How to Write a Brilliant Crime Mystery/Detective Novel



today I'm going to give you ten key points for writing a crime mystery novel but what a lot of people call a detective novel now this advice does not hold for crime you know psychological novels or indeed for crime thrillers I'm specifically talking about the detective novel or crime mystery novel so let's go through these ten key points number one the most fundamental thing that you must do at the beginning is come up with an intriguing crime this is the most important point you must have an intriguing crime so let me give you a couple of examples we could have something like this a man is involved in a crime let's say an armed robbery in London and there's some evidence to show that and at the very same time he dies on a train on a train crash up in Edinburgh so it warned in the same time he is in two different locations involved a guest in two different crimes one in London warden at one in Enberg and so this you would think is very intriguing and it's a classic kind of ad Jonathan Creek setup so it's an impossible situation another example could be more realistic and that could be something like this we could have a senior politician is found dead and he's wearing ladies underwear again very intriguing and at the same time you'd think it's probably not going to be so difficult to resolve so those are two examples of very intriguing crimes which would then set the you know the basis for your novel now the second thing that you have to do and this is even more important than the first point is then to come up with a resolution for your crime you have to be able to resolve it and you have to be able to come up with revelations that in the final analysis will shock the reader and I will say if you can't do this if you really can't come up with good revelations then just don't bother with with crime mystery novels with detective novels because these revelations at the end the resolution the twists these are ultimately what make the crime novel what make the detective novel the crime mystery novel so let's look at two examples okay so first of all I have to come up with a resolution to the problem that we have a man in London where he's involved in an armed robbery at the same time that we have him in Edinburgh where he dies in a train crash now this is this is clearly going to be very very difficult to resolve I could do it with twins I could have twins but that would be rubbish I could do with somebody who's God like a shared identity so two people have got the same identity could be another possibility it's probably been done before and what I'm going to find is as I explore you know possibilities for resolving my plot I'm going to find that it's going to be difficult I'm going to find this it's going to be ultimately very very difficult and what usually happens in these situations is that you have this internal game of table tennis so first of all I asked for something is my plot intrigued and then I asked the question can I resolve it and usually the answer is no and then I say to myself well okay I can't quite do that but could I do something a little bit different and then you go back to the plot and you see well okay how could I set up the plot a little bit differently so that that would mean that I get a resolution to my story okay so you have this constant game of table tennis between the plot that you want and the resolutions that you can offer okay and once you think of it so what I'm saying is you might not be able to solve the initial problem but you could do something like a little bit different but because it's going to be a little bit different that means the initial plot has to be a little bit different and so you go back and forth between the two until you get a plot which is still intriguing and a resolution which actually works now just to give you an example on this let me tell let me now change my plots the reason I said a man would be he would be in an armed robbery in London at the same time that he was involved in a train crash in Edinburgh where he would die I'm going to change this I'm going to change it I'm going to make it a bit weaker and a bit less because I know that I can actually resolve this so I'm going to change it I'm going to have an old woman is attacked in her London home by a man but this man at the very time that apparently he attacked this woman in London there is bonafide evidence that he was in Edinburgh at that time okay so I've changed I've changed the parameters of our story a bit I've done that deliberately because I know I can get a resolution and I will tell you about this resolution at the end of this video if on the other hand we come to our politician who has been at well who was found dead wearing ladies underwear how could we resolve that and you will see immediately in this case it's not really so difficult to resolve could be that um well let's say he has been killed because he knew of some secret about the government at which you know the powers-that-be didn't want to come out and so he was bumped off because of this could be that his wife doesn't like him and so his wife has bumped him off or and this is what I'm going to go for it turns out that he's committed suicide he's committed suicide because of you know X Y Zed reason so I'm going to go for the suicide and that one but the point is that you must establish this the resolution to the plot very immediately and I cannot stress enough that the the the thing which you need for a crime mystery novel is the intriguing plot with a very good resolution right that's what you need if you don't have those two elements don't bother okay because you're just going to waste the readers time on the other hand as soon as you have those two elements the intriguing plot and the satisfying resolution you have got you can do this now you are in a position to write a crime mystery novel so let's now come on to the third point and this is what is going to go in between the intriguing plot and the satisfying resolution and the first thing you have to put in in this sandwich are basically clues which are going to tell the reader what is going to happen at the end you basically have to tell the reader what is going to happen but of course you have to do this in such a way that you don't tell them okay that you don't reveal to them what the solution is okay so what you have to understand about this third aspect of the crime mystery novel is that you have to get the fine balance between telling the reader exactly what is going to happen what the revelation is without at the same time giving away the answer if you give it if you give them too much information you will ruin the ending if on the other hand you don't give them enough information that will mean that when