Create Awesome Suspects to Delight Your Readers
Mystery readers love to be tantalized. The clues, red herrings, and evidence you plant in your story lead them to guessing while your sleuth tries to reason out the possibilities. Your suspects weave the rich tapestry that keeps readers guessing.
I recently read A Murder of Crows by Ian Skewis. The psychology behind each character is deep and every character, including the detective, is flawed. Skewis reveals characters by peeling back those proverbial onion skins. Readers get deeper and deeper into what makes a character tick.
You may not be writing a mystery that tends toward psychological thriller, but revealing your characters’ personality draws readers into the story.
Why Readers Love Suspects
Your suspects are the meat of your mystery. Eventually your sleuth has to unearth which of the suspects is guilty. Give your sleuth, and your reader, possibilities.
Clues and evidence are hooks to get readers attention. Well-created characters keep readers turning pages. Those suspects have secrets and tell lies. They also have personal antagonisms, likes and dislikes. You build suspense when the detective must puzzle out those lies, get beyond the antagonisms, and discern which likes and dislikes are pertinent to solving the mystery.
The reason readers love suspects is because they present possibilities.
5 Ways to Make Your Suspects Intriguing
Know the understructure of your characters. Add details, backstory, and motivations in your Character Bible and weave them into your mystery. Write dialogue snippets. Describe their body language. The more layers you create, the more your reader wants to know more.
To know about your character, dig into the under layers and past experiences.
When you give each suspect foibles, something to hide, and defense mechanisms to throw at your sleuth, you’ll keep your reader wondering.
A Practice Exercise
Use the image above as a starting point for three characters. Each one looks a bit shady. Now differentiate those characters.
If you can work through the character differentiation for these three, you can do it for the suspects in your mystery.
When you know the understructure of your suspects, you’ll find casting suspicion on each one easier as they misbehave, tell small and big lies, and confound your sleuth and your readers. The character work you do for each suspect rewards you with details to use in your mystery.
The End That Satisfies
A mystery novel is all about a puzzle. As the story unfolds you put more and more pieces in place that lead your sleuth toward discovering the killer. Once the sleuth reveals the killer, the puzzle is complete.
As far as your reader is concerned, you have solved the puzzle. Your ending needs to come soon after that last puzzle piece is complete. Your reader has the final piece. Any delay in getting to the end of your story can leave your reader dissatisfied. Wrap up everything as neatly as possible. An unsatisfied reader will not want to read more of your books and leave less positive reviews.
3 Tips for Getting to The End in a Mystery
Mystery writers face a challenge of getting to the end of a story as quickly as possible after the killer is revealed. To give your reader the best satisfaction with your mystery help them get to the conclusion.
Reward Your Reader
Your reader follows your detective through the suspects, clues, red herrings, and evidence to discover the perpetrator. You can reward your reader by giving them a quick path to the end of your novel after the sleuth reveals the killer. You’ve solved the puzzle.
The Audiobook Opportunity for Authors
Authors and readers love audiobooks. Many authors are considering publishing audio editions of their book to add to their backlist.
Creating an audiobook has many benefits for independent authors.
With all the great reasons to create an audiobook, you’ll want to know how to work with your narrator.
Interview with Audiobook Narrator Jonathan Waters
Performance artist Jonathan Waters shares tips for authors about keeping your narrator happy. Plus you have an inside pick at a narrator’s recording studio and how he works to produce a finished hour.
Video Time stamp
0:54 What a narrator looks for in an author
2:06 Good communication
5:17 Character comes alive in narration
6:17 Provide a “casting call”
9:20 The Author in the director’s seat
9:45 How to give notes back to the narrator
14:39 The narration recording studio
19:47 What is a finished hour of production?
23:36 Editing author suggestions
24:35 The editing process
28:33 Narrator tip for authors
If you think Jon is right for your book contact him on Facebook at Jonathan.waters.524.
Two Places to Find and Audition Narrators
For years, ACX has been the go-to place to find narrators for your book. With thousands of voices to choose from, you can refine your search with many options for the voice and tone you want for your book. You can pay for the production or find a narrator who agrees to split the royalties. You book will be distributed through Amazon, Audible, iTunes with choices on distribution and royalty rates.
A new option for audiobook creation is Findaway Voices. The process is different. You tell Findaway Voices what you are looking for and they send you selections. You can always ask for more recommendations. Once you choose your narrator, you pay upfront. Your audiobook will be distributed to many outlets giving your book a much broader reach than ACX. And your royalty is higher.
Once you have selected the right narrator for your book or series, act as a professional in your interactions. You want to let your personality shine through, but treat your narrator with respect. He or she is a professional artist with other clients. Make it easy for your narrator to work with you.
Steps you can take.
You and the narrator are partners in the audiobook creation. You selected this performance artist as the right person to tell your story. Think of them as a member of your team. Give them encouragement and praise the work when deserved.
With the right attitude, you and your narrator will be on your way to creating a finished audiobook listeners will love.
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.