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Unlocking The Secrets How To Write A Mystery Short Story

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  • August 23, 2023
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  • 7 min read


Are you fascinated by a mystery short story and would like to try your hand at writing one? Writing a story can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it requires some specific skills and techniques.

It requires a lot of creativity, planning, and attention to detail. To write an engaging and exciting short story, you need to be familiar with the genre. Learn more at What Is Contemporary Fiction? Step-By-Step Guide. understand the elements of a mystery, and be able to create a plot that keeps your readers guessing until the end.

What Is A Mystery Short Story?

Before diving into the specifics of how to write a short story, let’s define a mystery short story. It is a genre of fiction that revolves around a crime, usually murder, and the efforts of a protagonist to solve the crime.

The story is typically structured around a series of clues the protagonist must follow to uncover the culprit’s identity.

Essential Elements of a Mystery Short Story

To write an effective mystery short story, you must include several essential elements. These elements will keep your readers engaged and guessing until the very end.

The Crime

Every suspense story needs a crime, usually murder, but it could also be theft, kidnapping, or any other type of crime. The crime is the foundation of your story, and it’s essential to establish it early on.

The Protagonist

The protagonist of your story is the person who solves the crime. For character development tips, see Character Driven Plot: How to Write a Character Driven Story. They can be a detective, private investigator, or an amateur sleuth. It should be relatable to the reader, and the reader should care about what happens to them.

The Suspects

A good mystery short story will have multiple suspects. Each suspect should have a motive for committing the crime, and it’s up to the protagonist to figure out who the culprit is. The suspects should be well-developed characters that the reader can connect with.

The Clues

The clues in a story are what drive the plot forward. They should be subtle enough that the reader doesn’t immediately know who the culprit is but clear enough to look back on the story and see how the pieces fit together.

 The Red Herrings

Red herrings are false clues that lead the protagonist and the reader down the wrong path. They add suspense and tension to the story and make the resolution more satisfying.

 The Resolution

The resolution of the story is the moment when the protagonist reveals the identity of the culprit. It should be surprising but believable and tie up any loose ends in the story.

How To Write A Mystery Short Story

Now that we’ve covered the essential elements, let’s dive into the secrets of how to write one. For more help, visit How to Write Historical Fiction: Step-By-Step Guide.

 Step 1: Choose Your Setting

The setting of your short story is crucial. The place that’s familiar to your reader but also one that’s unique and interesting. It should be conducive to crime and give you plenty of opportunities to plant clues and red herrings.

Step 2: Create Your Characters

The characters in your story should be well-developed and relatable. Your protagonist should be likable and capable of solving the crime. Your suspects should each have a

Motives for committing the crime and their backstories should be fleshed out to give them depth and complexity.

Step 3: Plan Your Plot

Planning your plot is essential to writing a successful mystery short story. Start by outlining the crime, the suspects, and the clues. Think about how the clues will lead the protagonist down different paths and how the red herrings will keep the reader guessing. Plan out the story’s climax and resolution, ensuring it’s satisfying and believable.

Step 4: Write Your First Draft

Once you’ve planned your plot, it’s time to start writing your first draft. Don’t worry about making it perfect; the first draft is just a starting point. Focus on getting the story down on paper and fleshing out your characters and setting.

Step 5: Edit and Revise

Once you’ve finished your first draft, it’s time to edit and revise. Look for inconsistencies in the plot, and make sure that your characters are consistent throughout the story. Check for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure your writing is clear and concise.

Step 6: Get Feedback

Getting feedback on your writing is essential. Share your story with friends, family, or a writing group, and ask for feedback. Take their critiques seriously and use them to make your story even better.

Step 7: Submit Your Story

Once you’re happy with your final draft, it’s time to submit your story. Look for literary magazines, online publications, or writing contests that accept mystery short stories. Make sure to follow their submission guidelines carefully and be prepared for rejection. For submission tips, see How to Submit a Short Story: Step-By-Step Guide.  Keep submitting until you find the right publication for your story.

Main Attributes and Elaborate Information

Writing Steps Key Actions Importance
Craft Your Setting Choose a familiar yet unique setting conducive to crime, offering opportunities for planting clues and red herrings. Sets the stage for an engaging story.
Develop Characters Create well-developed, relatable characters. Ensure the protagonist is likable and capable, and suspects have motives and backstories. Shapes the story’s depth and complexity.
Plan Your Plot Outline the crime, suspects, and clues. Consider how clues lead the protagonist and red herrings keep readers guessing. Plan a satisfying climax and resolution. Essential for a successful mystery.
Write Your First Draft Focus on getting the story down, fleshing out characters, and establishing the setting. Imperfections are expected; it’s a starting point. Initiates the storytelling process.
Edit And Revise Identify plot inconsistencies, ensure character consistency, and refine writing clarity. Check for grammar and spelling errors. Polishes the narrative for coherence.
Seek Feedback Share your story for critiques from friends, family, or a writing group. Use feedback to enhance the story further. Provides external perspectives for improvement.
Submit Your Story Search for suitable literary magazines or contests accepting mystery short stories. Follow submission guidelines diligently. Takes your story from creation to the audience.

Final Words:

Remember to focus on building a solid plot with well-developed characters, sprinkling in clues and red herrings to keep readers guessing until the end. Be patient with yourself and your writing, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.

With dedication and hard work, you can create a mystery short story that captivates readers and leaves them on the edge of their seats until the final reveal.


Q- What makes a good mystery short story?

A good story should have a compelling plot, well-developed characters, plenty of clues, and red herrings. The resolution should be surprising but believable, and the story should be satisfying to read.

Q- How long should a short story be?

A short story is typically between 1,000 and 8,000 words long. It should be long enough to develop the characters and plot but short enough to hold the reader’s attention.

Q- Can I write a story if I’ve never written one?

Yes! Anyone can write a story with a bit of practice and dedication. Follow the steps outlined in this article, and don’t be afraid to get feedback from others.

Q- How can I make my story stand out?

To make your mystery short story stand out, focus on creating unique and interesting characters, a compelling setting, and plenty of clues and red herrings. Think outside the box and try to come up with a twist ending that’s surprising but believable.

Q- How important is the resolution of a story?

The resolution of a story is essential. It’s the moment when the protagonist reveals the culprit’s identity, and it should be surprising but believable. A satisfying resolution will leave the reader feeling satisfied and engaged.

Q- What’s the best way to learn how to write a story?

The best way to learn how to write a story is to read as many examples of the genre as possible. Study how other authors structure their stories, create their characters, and develop their plots. Join a writing group or take a creative writing class to get feedback and improve your skills.

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