Mystery books, authors, tips, and writings

Sunday, March 15, 2009

5 Ways to Avoid Boring Mysteries

I tried to read three different books this past week, two of which were mysteries or sub-mystery genre. I couldn't force myself to plow through the words between the covers.

I'm a avid reader. When I can't find anything else, I may read the back of cereal boxes. But these books defied my attempts to force myself to read them. So, I decided to analyze the problem or problems as to why the reading was labored and uninteresting.

Using three books (but not identifying them to protect the poor authors) as examples, I can give several reasons that books can be unreadable, things that an author needs to avoid. However, this time I'll discuss five.

1.Too many subplots can become confusing. Confusing, and thus losing, readers isn't a good thing. That doesn't mean that having subplots is a bad thing, just that too many spoil the book. Too many subplots makes the overall plot too complex.

2. Making "make-believe" world unbelievable. Readers can suspend belief IF authors develop a world in writing that a reader can accept, can suspend belief enough to accept. However, a reader must be able to say, "Oh, yes, I can see how that might happen if such a world or circumstances did exist." Therefore, as Laura Whitcomb states (Writer's Digest, March/April 2009), "Readers need to buy into the reality put forward by what they're reading." An author cannot go too far with a plot point or not far enough as the reading audience is being prepared. The plot cannot become too far fetched, or readers will not be able to suspend belief enough to accept it.

3. Dialogue can't be just talking heads. Action needs to be involved as well as conversation, and conversation with action should move the plot along and reveals character.

4. An unsatisfactory conclusion should be avoided. A twist or surprising ending that has a good foundation laid in the story is good. An ending that does not "fit" is bad.

5. Forced emotion can destroy believability. Most people do not sit mulling over their inner most thoughts and emotions in the midst of action. Yet, I'm discovering many novels that have a character do just that. Not only does such needless and in depth thinking tell and not show, but it becomes monotonous.

There, five ways that cause mysteries to become targets for the waste basket, when avoided, can improve a story. Of course more ways exist, but those can be covered another time.


Morgan Mandel said...

There's nothing like the good feeling of starting a new book. Also, there's nothing like the disappointment of trying to read a book you just can't stand. I try for a while, but then stop. I have too many good books waiting for my attention.

Morgan Mandel

Danielle said...

Writing information that works! Thank you for letting me stop by and share, Vivian.

Stop by trailsofnature anytime.


brixxx said...

these are great infos viv! i like the number 1...too many subplots could become very confusing to readers.

i think in making mysteries one should consider on how to build emotion...anticipation...up to the point of reaching the climax of the story and also of the compounding emotion of the reader.

and so, it goes to number 4. :D

M. J. Macie said...

Great article! I look forward to reading more from you. I love mysteries and expect to be at the edge of my seat, not falling asleep. Great tip for other writers.

Anonymous said...

These are great tips for writing any novel. Thanks. Good things to keep in mind.

J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Children's Author
Coming this winter “Klutzy Kantor” picture book

Anonymous said...

These are great tips for writing any novel. Thanks. Good things to keep in mind.

J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Children's Author
Coming this winter “Klutzy Kantor” picture book

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Good post, Vivian. I'd like to suggest a good mystery. It's been on the market a few years. It's called Forecast of Evil by Laura Bradford. Laura was nominated for an Aggie Award on her first book Jury of One, but of her four books (so far) Forecast of Evil has been my favorite. She also goes by Elizabeth Lynn Casey in her new series published by Berkley. I hope you get a chance to read one of her books.

Unknown said...

Thanks for these imortant tips, Vivian. I'll avoid them in my first YA fantasy that I've started. Please give more hints.

Jap said...

Informative weblog entry. If I had chance early next year and completed my first fiction novel these will surely be a good help for me, writing mysteries.

Carrie Cooper said...

Carrie @

I stumbled across your blog. I love that you are so willing to help aspiring writers with your professional wisdom and experience! It's wonderful to "meet" people who want others to succeed, too. Great post.

Vivian Zabel said...

I've taught so many years that teaching is ingrained in me.

Helen Ginger said...

I tend to get lost if too many characters are introduced in the opening chapter. I can't keep them straight.

Straight From Hel

Lenny Lee said...

hi miss vivian! i didnt ever write a mystery but im saving this for if i ever do. that sub plot stuff is true for mystery movies to cause you could get lost and never find where you are. do you think what you said is good for not just mysteries and for other stories?
...smiles from lenny

Vivian Zabel said...

Lenny, most of the points I made are true for any writing. Our job as authors is to keep the reader interested.