Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Write a Murder Mystery, Part I

I recently came across an article by Kate White, titled "How to Write a Murder Mystery." This one really got my attention. She gives serious references to Nancy Drew and Adrian Monk, two of my favorite detectives. So not only must I give the article a good look, I might just have to buy and read all her books as well. Anyone who likes Monk and Nancy can't be half bad.

But in the meantime, let's work through the article.

Kate gives four tips for writing mysteries, and I'm not sure we're breaking any new ground here, but it might not be a bad idea to look at them, one by one, and see how my work in progress is measuring up so far.

"1. Start with a Killer Title."

I've failed already. I have been agonizing over my title. I came up with a couple working titles, but I keep second-guessing myself. My book is a cozy, and while the titles I came up with are intriguing, they seem too dark and serious for the humorous voice of my protagonist.

I think a better example to follow would be the light-hearted titles of some cozies that I've read or heard of. Tamar Myers has some great titles, all a spin on common phrases: Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth; and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Crime. Donna Andrews uses birds: We'll Always Have Parrots.

I did have an idea. I thought perhaps, for my preacher's wife protagonist, that maybe lines of famous hymns could be changed into humorous titles. It sounded like a great idea--until I actually tried to do it. There are two main problems with this plan. The first is that there are only so many hymns that are commonly known by the general public. The second problem is that many are so beloved and so serious that changing them at all would appear sacrilegious.

I though momentarily of naming my protagonist Grace, and using titles like Amazing Grace, Redeeming Grace, Saving Grace, and Grace Through Fire, but that's been done. Same thing with Faith.

I recently read a book entitled, Prey for a Miracle. It seems like there should be endless titles with the word 'prey' substituted for 'pray', but not many of them make sense. "Prey Without Ceasing" is a possiblity, but what does it mean? It sounds a bit bloodier than my one-victim book.

Oh, well. At only half-way through my rough draft, I still have time to work on it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I use humorous church signs, I call them Biblical Billboards, in my books. They aren't always easy to do or find but keep at it and you will find a way to humorize the hymns.

    I write about fish and wildlife and the absurdities of life. If you have an interest in humor and mysteries, you may enjoy my book. I have four others completed but not yet published. I also write off the wall history.