What is a Mystery Writer?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2019
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A mystery writer is an author of crime novels or short stories. This type of author differs from a crime writer who writes non-fiction books detailing the events of true crimes. Mystery writers invent a plot or story that revolves around a crime, usually a murder, in which their protagonist, or main character, must solve.

The mystery genre is one by its very nature that must remain mysterious to the reader until the end of the story. The mystery writer must be an expert at giving the reader enough clues throughout the book to keep the story interesting and progressing, without revealing enough that would allow him or her to solve the mysterious crime before the main character or protagonist. The protagonist of a mystery is usually a detective, but it may be a coroner or an unlikely character who finds herself in a crime solver role.

It's important for mystery writers to keep their protagonists unique, or character stereotypes such as the bumbling detective can emerge. If a mystery author does create a familiar type of character, he or she must give him or her a new angle. For example, male protagonists were once the norm before mystery writers began having females as the crime solving main character. Mystery writer Shirley Rousseau Murphy writes a popular series of novels in which a cat, Joe Grey, is the crime solver.


The best mystery writers know how to create suspense that keeps the reader turning pages to find out who the murderer or perpetrator is. A mystery writer should also be masterful at inserting plot twists into the story in which everything seems to turn, such as when a character once thought to be innocent of the crime may now be guilty, or vice versa. There has to be an element of surprise in every mystery to keep the story fresh and compelling.

Red herrings are also the forte of the skilled mystery writer. A red herring is a false clue or lead that doesn't turn out to help solve the crime as first thought. Mystery writers must also keep the motive, or the reason the perpetrator committed the crime, in mind as he or she writes. When the reader finds out, along with the crime-solving main character, who committed the crime, the mystery author must be sure to answer all questions likely to be in readers' minds. At the end of the mystery novel, every who, what, where, when, why and how of the case must be answered so the world the mystery writer created in the story is brought back to normal.


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A mystery writer has the very difficult job of keeping the reader on his or her toes throughout the entire course of a novel of short story. The genre is indeed different from crime, thriller or suspense, as clues,must be strategically placed in order to move the reader along toward the climax. If one wants to try their hand at writing mystery novels, I would suggest reading some classic mystery authors first, such as Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ellery Queen and some more contemporary authors like Dennis Lehane and Stuart Woods.

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