Tag Archives: mystery writing

The Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction (1929): A Brief History and Update

Photo showing potential murder weapons (rope, knife, )and the post title 'The 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction 1929) is superimposed on the top.

by Gretchen Mullen, @GretchenMdm9524

“Thou shalt not cheat thy reader”

Ronald Knox (1888-1957) was an English priest who moonlighted as a well-regarded author of detective novels and short stories. His reputation was such that in 1928, during the Golden Era of Detective Fiction, when a group of British mystery authors gathered to exchange ideas and collaborate, Knox was included in this elite group. Officially known as The Detection Club, the group formally organized in 1930. Membership was and still is by invitation only. Original members included such greats as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and first elected president G.K. Chesterson.

Knox co-edited and penned the “Introduction” to The Best English Detective Stories of 1928. Knox’s essay (originally dated February 28, 1929), was later reprinted as “The Detective Story Decalogue” in 1946.

According to the Ronald Knox Society of North America, the Decalogue became known as “the Ten Commandments for Detective Novelists as a set of by-laws for the [Detection] club.” Often reprinted in short form, the commandments (also referred to as Rules of Fair Play) are meant to remind authors that the reader deserves a fighting chance to solve the mystery without the author’s use of cheap tricks. Continue reading The Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction (1929): A Brief History and Update

Unpleasant Characters in Mysteries

Screaming ape in the background with teeth exposed and the post title, "unpleasant characters in mysteries" superimposed on top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Unpleasant characters are tough for any genre.  But for mysteries, they present special challenges.

My editors from Penguin would often bring up concerns they had with unpleasant characters in my manuscripts.

My feeling is that unpleasant characters are incredibly useful in mysteries. They provide motive.  They provide realism. They can even provide humor.

Although I find these characters helpful, I do recognize the pitfalls.  Unpleasant characters are tricky for mysteries (and, likely, for most genres). Continue reading Unpleasant Characters in Mysteries

8 Tips on Writing Dual-Time Mysteries

by M.K. Tod, @MKTodAuthorTodMK-TimeandRegret-22790-CV-FT

What do The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig, The Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro, and The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier have in common? Answer: they are all dual-time mysteries. I love reading stories like these. But writing one proved to be a significant challenge and demanded a different approach from my previous historical novels.

So what did I learn? Below are eight tips for crafting this type of story. Continue reading 8 Tips on Writing Dual-Time Mysteries

Writing the Cozy Mystery—the Victim

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigDSC06922

This is the third in my cozy mystery writing series.  Today I’m taking a closer look at our victim. Parts one and two can be found here and here.

Handling our victim’s demise: As I mentioned in an earlier post, you can handle this a couple of different ways.  You can show the reader the likely suspects and why the victim might have been killed during interactions between future suspects and future victim at the start of the book (victim is still alive as the story opens).  Or you can open the story with the victim’s body and have the sleuth figure out who the suspects are and the motive (slightly trickier, I think).

Another tricky victim area: likeability.  If the victim is too unlikeable, readers may not care if his murder is solved or not.  Although it does make it easy in terms of motive. If you’ve got a very unlikeable victim, might be a good idea for the sleuth to remind others that justice is still important (as Hercule Poirot did in Agatha Christie’s mysteries). Or we could consider having someone close to the sleuth or the sleuth herself under suspicion to give the reader extra incentive to find out whodunit. Continue reading Writing the Cozy Mystery—the Victim