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Tips for Writing a Detective Character

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Detectives make for mysteriously curious protagonists that compel the audience to join their journey for the truth. While every detective is slightly different, there are foundational parts of who they are and what they do that transcend creative iterations. Here are the best tips for writing a detective character.

Plan the Clues in Advance

Every detective must tackle mind-bending puzzles and piece together curious clues. However, to make these discoveries authentic, you must plan how you’ll write them. If the detective hints at future clues they couldn’t possibly understand, you’ll give away your ending. But if they take too long to figure out one part of the mystery, you’ll string your audience along for a dull read. While not every detective must have a preternaturally Holmesian intuition, they should maintain a steady pace of discovery, cycling between confusion, analysis, and revelation.

Describe the Thought Process

Mystery stories rely on surprise and suspense to keep audiences entertained. A genuinely gripping detective novel will clarify the exact thoughts of the detective themselves. Without a clue into their mindset and understanding, the audience will become lost in the actual clues. Describe your detective’s thought process and how they draw complex conclusions. Famous fictional detectives spend an enormous amount of time divulging their innermost thoughts to the reader. When the reader has an insider’s view into the detective’s mind, they feel like a part of the mystery’s slow unveiling.

Dig Into Crime-Solving Yourself

Every good writer takes it upon themselves to discover the depths of a certain industry or topic in real life. Like an actor conducts character research, writers should follow the steps of real-life crime solvers. Though you may not have access to current crimes and police detectives, you can learn about the lifestyle and interview former or retired crime solvers. You can also learn about the skills needed to be a detective. For example, a decent detective can access secure places unseen. Try fiddling with a set of lock picking tools and learn how to move stealthily. Then, your writing will flow from a place of authentic experience with the subject matter.

Utilize these tips for writing a detective character as you outline your story. With a bit of planning and ingenuity, you can make a fictional detective come to life.

Written by Logan Voss

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