Writing Books/Mystery


In my story a murder has occured; the protaganist is now a target. The reader thinks the murderer is her stalker, but he isn't.

My question is: In a mystery is it a hard and fast rule that there be an actual detective? In my story there is no actual detective/person, the reader is the detective. He/she is meant to notice/pick up on nuances, clues etc...

Hi, MaryAnn!

Sorry for the delay in responding. My email has been down for a few days. Actually, there's a whole category in the mystery genre for what you suggest, called "Amateur Sleuth." Agatha Christie made that type of protagonist famous through Miss Marple, who was just a smart person with no skills other than a good eye and sharp mind.

But when you say the reader is the detective, that's a bit trickier. Someone has to narrate the book, even if it's you, the author (through omnisicient point of view.) There was a style of short story mystery back in the 50s and 60s called "Solve Them Yourself" mysteries, where the reader would be given a set of facts and the scenario and they would literally solve it (or not.) The answers to the riddles were written in the back of the book.

Isaac Asimov also did the "Black Widowers" mysteries in several mystery magazines in the 70s, where a group of men would try to solve a puzzle submitted to them by a guest to a monthly meeting. In the end, it was the butler who served the meal at the meeting who always provided the answer. But the reader, in effect, got the same facts as the people at the meeting, so it was always a fun thing to have the really logical answer suprise you.

Is that the sort of thing you mean? It worked well in short form, but I don't know how well it would work for a whole novel. If the plot just meanders with no structure other than to introduce facts, it could struggle to be a page-turner. It all comes down to execution. Worth a try if you want to.

Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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