Know Your Mystery Ending Requirements

detective in the dark

Readers and Tropes Drive Mystery Endings

Readers have expectations about mysteries. In order to give readers a satisfying mystery, your mystery needs certain elements. 

  1. A baffling crime, usually a murder.
  2. An investigator committed to solving the crime.
  3. A concealed killer.
  4. The killer’s cover-up.
  5. Discovery process and elimination of suspects.
  6. Evaluation of clues, sorting the true from the false.
  7. Identification and apprehension of the killer, the reveal. 

The creative enjoyment of writing, comes from meeting those expectations while telling a unique story. All the fun and games of writing a mystery must come to an end before the reveal. When your story reaches the reveal, your reader feels your contract with them is over. 

Wrap Up Story Threads Before the Reveal

What that expectation means for you as a writer, is that your story ends when your sleuth finally reveals the killer. No long epilogues, no wrapping up subplots or story threads. As far as the reader is concerned the mystery is solved and the story is over.

You may have several subplots that created tension and interest as your mystery progressed. Bring each of your subplots to a conclusion before the reveal. A love interest says yes or no, a colleague who keeps attempting to thwart your sleuth gets her comeuppance, the sidekick graduates from his photography course. All of these threads need an end before you arrive at the final reveal.

Saving the reveal for the end of the story is one of the ways mysteries can differ from other genres. Once you present the reveal, the story is over in the mind of the reader.

A quick closing after the reveal is the best way to bring your mystery novel to a conclusion. Any television mystery series can provide you with a model of how to accomplish this quick ending—Midsomer Murders, Murder She Wrote. 

Your reader follows your sleuth through all the speculations and possible outcomes. The psychological power of the reveal as closure creates a feeling of pleasure. That feeling is what you want to linger in the reader’s mind when they finish. Don’t dilute that feeling by carrying on.

Give Your Readers What They Want

Mystery readers are ardent fans. When you meet their expectations, they will help you promote your book by telling other readers about your mystery.

If you are a new author, it’s especially important to give readers the satisfaction they expect from a mystery. Once your sleuth has discovered the truth, it’s time to wrap up your story. For new authors, it’s especially important to meet those expectations. When readers like your story, they will want more. That’s a satisfying feeling for a first-time author.

Photo by Jay Clark on Unsplash

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