How To End Your Mystery

Verbal near the end of The Usual Suspects

Give Your Readers What They Want

Mystery readers love solving a puzzle. They want to solve the whodunit before your sleuth. But, in reality, they are disappointed in your writing if they do. Mystery readers love guessing.

You spend most of your mystery developing the puzzle. In Act I your sleuth is called to action to find the murderer. In Act II your sleuth explores the victim’s world. In Act III, your sleuth discovers the previous approach was wrong and takes a new discovery adventure. In Act IV your sleuth eliminates various suspects and hones in on the killer. And, at the end, your sleuth puts the pieces together to reveal the killer.

Save The Reveal until The End 

You’ve planted clues, evidence, and tested your sleuth with red herrings, keeping your reader guessing. Now you want to give your reader the surprise. 

For mystery readers, the surprise reveal is the end. 

Wrap up your subplots, before the reveal. When a reader discovers the killer, in their mind, the story is over. If a reader sees pages and pages more after they’ve discovered the killer, they may stop reading…right there. For the mystery reader, they’ve got what they came for, a mystery. That’s why it’s important to tie up the loose ends of subplots before your final reveal. 

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.

Satisfy Your Reader

Give your reader the reward they want from reading your mystery. To give your reader the best satisfaction with your mystery help them get to the conclusion.

  1. Tie up loose ends before the reveal.  In many novel formats the conclusion can tie up many subplots and emotional challenges for the main character. Mystery readers want the reveal and then they are done. Tie up subplots and love interests before the reveal. Wrapping up those loose ends before the reveal creates tension and keeps the reader reading.
  2. Dastardly deeds before the reveal. If your sleuth and the reader know who the killer is, don’t prolong the ending by creating a new sequence where the killer threatens the love interest or otherwise creates an entire new episode in your mystery. Even though it may appear you ratchet up the tension, you don’t. The tension for the reader in a mystery is solving the puzzle. Once the killer is revealed, end the story.
  3. Make the reveal the high point. Making the reveal the high point of your mystery will keep you from inserting more action sequences afterwards. Get the killer to their just rewards like imprisonment as quickly after his confrontation with your sleuth.
  4. Finish the story. Bring your story to a quick end after the reveal. Let the story be. It should come to a natural conclusion so your readers enjoy a sense of completion at the end.

Bringing your mystery to a close after the reveal gives your reader a strong sense of satisfaction. Bring all the enjoyment they felt as they puzzled over the solution to a satisfying conclusion. Give your reader one final glimpse of your sleuth and then let go. The story has ended.

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