the resolution comes they will think oh well how was I supposed to think that how was I supposed to see that coming the ideal situation when you get to a resolution is that the reader thinks ah what a sucker how did I fall for the sucker punch it was so obvious it was staring me in the face but I didn't see it right that is what you want this is why you have to play this very fine game of telling the reader and of information but still not telling them everything I mean it's like I think I mean some you will see certain crime novels where in the resolution and in the explanation of what happens new material and new evidence is introduced this is a massive faux pas it is basically equivalent to a deus ex machina resolution right because the answer just comes from nowhere it is as if given by the gods because um you know it you really you really have to focus in the middle and the sandwich of the book in the middle of the sandwich you have to focus on telling the reader enough that they can in some sense work out the answer without really being able to work it out now the fourth thing is red herrings and this is completely related to the third point which I was talking about in the third part you have given the reader the important bits of information that they need to work at the crime and this is where the red herrings come in because you may have you may have given them too much information and each time you give them to information too much information what you then need to do is insert a red herring right so every time you think that you're showing them the ants are too obviously you need to do something which instead of them going off in this direction you make them go off in the other direction okay so this is the importance of red herrings red herrings should always come later after you've put in the essential information now the fifth thing I will say that I want to talk about is perfect red herrings and I will make a separate video a separate quick little video on this but the perfect red herring is a little bit different to let's say a normal red herring the perfect red herring what you do is you basically combine elements three and four in one go and it's the perfect red herring is this you tell the reader all the information that they need to know to work out the resolution but you do it in such a clever way actually you basically distract them and set them going in a different direction so though you might you know you see you tell them certain information that might send them that way inevitably when they read it you send them off in the other direction so let's let's look at a bit of a concrete example with it so I said that my politician committed suicide right that's going to be the reveal and I want to build up to that I'm going to build up to that by informing the reader in the novel that there were two prior occasions where he almost committed suicide he tried to commit suicide but failed that's what I'm going to tell you right I'm going to tell you that twice I'm going to tell you the reader that our politician try to commit suicide here but failed and tried to commit suicide here but failed now if I do that at face value then the reader will guess the resolution right they will get to the end and when I say don't under the politician commit suicide they will think ah yeah well we knew that in other words if I tell them it face value that there will be no resolution it will be entirely obvious what I'm doing so what I'm going to do is instead I'm going to give them the perfect red herrings and I'm going to so this is what I'm going to do instead of saying that the politician tried to commit suicide I'm going to say that there was um it was reported in the media that um the politician was subject to an assassination attempt and he was found and by I don't know ambulance or police he was found in a hotel and he had injuries on him and he the politician told the media and he told up the police and the the ambulance crew that a man had tried to kill him now this assassin a Russian you know hit man had come into his hotel room and tried to kill him okay so what we do in this case where we set up this story is that I'm inadvertently I'm telling you that the politician tried to commit suicide but that he didn't do it and he was too embarrassed to tell the police ambulance and media what exactly happened so he made up the story of the Russian hitman but the way it will look to the reader is if this politician is being hounded by a Russian hitman right and I can do that not only once but I can do that twice and with these two red herrings the reader then might get to think ah so this politician is subject to death threats the Russian mafia ran to get him and this is probably why he died but when the resolution comes and the reveal comes and I see actually committed suicide at that point it should then become obvious that these had two incidents which I was talking about far from being attempted assassinations by Russian hitmen were actually attempted suicides and that is basically the perfect red herring now this sixth point is that when you've got all this you have your case you have your your beginning which is the intrigue you have the resolution at the end and you have the stuff in the middle what you need to then make sure about all the stuff in the middle is that you have and within that it should all be cast in the form of a series of mini intrigues and mini revelations so yes you have your big intrigue at the start and your big revelation at the end and then in the sandwich you have a series of mini intrigues and mini revelations now the seventh thing is that once you've got all this infrastructure in place you are now free to develop your characters and your settings and your scene so you're now free to come up with a you know a bad guy you're now free to set a scene on a beach in Mexico where the Sun is setting for example the eighth thing I will say is that I think it's very important that for everything that you am you used as an intrigue point throughout the book it's very important when the revelation comes that you explain away everything so if on page 50 you've talked about the oh my god it's really mysterious why is the red jam why is red Jam been found all over the toilet seat if you flag this up on page 50 and say what on earth is going on here then by the end of the novel you really need to explain that why red Jam was found on the toilet see and why that was important I think oftentimes not everything is explained away in the final analysis but in a good crime novel it should be now the ninth and tenth points I think are probably quite personal to myself but I'm going to say them anyway the ninth thing for me is that I would not waste any time talking about the private lives