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My favorite part of reading a mystery is learning the Big Why behind the murder and cover-up. The reasons can be creative and elaborate. The best murder mysteries are those which act as dark metaphors for real life events and experiences.

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Do you feel like you’ve got too many “he said,” “she said” tags in your dialog? Are you leaning on adverbs to express your character’s feelings? Do some research on body language to add emotional and descriptive depth to your character’s dialog.

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Every murder mystery begins with one event: The Murder. And yeah, the gun shot, deadly poison and hit & run are all classics, but there’s still a lot of inventive, interesting triggers besides the one on that smoking gun. Have you ever watched ‘Final Destination’ (or 2, 3, 4, 5, for that matter)? How boring would those movies be if they limited the Grim Reaper to just the classics?

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Murder isn’t just murder. There’s a lot of subcategories that tie strongly to the motive. Understanding the type of murder is understanding your murderer. So here’s a list of definitions to the types of murder.

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As your sleuth is poking around, asking questions and tailing suspicious characters, the Homicide Division is probably in the background, conducting their own concurrent investigation. There’s a lot that goes into that and this is a list of some of those steps.

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Sure, a strong plot is important. But, at the soul of a good story is a hero with a problem, and the more compelling that hero is, the better the story will be. Perfect, two-dimensional protagonists don’t create suspenseful, page-turners. That requires interesting, jump-off-the-page, grab-the-readers-by-the-throat heroes and heroines. The ones you keep thinking about long after you finish the book’s last page

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A suspenseful, page-turner guarantees that, at some point, the sleuth is going to land in a precarious situation, where there’s seemingly no way out, failure is imminent, and the bad guy has won. It’s a crucial plot beat, and one that has a structure just like the larger plot as a whole.

The sleuth’s peril and great escape generally has three parts.

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Following a sudden, unexpected, or unexplained death, detectives sometimes have very little to work with to solve the case. That’s when they fall back on forensic science. This is the application of gathering and examining all the minuscule details of the crime scene, and reconstructing the past. To be effective, the forensic scientist must not only be an expert in the skills of examination and evaluation, but must also be able to communicate findings in courts of law and administrative tribunals. Forensic Scientists make for great characters.

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You don’t get a second chance to make a final impression. Obviously, the first five pages are probably the most critical pages in your book. But, your ending may be what your reader always remember. How many times have said, “I loved the book, but hated the ending?” A good ending is a well planned ending, The structure of a murder mystery follows a plot structure, which I outlined here. Going a little deeper, the ending […]

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“Poison has a certain appeal… it has not the crudeness of the revolver bullet or the blunt instrument.”
— Agatha Christie’s ‘They Do It With Mirrors’

From ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ to over 30 Agatha Christie novels, poison has been the weapon of choice in countless murder mysteries. Untraceable, fast acting, silent killers have challenged Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and Jessica Fletcher alike. So, if you’re considering a poison as your Murderer’s weapon of choice, here’s a list to get you started.

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