The Essentials of Writing a Murder Mystery Novel

Written by Peter Manley #guestpost

Congratulations! 👻🤡 You’ve got this shiny new idea for what seems like a great murder mystery novel to come… now what? It’s time to write it, of course!

Getting started can probably seem like such a daunting task, especially if you’re new to the whole murder mystery writing in the first place. But have no fear, 😜 it is absolutely possible for you to turn that brilliant story idea into a fine piece of reality, as long as you understand a few ‘BASICS’.

While there are no set-in-stone practices for writing a murder mystery novel (in fact, being unconventional can actually be a good thing), there are a few good pieces of advice that you should follow and that will help your murder mystery novel blossom into an amazing work of literature. 🧐
To help you as you embark on this task, let’s discuss a few necessities – we’ll call them ‘the essentials’ – that you should keep in mind as you begin your book. Here are five essentials of writing a murder mystery novel, as told by a murder mystery enthusiast myself.

The five murder mystery essentials:

#1 Learn from ‘the greatest’

If you ask any successful writer how they achieved their success, chances are they’ll tell you that they studied some of the greatest authors and works of art in their niche. Therefore, as you set out to write a murder mystery novel, it’s a good idea to reread works by Agatha Christie, Aaron Elkins, Tana French, and even Stephen King.

As you read their books, think about what makes them so successful and attention-grabbing. More than likely, you’ll find some inspiration…

#2 Build suspense

No one is going to be reading your book on the edge of their seats if the story isn’t giving them a reason to. Sure, you might have written up an amazing plot, but you’ve got to provide the details of certain scenes in order to really capture people’s attention.

To check more about ‘How to build suspense’ – in the old post The anatomy of a thriller

For example, if your antagonist Johnny is being chased by the hidden killer down a dead-end road, amplify the suspense of that dead-end to come.

#3 Don’t have your protagonist trip as they run from danger 

You want your readers to support the protagonist rather than despise him/her. Think about the typical murder mystery movie of old. The killer is chasing the protagonist, 🙀 who trips on her own foot while running on smooth pavement. Instead of getting up right away and running yet again, she continues to crawl, as if that will make the killer feel sympathy for her and leave her be. Once she finally gets up, she continues to run, only to eventually turn down a dark and ominous-looking alleyway, which of course is also a dead end.

Please don’t follow this cliche storyline for the protagonist… In order for your readers to support the protagonist, he/she has to be smart yet imperfect, relatable, witty, and purposeful.

#4 Start with the end goal in mind

As you begin writing your novel, or doing anything really, it’s a good practice to start with the end goal in mind.

What do you want to happen at the end of your novel?
What emotion(s) do you want your reader to feel?
Will this be part of a series? 📚📚

Whatever you decide, think about your end goal, then start writing towards that ultimate end. Your story will be more purposeful by doing so.

#5 Be sure to throw a few curveballs in the mix 

Nothing captures a reader’s attention more than a quality curveball in the story. Called red herrings, the purpose of these curveballs is to steer your readers in the wrong direction or throw them off so that they are shocked👽😼, question their own judgment, and want to continue reading in search of answers.

An example of a great curveball (or red herring) is when a certain character is seemingly bad or evil, only for him/her to turn out being in support of the protagonist. Think about Professor Snape from Harry Potter. For a very long time, he is made out to be sinister and ill-intentioned. In reality, he was protecting Harry Potter the whole time.


As you can see, there are a few essentials that can make – or break – your murder mystery novel. A great murder mystery novel is one that can stand alone as both a murder story and a mystery. To captivate and keep your readers’ attention, be sure to include a slew of red herrings, suspenseful moments, and choice details 🌪🌪🔥 that make the reader feel as if they are in the story themselves. These tips, when paired with a great storyline, can result in a fine work of art that reaches the masses.

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Next post – “The Pearl Territory”, ch. 24 – dialogue 



    1. Author

      Lol 😂

      My plan to murder each my hero by the end of the book 😂

  1. I was thinking of writing a mock-murder mystery…

    1. Author

      Great… I think it will be very popular 🙂 – new genre alert 🚨😀✌️

  2. Yes please. . . no tripping. And no fumbling around on the ground whilst screaming the bloody murder that will soon be happening . . . Be strong, fleet of foot and WORTH rooting for! Love that one, RNB.

    And curve balls. Always have one at the ready in your arsenal.

    Spot on list, lady. 🙂

    1. Author

      😂😂 soooon 💀💀

      I’m not sure yet – how to kill & whom 😐🧐🤨 but no worries – no fumbling around on d ground… 🤪

      1. Coo.

        I don’t take you for a fumbler when an ice cold tumbler will do much better. Filled with something friendly, of course.

        1. Author

          Mmm…filled with a poison? 😂😂💀

          1. Author


    1. Author

      Murder mystery in verse …ah, would be cool 😉😛

  3. Super tips for a mystery, VR. Can apply to number of genres. Don’t trip is a good one. (Also don’t say, “Who’s there?” at a ghostly noise.)

    1. Author

      Who is there??? 👻👻👻

  4. To me the hardest part would be tying all the different parts of the mystery together. Unless I had it all in my mind.

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