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For me, writer’s block hits for one real reason: I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen next. I generally have a clear outline, and I know I want to take the murder mystery from point “A” to point “C.” It’s “B” — or the murky middle — that either veers off path or writes itself into a corner. When this happens, I have to go back to that outline and take some time to plan.

One surefire tip I use to get back on path is to give the Protagonist a backseat and focus on another character.

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Your thriller has an intriguing plot, a captivating sleuth and a mysterious villain. Now what? Well, there’s still one more character who needs to be just as compelling: The victim. After all, your whole Whodunit revolves around the victim.

Victims generally come in two flavors.

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Unlawful behavior is a violation of the laws of a civilized society. In every society, a code of behavior exists that governs right from wrong. Behavior that violates that code of is considered an unlawful act.

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Want to heighten the drama and suspense in your thriller? Then your story better have a ticking clock.

This element is used to increase the intensity of a situation that must be resolved within a given time.Time limits combined with various obstacles put additional pressure on the protagonist. If the goal is not accomplished within the time set by the clock, all will be lost. And it keeps the reader on the edge of her seat.

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A big part of hiding the murderer in your mystery novel is to distract the reader with another character who displays blatantly suspicious behavior. On the surface, this suspicious character appears to be the murderer. He’s clearly hiding a secret — it’s just not THE secret. And his actions confuse the sleuth and the reader alike, leading them down the wrong path and away from the true murderer.

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Granted, the focus of the mystery is, well, solving the murder. However, a romantic subplot can enrich your story, adding humor, tension, suspense and character development. In interwoven subplots, the outcome of the main story will in some way depend on the outcome of the subplot.

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I love quirky characters. Their offbeat personality traits can be endearing, making a character memorable and unique. Done correctly, character quirks can leave a lasting impression and be far more rewarding than vanilla, Boy Scout manikins with perfect hair and white teeth. Quirks can add depth that dialog and prose alone can’t reach. Readers should have a deeper understanding of who that character is by those peculiar little idiosyncrasies.

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Ironically, the Private Investigator is a staple of the murder mystery genre. In real life, the PI almost never works a murder investigation. That job is left to professional police forces. But whether their goal is truth, justice, the American Way or putting bread on the table, the PI can still get involved in your mystery through a lot of ways.

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So your sleuth has a murder to solve. Unless you have a really boring story, the road to achieving that challenge will be blocked at every turn with danger, hardships, and difficulty. Those obstacles though are often what makes the story memorable — Indiana Jones running from a giant boulder comes to mind.

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A member of the Thriller Readers Google+ group recently asked if “certain sub-genre thrillers written by experts in those areas seem to portray more realistic stories than your everyday fiction writer?” That got me to thinking: I guess it depends on what genre and sub-genre you like to read.

The crime genre has developed many sub-genres over the years.

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