Writing Mystery Fiction by Mary Marks

Hi Wicked friends! Mary Marks is here with us today, celebrating Knot Ready for Murder, the ninth book in her popular Quilting Mystery series, which is being released on July 27th and is currently available for pre-order.

Here’s the blurb.

Before quilter Martha Rose can tie the knot to Crusher, she has to track down his missing first wife…

One loose thread threatens to unravel Martha’s wedding plans: the groom-to-be married a pregnant teen to save her from scandal thirty years ago–and the marriage was never annulled. Now Crusher’s wife Hadas is coming to LA, along with his sister Fanya. But soon after she arrives, their houseguest goes missing, with her room ransacked and a chloroform-soaked cloth left behind. Could her apparent abduction be connected to her brother’s unsolved death from a hit-and-run six months ago? Martha and her quilting cohorts must find the pattern to solve the twin mysteries and determine if Crusher is still married–or now a widower…

Take it away, Mary!

Writing mystery fiction is all about imagination, research and making choices. Using her imagination, the writer should create a world that is both believable and interesting. That world needs to be populated by characters who feel like they could be real–characters the reader can relate to. And finally, the plot of the story must be plausible. Readers are just too smart to accept anything less. The author must also play fair with the reader; that is, the solution of the mystery should be traceable from the clues in the story. Red herrings and distractions are okay. A good piece of storytelling will keep the reader guessing right up to the end.

Research is essential for creating a believable world. Fudging the facts is dangerous, as there are bound to be readers who know more than the writer and who will expose the writer’s mistakes. The best possible scenario is to have a real expert vet the author’s writing to make sure the details are correct. However, not all authors have access to real-life experts, so they must rely on careful research. Nowadays, the internet is the library where a writer can instantly look up information on any subject. In this way, they can become knowledgeable enough on any aspect of a story to write a plausible account.

Imagination and research result in many possible details for the writer to choose from. Whether it is character development, plot or setting, descriptions matter. Particularly powerful images may come from the most subtle details. They can give the reader a real flavor of the world the author is working to create. Dialogue also presents a rich opportunity for the author to make a character come alive. With the right choice of words, the author can flesh out a character in a way simple description cannot. Using bad grammar, incomplete sentences, accents—these all help the reader understand the character.

Finally, writing mystery fiction can be a way for the skillful writer to construct a world that readers will enjoy and want to experience more of.

Readers: Have you read a book or series that you wanted to return to? If so, how did the author manage to grab your interest?

About Mary

Mary Marks is the author of the award-winning Quilting Mysteries featuring Martha Rose, a zaftig, Jewish divorcee of a certain age living in the San Fernando Valley. The first book in the series was published in 2014 when Marks was 70, proving that anything can happen with persistence and a little bit of luck. The author lives in Camarillo, California with her husband and her orange cat Louie.

24 Thoughts

  1. Welcome to the blog, Mary, from a native southern Californian! My mom retired to Ventura so I used to visit that lovely area a lot. Congratulations on the ninth in your series!

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  2. There are a few series that I have to read as soon as a new book comes out. What keeps me reading is the MC, the location, the fun characters and conversations, and the great mysteries. I love when I can’t figure out who did it.

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  3. There are many series that I return to and I think you’ve stated very well what captivates readers: the characters and plots must be relatable and believable! Congrats on your new book, the cover looks yummy!

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  4. Big time congrats on your upcoming release, Mary! The series that I return to all come down to the characters. I’ve come to care about them and enjoy seeing what they’re up to. Cheers!

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  5. Congratulations on the ninth book, Mary. I have several series I like to return to and it’s always because I want to see what the characters are up to this time.

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  6. It’s the characters and great plots that keep me coming back. A fun location can help as well. One thing I enjoy about your books is that I live not that far from the San Fernando Valley, so I always smile when local things I recognize are talked about.

    Congrats on book 9! I still have a ways to go to catch up, but I’m enjoying the characters.

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  7. Mary, congratulations on your new book!

    If I like a series, I find myself always wanting to return to it. Sometimes because of the setting and sometimes for the characters. I do quite enjoy when the series is set in a restaurant because I imagine someday being able to eat there (forgetting for a moment that it is a fictional place).

    Tell me a good story with memorable characters and dead body scattered about town and I’m always willing to take a return trip.

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    1. Thanks, Jay. It’s important for an author to consider how much the reader responds to each character and situation.

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  8. I loved the whole Maggody series and love Joan Hess. And I will read/re-read anything by Charlotte MacLeod. There are certainly plenty of authors who catch my attention and then I am really hooked. It’s sure that way with the Wickeds!

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  9. I read a LOT of cozy mysteries. Mary Marks is my new favorite author and I have read the entire series so far. I tell everyone I know about them and have mine preordered. I’ve never looked forward to the next book more. I don’t know what I’ll do if they stop coming. The writing is flawless and just draws me in. The characters feel so real and I love the sass.

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  10. Charismatic characters-if the characters are cardboard I will NOT be returning to that series (and will probably leave a poor review).

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