My primary skill set is in nonfiction. But I am moving quickly back toward fiction, and hopefully back toward mystery fiction in the future, with a much deeper understanding than I had the first time I wrote something in that field. Reply Garry Rodgers March 2, at Hopefully you and others get some good from these tips.
The fifties and sixties had their westerns and sci-fi. Van Dine, pen name of an art critic and editor named Willard Huntington Wright. Chestertonprovided one is clever and experienced enough to circumvent or disregard them. But the novice detective or mystery writer could certainly do worse than take the advice below from one of T.
It is more — it is a sporting event.
And for the writing of detective stories there are very definite laws — unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding; and every respectable and self-respecting concocter of literary mysteries lives up to them. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery.
All clues must be plainly stated and described. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.
There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit.
This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession.
To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time.
Such an author is no better than a practical joker. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.
There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder.
The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader.
The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit.
This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability.
To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.
The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific.
Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it.
By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face-that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter.
That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no "atmospheric" preoccupations.
They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.
A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives.Luckily, those who do it well have shared their thoughts on what makes a good crime novel, so I’ve been able to collect some of the best advice on crime writing and dissect why it’s .
Of course, the best way to test the rules of mystery writing is to read many books in the genre. This way you can see how other writers use the rules, and how they're able to get away with breaking them.
But before you attempt to break the rules, read the rules below and see how your work adheres to the rules, and how it deviates from them. May 02, · a a milne, martin edwards, murder mysteries, ronald knox, rules for cozies, rules for writing murder mysteries, s s van dine, t s eliot, the golden age of murder Post navigation Previous Post.
These readers are looking for the intellectual challenge of solving a crime before the detective does, and they want the pleasure of knowing that everything will come together in the end.
Of course, the best way to test the rules of mystery writing is to read many books in the genre. So it isn’t terribly surprising that Chandler had some very strong opinions about crime fiction. Below are his ten commandments for writing a detective novel: 1) It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
I’m reminded of a letter Raymond Chandler wrote to a woman asking him to help her son. Feb 20, · H.P. Lovecraft Gives Five Tips for Writing a Horror Story, or Any Piece of “Weird Fiction” Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC.