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Zara Altair
paper in typewrite with the words the best way is just to start
paper in typewrite with the words the best way is just to start

If you are writing, you are a writer. You may be aspiring to be paid or published but you are writing. Aspiring means you haven’t started writing. You haven’t put words down with pen and paper or your digital device. Aspiring means you have yet to start.

You either write or you don’t.

The worst part about calling yourself an aspiring writer when you are a writer is you undercut how you talk about yourself. And that talking reflects how you think about yourself.

If you are thinking aspiring writer, it’s time to change your thinking.

You are keeping yourself…


You have one goal for your readers: get them to turn the page. You do that with your story. Not your backstory. Not your vast knowledge of (fill in expertise). Not your setting. Not your storyworld.

All of those are elements that add dimension and verisimilitude to your story. But, the story itself is what keeps readers reading.

Get Your Reader to Care

Right from the start, you want your reader to care about your protagonist. Caring comes from understanding and empathy. Get into the story. Challenge your protagonist. Give them something to do, a problem to solve.

New authors may stumble introducing required story…


Suspects are the lifeblood of your mystery. Without them, your mystery sleuth would have no challenges and solve the mystery in an instant. While evidence, clues, and red herrings help your reader keep guessing, the suspects provide personal interaction with your sleuth. That interaction is the story world that keeps your reader turning pages.

Your challenge as a mystery writer is to create characters that challenge your sleuth. Your detective must track down, examine, and determine each suspect’s relationship to the victim. Each interaction with a suspect drives your sleuth — and your reader — toward the final solution.

Create a Suspect with a Secret

Each…


What Are Story Stakes?

As a writer, you hear about stakes and raising the stakes as the story progresses, but what are stakes? Stakes are the potential consequences of actions.

If you’ve been thinking that stakes are all about winning or losing a fight, let’s reframe your thinking, so the stakes in your mystery keep your reader wondering from the start of your story.

A mystery may feel like a challenge for creating stakes because your detective does not confront the perpetrator until the final reveal. …


When You Lose Perspective

Somewhere in the novel-writing process, you can hit a wall. I call it the reality gap. It’s not writer’s block but something else. You lose perspective on your story. One minute you’ve written a powerful emotional journey for your reader and the next minute it’s the worst drivel written by anyone.

This big gap in perspective usually happens when you are well into your story, somewhere around the middle, or well into the last act. You disassociate from the story. It feels as though you are high up on a cliff looking down and you’ve lost sight of your vision…


What is a Metaphor?

StudioBinder defines metaphor for writers.

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or an analogy between them.

Simply put, a metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things which implies they are alike.

Metaphors add color to your story with an economy of words.

One of my favorite metaphors is in Adrian McKinty’s Falling Glassas he describes the protagonist’s first view of Hong Kong: …a mashup of Canaletto and Blade Runner. No long description of harbors, boats…


Why Your Scenes Need a Twist

You have several hundred pages to keep your reader’s interest. And, you do it scene-by-scene. Scenes are the building blocks of your story. If you want your reader to keep going, each scene needs a bit of a surprise.

If you want your scene to be gripping, then you need a setup that gives the reader a big surprise.

Large or small, you build tension in your story at the scene level. Build anticipation in each scene by changing the emotional status of the protagonist character from the beginning to the end.

At crucial points in the story, you need…


Lay Out the Puzzle Pieces

A mystery is a search for the truth. It’s a puzzle the reader wants to solve, along with the sleuth. When you write a mystery, you create the puzzle that leads toward the revelation of the villain. Along the way, mystery fans have expectations of what they want, and they want you to meet those expectations.

Readers expect not just a good puzzle but an engaging sleuth to lead them through solving the mystery. But that’s just one of the expectations.

Mystery Elements

A trope is a literary device relating to a plot element or character commonly used in a genre. Mystery…


Dialogue Moves Your Story

Dialogue is a verbal action. When a character speaks, they are actively moving the story forward. When the language, rhythm, and voice is clear for each character, your dialogue not only flows in your story you’ll minimize the need for repetitive dialogue tags.

Dialogue may not feel as dramatic as a fight scene, but what character’s say have the power to move the story forward, create immediate conflict, and stir the reader’s curiosity to find out what happens next.

How your characters speak reveals their personality. Especially in mysteries, characters reveal their character, even when they try to hide it…


Plunge Your Reader Into The Story…and Keep Them There

Authors hear a lot about cover design and blurbs to inspire readers to buy their book. But one element of reader engagement that is often overlooked is how easy the book is to read. Book formatters are well aware that the design on the page influences a reader’s response to a book.

Advice about Amazon’s Look Inside feature focuses on how the first pages of your story hook the reader. All that is information is great at the point of sale.

Then, your reader will read your book. Genre readers, like mystery lovers, like a great puzzle in an easy…

Zara Altair

Mystery author Zara Altair writes clues for writers who want to write a great mystery. http://bit.ly/KillerMystery

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