Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Puzzling over Mysteries

Like Diana, my involvement with mystery writing is mysterious in and of itself. I sort of fell into this genre through a series of (very) fortunate events. And now I’m going to leave that statement purposefully vague and intriguing, to keep you reading, just like a good mystery writer should.

So since I’m a newbie to whodunit, I am very much learning as I go, studying every book I read and paying attention to structure, pacing and logic in a way I never did before. Up until now, I’d considered myself strictly a contemporary YA writer, and my concerns were with character, dialogue and emotional arc. Things happened in my writing, but it was often accused of being “too quiet.”

As it turns out, I like the action-driven, big-drama aspects of mystery. I like the process of creating a puzzle and letting my characters unlock it piece by piece. And I like that it demands constant engagement with the reader, as I try to tell the story in a way that is leading without being obvious and withholding without being cryptic. My suspicion is—and I only have one such book plus one first draft of its sequel under my belt—that learning to write mystery is going to make me a better writer, period.


Elisa Ludwig's debut young adult novel PRETTY CROOKED (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins), will be released in March 2012. It's the story of Willa Fox, a teen girl who goes Robin Hood on her rich classmates —the first of a three-book series of thriller/mysteries. Even though she had to extensively research pickpocketing techniques to write it, she remains a law-abiding citizen. Elisa lives in Philadelphia with her husband Jesse and cat Beau a.k.a. Bread. When she's not writing for teens, she's cooking and/or writing about food for The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications. Elisa is a proud member of The Apocalypsies


  1. I wonder how many accidental mystery writers there are among our ranks! I fall into that category, as well. I love the challenge of creating a compelling puzzle, too. Really all stories are based on that with-holding of information, it just has to be all the more carefully calibrated with a mystery, doesn't it?

  2. Oh yay! So glad to find fellow YA mystery writers! I'm a new follower..can't wait to read future posts and am putting a link to this on my blog.

  3. Elisa, your post made me wonder: once you cross over into mystery writing, how easy is it go back? Would you be able to take what you've learned from mystery writing and write something that wasn't so clearly in the genre? Melodie -- welcome; so glad you found us!

  4. Elisa and Diana, I've been thinking about this exact thing (how writing a mystery has helped my writing) as I draft my new ms. Because planting clues is not so different from weaving strands of theme or motifs. And thinking about characters' alibis and reasons to commit a crime can translate into character motivation in any other story.

    Or maybe I've just fallen too far down the mystery hole... :-P


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...