Sunday, March 8, 2009

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N Frey

I've wanted to read this book for ages and finally broke down and bought a copy a couple of months ago. When I finished the manuscript for Book Promo 201, I wanted to start planning the next book in my Cape Hatteras mystery series -- seemed like a great time to read this book :)

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N Frey

My next book will be a kidnapping mystery and its my 13th book (to be published under my name) and the 22nd book I've written, so I wasn't looking for the usual "how to write" book. I wanted to read something that delved into the nuisances of mysteries and this was just what I needed. There are a couple of characters on character development, point of view, writing, editing, rewriting etc - but the other chapters were the most interesting to me.

  • Frey begins by talking about why people read mysteries. How can we write a story that appeals to our target audience, if we don't know what they want?

  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - moves into sorting through our ideas and getting started.

  • There is an entire story and plot, behind the obvious plot in a mystery. To be "mysterious" and to use red herrings, and to include those twists and surprises that readers love, we need to develop and completely understand the "hidden" part of the story.
  • Creating the Villain is another important element - is the villain three dimensional? Can the reader relate the them? Are they evil enough? A great and memorable villain must be well developed and realistic. This leads right into a chapter about being intimate with the villain.
  • Once you understand the villain and have developed them thoroughly, its time to move on to the hero and/or heroine. You must also fully develop the hero or heroine. At this point Frey talks about the hero's journey and how that assists you in the development of your hero or heroine. ****
  • The hero's journey will also help you to discover the type of secondary characters you can use and why they are needed.
  • Creating an effective plot for an edge of your seat mystery requires plotting and this can take many forms and chapter 9 explains some of these tips.
  • You need a believable detective - whether a professional or an amateur. How will they figure out the mystery? Will they have help? Who will help them?
  • The gripping climax is one of the most critical elements of the mysteries I love to read, so I was very glad to see a complete chapter devoted to the climax of the book. Part of the climax is capturing the villain and that is the topic in chapter 15.

There is so much great information in this book and if you plan to write mysteries - I highly recommend that you read this book. Its definitely worth the cost and if you are a beginning author - there is plenty of information in this book to help you with the writing basics.

In last 2009 or early 2010 - you will have to check out my latest mystery and you can tell me whether you think this book helped me :) Or, if maybe I should read it over again -- I did highlight many great points while I was reading it and I plan to go back through those sections as I'm working on future mysteries.

**** If you aren't familiar with the Hero's Journey, there are all kinds of articles online and a number of books that you can use to understand the details of the hero's journey - following are links to some of the ones I'm familiar with - some could be helpful.

Writer's Journey Mythic Structure for Writers -

Hero's Journey Works of Joseph Campbell -

Writer's Journey Mythic Structure of Writers -

Hero with a Thousand Faces -

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