of the detectives because personally I do not want to know if the detective is a chain-smoker and alcoholic if he's got heart disease if he's getting divorced or if he's got a degree in quantum mechanics from Cambridge and likes listening to Mozart I really don't care about any of these things I really couldn't give a monkey's and I do not think that they are central to a crime mystery novel one thing I would say is you do not you do not even need detectives for a crime mystery novel you don't you know you could have amateur sleuths on the internet you could have journalists just people who are taking an interest in the case that's I mean that's one thing but more than that you don't need really to develop them as characters I don't see any need to develop the detectives or the people who are you know showing you what's going on I don't see any need to develop their private lives because it doesn't really add anything to the mystery and I don't see any reason to know why I don't think we need a hero personally I don't think we need to know why you know how a detective thinks and how he works at all I don't think these things are really necessary for me the most important thing about a crime mystery novel is that it's pacifies the reader and the reader is the ultimate detective the reader is the ultimate one who is taking an interest in the case and you will be surprised by the revelation if you can do those things I don't think it really matters you know a jot whether you have interesting detectives or not finally the ten that says get you know get on with it do not waste any time you know you could be forgiven for wasting time in a literary novel and again you can be forgiven you know if you want to have a sunset in Mexico in the in your novel if it comes on page 200 when the reader is gripped and engaged all very well and good that is the way to do it but don't do it on the first page at the very beginning you need to start with a crime so how would I do it if we think back to my two scenarios I gave you well for my opening line could be he looked down and saw the body of the dead politician or he looked down and saw a dead body and realized immediately it was the famous politician from the television series from the television sorry and that could be your opening line your opening paragraph boom straight away if you've taken the crime or again you might say you might be might begin with one of the most bizarre cases I ever came across was the one in which a woman was beaten and robbed in her home in London by a man who actually it seems was in Edinburgh at exactly the same time so you that is your opening line as your opening paragraph that immediately sets the tone of the crime you've medially intrigued everybody so those are my ten key points um listen this summer in June 2016 I will release my first crime mystery novel which will be called the disappearance of Florentina J Lockhart and which is about a 13 year old English American girl who goes missing while on holiday in Italy and it will be cheap as chips on Amazon so that is a quick plug for my novel those are my 10 points let me quickly tell you how i rue how i resolved my my little scenario with the woman who is beaten and robbed in London by a man who was actually in Edinburgh at the time so how do I get out of it well it's very very simple so um the man is probably going to be some kind of acquaintance of the woman not necessarily close friends but they're acquaintances and what he does is he recreates the interior of her flat up in Edinburgh right and at some point he takes her up there because she's an old woman so she's she's taking lots of sleeping tablets and she's asleep often at some point he takes her from a home in London up to a this dis you know recreate flat in Edinburgh and he puts her in there and because she doesn't go out much she doesn't really notice the difference at some point he Rob's her and beats her and um when he does this up in the recreated flat in N bruh he then very quickly goes out onto the streets of Edinburgh and has lots of eyewitnesses be testament to the fact that he's there on the streets of Edinburgh at that certain time now the woman after being beaten is knocked out and that gives our culprit a certain amount of time to transport then down to London in his car and set her back up in a flat in Edenton in London and then when she awakes in a flat in London she doesn't know any different she goes to the police and she tells them the story of how a man who – she points the finger at the guy who was in Edinburgh and seems to have attacked her and and so you end up at this you know you end up with this case now you might think that that is completely rubbish and I I wouldn't disagree with that but it's its most plot revelations are rubbish there the trick is to set it up rightly to make sure that on the surface of it it looks absolutely incredible as if a man was in two different places at the same time and if you if you do it if you set it up in the right way then the revelation will not be and you know the revelation will not be seem so awful of course you have to build up to the revelation you have to give certain clues in the sandwich about um you know how what you know just a hint at what the is getting up to so you might think that that is a bit of a crud resolution but ultimately it's about how you set it up in the beginning and it's about how you tell the story which will ultimately make it a good resolution and if you're thinking well you need to sort certain details with with your idea their toys exactly you need to then I have the small details of that I can see there are certain things we need to iron out so for example and you know how easy is it to create someone's flat of an Edinburgh the interior of their flat well it's going to be difficult unless you know you know you're some way an acquaintance of this old woman which is why I need my perpetrator to be on some level connected with the woman in question and again you might say what the hell is the motivation for such a crime and that such you know the motivation needs to be very big if a perpetrator is willing to go to such extreme lengths of replicating someone's flat in a different City if they're willing to go to this length there must be some big payoff well I guess I'm thinking along the lines of insurance or will something like this again this needs to be ironed out so those are ten key points for writing a crime mystery novel like I say I personally think that if you stick to these you know if you think about the information that I've given you here and the key points which are flagged up I think if you can do these things you really will be able to write a very good crime mystery novel

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