Top 5 Fiction Elements For A Mystery #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

This week, I thought I’d focus on my favorite genre – Mysteries (my fav ’cause that’s the genre I write in).

Top 5 Fiction Elements For A Mystery

Self-editing a mystery is one of the joys of the writing process. You get to use your imagination to lead the reader through your story.


If you’re a mystery writer, it’s important to keep track of your story, and not only in the context of what you share with your readers but also what your characters know.

You don’t need to keep track while you write your first draft, but once you’ve written a draft, go back through your manuscript and rewrite it with the following 5 key elements of fiction in mind.


A clue tells the readers something that will help them solve the mystery. You don’t want to give clues too early and have the reader guess who the villain is. You also want to give enough clues, so when you reveal the villain, the reader is surprised, but also feels the choice is logical. You can also call this a revelation. Any you let the reader know that’s important to the story.


Think of a clue as a piece of a puzzle. You need all the pieces to solve the puzzle. Foreshadowing is hinting at some future event. It’s not solving the puzzle. Foreshadowing will keep the tension rising throughout your story. It’s the anticipation of something bad happening that will draw your reader in.

Usually, I’ll put foreshadowing as the purpose of a scene if it includes foreshadowing. Then I can quickly check where I’ve done this.


You need to decide early if your antagonist will have the point of view (POV) for any scenes. If your antagonist has a POV scene, you cannot let the reader know everything the character is thinking.

In a thriller, the reader often knows right away who the villain is, but in a mystery, the villain is kept secret until the very end.


Keep track of everything the protagonist learns. You need control what she/he knows versus what the reader knows. Your protagonist can only act on information she/he has.


This is very important if you write from multiple points of view. Keep track what the protagonist knows and if the reader knows something from another POV character that the protagonist doesn’t know.

Happy editing!

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34 thoughts on “Top 5 Fiction Elements For A Mystery #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. Fantastic post today Kristina. I like especially tracking what the main character knows along the way as well as the reader. Tips we all should do, but ones I haven’t necessarily thought about. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have a few mystery writers on the hop! I’ll admit, it’s not my genre, but it’s really cool to learn more about it! Great tips– I can see how they would help to build the suspense and ultimate reveal! Thanks for sharing 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Foreshadowing is so much fun to work into a story. I enjoy it, and I always feel a little giddy, wondering if readers would catch it the first time or would realize it after, maybe during their second through .if I’m so lucky to get one, of course. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a mystery writer so this post was especially relevant to me. What I love is when I’m writing the first draft of the mystery, I often don’t know who the villain is. That doesn’t surface till mid-way through the writing. Then everything falls into place. It’s a scary but a fun adventure. However, I must go back through the first part of the book and include the foreshadowing and the clues. Otherwise it’s not fair to the reader. I hate mysteries when the killer comes out of no where with no hints. No fun!

    I also like your idea of asking your beta readers to share who they think did it or what they think will happen. I do that and it’s very enlightening. Sometimes they come up with an idea I hadn’t thought about.

    You didn’t mention red herrings. Perhaps you’ve talked about those in other posts. But, it’s also fun to have at least one red herring going on to keep your readers on their toes.


  5. This is such a challenge for me. I’m writing a mystery (30K to go!), and this conceptual stuff is tough work for my brain. 🙂 Great post! Will add it into my Facebook sharing schedule. Hey, if you’re ever on the lookout for a critique partner, keep me in mind.


  6. I like the five elements you listed. I finished my first mystery novel this year, and it’s still in edit. I will definitely go back and map my writing against these elements. One of the challenges I faced for the first time was keeping track of who knew what and when–very key to a mystery novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful points on editing [and writing] mysteries, Kristina. I love cozy mysteries. Thanks for sharing this with your followers. Enjoy your weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If I may, do you believe it’s necessary for the audience to be able to solve the mystery before being told the answer? Should they have enough information to figure it out, or do you think it’s better to hold a little bit back, so that there’s a guaranteed “revelation” at the end?
    I’ve seen some mysteries that clearly want the audience to have a chance to solve it for themselves, while others don’t provide enough information to solve the puzzle before the characters explain it.
    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Adam, I think it’s best to have enough information or clues so the reader is not surprised at the end. The reader should say, “Of course that’s who did it.” but not guess too early.

      Near the end it depends on how you want to create tension.

      For example, If you plan to have the protagonist alone with the antagonist in the climax scene, you could let the reader “guess” who the evil person is shortly before the climax. It the element of surprise fits better with your story, then I wouldn’t put it out there early.

      Having the reader guess too early will spoil the story. I always ask my beta reader to write in the margin every time they think they know who the antagonist is. This gives me a gauge of whether I’m letting the secret out too early or not.

      I hope that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like you would prioritize “not letting the audience figure it out too soon” and potentially “not provide enough info to solve it before the reveal”.
        Thank you. That is good to know.
        I admit, I am not well versed in mysteries, though I’ve read and enjoyed more than a few. In some ways I feel like all good stories have an element of mystery, just as all good stories have some smidgen of romance, and suspense/fear.
        Thank you for sharing your insights. Much appreciated :-).


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