Mysteries are a Mystery!

After bringing to you several new authors over the last few months, I’m glad to welcome back an old friend, Carole Brown. Carole relates how mysteries are a mystery to write until you dig into understanding the genre. Welcome back, Carole!

It was a dark and stormy night.

Uh, huh. We’ve heard this one before. But what if you start your novel like this…

Lightning split the coal-black heavens into multiple pieces as the bullet-sized raindrops pounded Jason’s hood-covered head, encouraging a mammoth headache to split his head into confusion. 

Mysteries are said to be the hardest genre to write. I believe it, but I also find it fascinating to attempt it.   A few things you have to remember when attempting this genre are simple enough to explain but harder to do. But effort, study and a determination to succeed will put you in a good place to get that mystery book written. 

Investigate the different sub-genres of mystery diligently. Know what will resound with your writing before you begin, or write a few short stories as practice until you recognize which one fits you– classic/traditional, crime, police procedurals/hard-boiled, noir, gumshoe/private detective, cozies, and capers. 

Remember, you don’t want too write like so and so. You want to stand out on your own merits. Add a new element, that coincides with the mystery genre, but makes readers straighten in their seat. Do your diligent homework, study the genre and what is necessary, find that element that will cause you to stand out from the rest, then proceed (again and again) to write your mystery. 

Here are a few thoughts on what helps:

  • Pose your mystery question at the beginning as quickly as possible.
  • Choose an ordinary character who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances OR an extraordinary character who finds himself in ordinary circumstances. Create your characters to stand out, to be ordinary or not, abled to be labeled as: 
    • a reflection of society
    • someone with a bit of sassiness
    • serious with a bent to boredom and over-thinking
    • one who is callous to murder
  • Research and pick your setting with purpose.
  • Red herrings
  • Suspenseful dialogue
  • Set the mood with descriptive language
  • Chapters that keep your reader turning pages, trying to figure out who is the antagonist, what will happen next..

I have two mystery series I’m working on, although one of them is on hold for awhile:  

  • The Denton and Alex Davies series (cozy). A fun, adventurous married couple (even if Denton is a bit grumpy) who travel the U.S. and constantly find mysteries that seem to pop up everywhere. 
  • The Appleton, WV Romantic Cozies series. (A town filled with colorful characters who find their own mystery in each book.)

There is lots more to learn about mysteries, all of it fascinating and helpful. Do your due diligence in studying about mysteries. And if you proceed, you’ll find it’s one of the hardest but most rewarding genres to write in. 

Wishes for great success to you mystery book authors! 

To read more posts on writing mysteries, click here.



Toni DeLuca, the Italian owner of DeLuca Construction, finds herself confronted with doubts about her father and his possible deceptions—all because of the mysterious pink notes she’s been receiving.

Relations with Perrin Douglas who has a troubling history—but the first man in years who’s interested her—is building to a peak. Yet Perrin’s own personal problems and his doubts about women and God, keep getting in the way.

Gossip, a Spanish proposal, an inheritance, and a sabotaged construction business may ruin Christmas for Toni’s employees as well as her own happiness.

Will a mysterious person succeed in pulling off the biggest scam Appleton, West Virginia has ever seen? And will this culprit destroy Toni’s last chance at happiness with the man of her dreams?


Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of fourteen, best selling, award-winning books, she loves to weave suspense, mystery and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She’s also published one children’s book and is in two anthologies. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. She has found that the traveling and ministering has served her well in writing her novels. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?  Connect with Carole on her personal blog, Facebook, FB fan page, Amazon, Bookbub, IG, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.

Write a Mystery with Me, Part 2

Feel like exercising your imagination? Use the photo prompt and write a mystery with me, part 2. Last week, I posted a photo prompt and an opening to a story. Author M. Liz Boyle added the next section, which is reproduced below. Now I’m adding the next part of the story. Anyone can contribute. Just leave your inspiration in the comments. By the end of the month, we’ll have a mystery!

To read part 1, click here. Happy writing!

Ducking behind a tree, I held up my camera and zoomed in for a clearer look. My heart thumped wildly when I recognized the faces. The coroner and the victim’s father. In this small town, everyone knows everyone, and even the tourists that rent these hunting lodges are as regular and predictable as the sunrise. I stare for a minute longer, but it’s definitely Mel Teak and Mr. Dunham, the dad of Jer Dunham, who everybody knows died here last week with his dad. Except, not, apparently. I flick my camera to ON, but before I can start snapping pictures, the screen alerts me that the battery is dead. Again. It only got cold two weeks ago, so I haven’t adapted to my winter practice of keeping a battery charged and in my pocket. Drat. What next? Call 9-1-1? Follow them myself?

I yanked my phone from my pocket. No reception out here at the lake. And the camera on the phone wouldn’t zoom enough to take a photo.

An engine caught, and I looked up. A black van, just barely visible through the brilliant yellow leaves, rolled up the drive behind the house

Scrambling up the bank, I raced for my car. If I followed them, I had to drive into an area where I could get reception. I threw open my door, fell in, got the motor started, and tore onto the road.

By the time I roared around the lake, I was so far behind that I almost missed the black van turning right onto a gravel road. I kept my distance as I followed the vehicle through the windy woods.

The van turned into the abandoned factory that had rotted and rusted away for twenty years on the edge of the county.

