.Your “hero” learns skills he/she needs-the hero must become someone else to prevail
5.Your reader is 2 steps ahead of your character- the reader is yelling at the book-don’t go in there! to the main character. They know what awaits the character.
6.The question is whether or not the hero will prevail
7.Information is given that leads the character to his/her next step. It creates anticipation.
8.The satisfaction of reading is emotional-the ups and downs of the main character-readers like to see the struggle.
The light bulb went off for me when I read this and now the course is clear to finish the story.