Author Guestpost: Your Checklist While Writing Great Mystery Novels

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Today’s author guestpost comes from Lorna Adekaiyaoja, who wrote The Plea on Oath, her courtroom thriller debut novel.

It was an interesting but tedious task plotting my new mystery and suspense novel The Plea on Oath, I have been inspired by great works of James Patterson, Lee Child, Laura Shapiro, and Ayobami Adebayo.

James Patterson knew how to hold his audience in suspense, you will keep on guessing where he is heading, you just keep on turning pages.  I once took one of his book Alert from the bedroom to the bathroom, then to the living room and then back to the bedroom.  Just kept on reading till I finished.

Things to remember when writing a crime fiction thriller is that you make sure that the suspense drives the narrative and that it keeps your readers interested.  Something has happened and how, where and who is responsible for what had happened.  Getting all of that to your audience in a pleasurable and entertaining manner.

Making your readers laugh out loud is the way to go.  Imagine you are the reader, put yourself in the position of a reader and see whether you find your book entertaining or not. I think every crime fiction writer should have a dint of comedy, horror, and humour to a reasonable extent, otherwise readers will find the book a chore to read.   You should create something to be anxious about.

Humour helps to balance the tension created by the crime scene and investigation.

Start your fiction thriller with a ‘bang’ I mean something serious has happened, make sure the incident is like a Tornado, cyclone, twister or whirlwind.  The tension rises with controlled speed but balances things with the reality of life, things that would make a normal day look real.  Like a family sitting on the dining for a meal or your characters going out for a meal.  Do your research on location so that there are no conflicts.

I started The Plea on Oath with a tragic incident that occurred on a normal day, but in the middle of the night when most people have gone to sleep, no one saw it coming not even the writer knew where it was all heading!.  That is the way to go, paint the picture with all the colours you need because the beginning will determine whether your reader continues or puts the book down.  Segun was struck by a stray bullet in the middle of the night, the bullet pierced through the toilet window, you will initially think this is a direct attack to have him killed, it is believable, isn’t it?  What I wanted to make clear is that it is time for the American gun law to be revisited and changed for the good of all.  How can Segun be gunned down in the comfort of his home by a stray bullet that came in through the window?  The incident looked like a premeditated attack but that was arguable.  Put the readers in a position of debate.  Let them start guessing what the answer is.  You should just continue to ‘show’ but not ‘tell’

Ensure that there are twists and turns in your thriller.  That is the whole idea.  Make sure to keep your storyline flowing, by this I mean don’t stay on one location for too long, in an ideal world we move around, we travel, we go to work, we fly on the airplane, make it real with things happening around while you are creating your plots and scenes at the same time.

Don’t give away clues, be in control to hold your audience in suspense, something like ‘nobody knows’ not even you.  Keep your audience on their guard.

If you can create speeches, then, by all means, do so, readers like hearing a good speech.  When Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar, the speeches made the drama interesting.  I could never ever forget Anthony’s speech.

One of the reviewers of The Plea on Oath said, ‘The press interviews were intriguing’.  People can deduce a lot of information from the questions that journalists ask. Press interviews are also a good review of what has happened during a court trial in my book.  A journalist in most cases confirms what the readers are thinking.

Be sure to be clear with your knowledge of the time, any place or country you’ve chosen for your story, for example, you will find me using United States as the country where the crime occurred (crime scene) because I wanted to appeal for a change to gun laws in America by narrating a story, one of the reasons why I wrote the book in the first place.  I then created some scenes in the United Kingdom because I know professionals travel to England to study medicine and they end up going back to settle down in America to practice their profession.  I also had to locate the place for funerals in Nigeria because Segun’s parents lived in Nigeria, he also got married in Nigeria, The Plea on Oath is full of twists and turns.

You should consider creating suspense, don’t make the mystery too easy to solve, but sure that at the end, reveal the motive of the crime and be sure that the ending is clear on who committed the crime and why and how it was solved.  Try to make your story the best it can be. Remember to describe your characters, having your characters developed to the fullest is an essential part of writing a good story and to making the characters believable, you can see in my story how I brought in Ben who was Segun’s best friend from childhood, how he got married to Yvonne.  Ben’s parents lived in Nigeria and Ben even though a white boy grew up in Nigeria.  He went to the same school as Segun.  Both characters were developed in my story.

When you have gone through your story over and over again, cut out unnecessary fillers as you can.

Your work is ready!  Good luck. I hope you’ll find this checklist useful while writing your mystery novel.

You can find more about Lorna Adekaiyaoja on her website. Also, check out The Plea on Oath on Amazon.

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