Start with the End: Leaving Clues in a Mystery

So happy to introduce to you, author V.L. Adams! In her guest post “Start with the End: Leaving Clues in a Mystery”, V.L. discusses the topic every mystery writer fears–writing a mystery that isn’t the least mysterious–and a way to tackle this problem. Take it away, V.L!

Anyone who’s read more than a few mysteries has probably read a story where they could tell you “whodunit” before the halfway point. When I started my mystery novel, The Source of Smoke, I was petrified that readers would figure out my ending, so keeping the mystery alive was always at the top of my mind. 

I wish I could say I had a beautiful outline when I wrote the book and worked off it as I made my first draft. Unfortunately, that’s not the way my brain works. I tried to plan but only had a rough idea of the novel’s middle. What I did have going for me, though, was that I knew the end.  

Once I established in my mind how and why the ending happened, I used that knowledge to determine what clues I would leave. When I thought about which hints to drop throughout my novel, I sorted the clues into two categories: motivation and logistics. 


Why did they do it? Was it love, money, jealousy? Were they trying to keep a secret? A motive isn’t necessary to prosecute a criminal case, but prosecutors will tell you that it’s crucial to the jury. The same can be said for a mystery novel—if you don’t have it, you’ll leave your reader disappointed. 

Writing a mystery is also much easier when you know the character’s reasoning from the beginning. As you’re putting together your scenes and chapters, find the opportunity to show their motive to the reader. When done right, you can demonstrate motivation with as little as a glance or a few words in a conversation. It’s about dropping breadcrumbs. The reader doesn’t have to look down and see them immediately, but they’ll be disappointed at the end if you never dropped them at all. 


Could A kill B? Are they strong enough? Do they have an alibi? Mystery readers are looking at every character asking these questions. There are many different ways to approach these possibilities; how you tackle them will vary with the story and character. You may create an alibi for every character but then drop clues that show how one character could have fabricated their statement. Does the corroborating witness have a reason to lie for this person? Did the person looking into the crime thoroughly check the backup details? 

Logistics is another excellent area to show your reader things. You don’t want to say, “She was so strong she could throw a grown man in the ocean,” but maybe you could show a photo of her winning her state wrestling championship in high school. 

It’s helpful to know not only how your villain committed the act but also where all your other suspects were at the time of the crime. That way, you can not only drop information as to the actual culprit, but you can also sprinkle false breadcrumbs, better known as red herrings. 


It may take a few passes through your manuscript to figure out which clues you want to drop and where, but that’s why you edit. If you know your ending when you begin, you can think about the different ways to leave breadcrumbs on logistics and motivation as you go. Beta readers (people who go through the manuscript prior to publishing for the purpose of giving feedback) are invaluable for testing the number of clues you use and the right places. You’ll know you’re there when your beta reader tells you they didn’t see the ending coming, but it all made sense once they were there. 

For more posts on writing mysteries, click here.


Winner of a 2022 Firebird Book Award in the New Fiction category.

What if a convicted murderer is innocent?

Since Charlie’s sister was killed, Charlie has dedicated herself to being the perfect guardian for her niece — even if it means the painful sacrifice of moving back to the hometown she’d wanted to leave for good. Her sister was murdered by her boyfriend in a crime of passion; case closed — or so Charlie thought.

A series of letters ignites Charlie’s curiosity about the convicted murderer’s innocence. As she digs deeper, she sees things others may have hidden or ignored. She comes to an impasse where she has to decide what, if anything, she’s going to do about it.

Why won’t the universe let Charlie move on? How would someone like her catch a killer anyway?

We often think of heroes as martyrs, but ordinary people can make a huge difference in the lives of others when they’re willing to ask difficult questions. Lovers of small town murder mysteries will find themselves muttering “Just one more chapter, one more chapter…”

V. L. Adams earned her B.A. in photojournalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and her J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. A life-long lover of fiction, she always dreamed of writing her own book one day. No idea ever felt quite right until her debut novel, The Source of Smoke, a story about a possible wrongful conviction and an ordinary woman asking unordinary questions. She lives outside Dallas, works in non-profit, and spends her days with her best friend and husband, taking care of their three lovely children and nurturing her Harry Potter obsession. Connect with her on her website and on Instagram.

Write a Mystery with Me

It’s mystery month on JPC Allen Writes, and like I did last year, I’m inviting you to write a mystery with me. I’ll post photos in the hope that you will join me to write a collaborative story. What is a collaborative story? It’s a story in which authors take turns writing it. I’ll post a photo each week and write a few paragraphs for a story about it. Then whoever wants to write a few more paragraphs can do so in the comments. By the end of the month, we’ll have a story!

To read other collaborative stories, click here.

Here’s the beginning:

The chilling fall breeze flung the ends of my hair against my cheek and I brushed them away as I stared at the vacation house across the lake. I hadn’t expected the site of a murder-suicide to look so … cheery. Painted bright yellow with smoke curling from its chimney, it didn’t look any different from the other vacation homes nestled between the shore of the lake and the steep hills blazing with autumn colors.

I shook my head. My imagination had run away with me. After the crime, the house wouldn’t have turned black and had vultures circling it.

Two people stepped out on the little deck that ran along the front.

I gasped.

Powered by

Up ↑