When writing fiction, particularly mystery, thriller and suspense, don’t develop plots and characters that have been used before. Do readers really want another jaded police detective who is an alcoholic? How about yet another body found in a trunk?
Readers want to be surprised, entertained, and have something different. Those who like to try to figure out who done it and why like a challenge. If it is too easy, that won’t work.
Twists and turns in suspense, mystery and thriller novels work very well – provided they are different. And if you are writing a series, you need to write the unexpected even more so your readers don’t get too comfortable with your series characters. You want them to relate to the characters and develop a bond, but you have to shake them up with each book’s plot and characters.
Remember your characters need to be like real people – they can’t be stagnate. Throw them lots of curve balls and see how they act and react.
Some authors that are masters at this are Julia Spencer Fleming, Peter Robinson and Harlan Coben. The latter writes standalone mystery-suspense, while the former two write series mysteries. Spencer Fleming, for example throws a big curve with each book. Just as something seems to be sorted out between her two main characters – Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne – right at the end of the novel, something happens that seems to come out of the blue.
But it is not really out of the blue – if you go back throughout the novel you will see events and what the characters are doing that make the unexpected logical. Some examples (without stating which novel) are when the priest and the cop finally get their relationship solidified, the priest who was previously in the armed forces and is now on reserve, is put on active duty outside the US. Right at the end of the book. Great hook to get the reader to read the next one in the series.
The reader knew Clare’s background here,so that wasn’t grabbed from the air. It was the timing.
And that’s what is important. Timing. In my Beyond novels, I build up the suspense with (among other things) a growing relationship between the main character PI Dana Bowman and Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding. Both are relationship shy – that isn’t too different. But how it evolves (or does it?) is different because of other things going on in the novel. The ending has a big twist.
This is the novel I’m still putting the finishing touches on for the publisher. So, I’m not going into more details. The previous and most recent one, Beyond Blood has a bit of a cliff hanger at the end – the premise here being, when a crime victim has been rescued, it may not all be rosy and comforting for them. In fact, it isn’t in real life. I took that idea and left the reader wondering about a character’s dealing with after effects. The short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point has four stories featuring Dana Bowman and most of the rest of the Beyond gang. These stories take place the year after. And the current Beyond book is later that same year and the character is still suffering some after effects.
Unexpected events change people – how they live their lives afterwards.And that varies with each person. So, too, should your fiction.
Don’t be lazy and write the same old same old. Surprise your readers – but make it logical. That may sound like an oxymoron, but be creative.
And read what is already written to see what works, what surprises and what doesn’t. Read books by Julia Spencer Fleming, Peter Robinson and Harlan Coban, and yes my Beyond books too.
You can get more information about the Beyond books by clicking on the Beyond Blood icon at the top.