Mysteries are one of the most popular genre in literature. In books, there are even thriving sub-genres, like cozies, hard-boiled detectives, and police procedurals, that have countless fans. Magazines like Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine have been feeding the adult reader’s need for short mystery fiction for generations. But what about kids? Do children’s magazines still want mysteries or is this the land of books only?
Many children’s magazines will accept mysteries. Many editors say they would love to get more good mysteries. So what makes a story good?
- A fresh idea with a clever puzzle
- Strong characters
- Lively, real dialogue
In other words, the same stuff editors want in any story. So why aren’t they getting these things in mysteries? Well, mysteries can be kind of tricky. First, you really need to plan a mystery before you start writing it. This flies in the face of the writing style of many (especially many newer writers). So they come up with a possible problem (who took the teacher’s special fountain pen?) and they know who the main character will be so they jump in and start writing. But, when the writer doesn’t know who took the pen, often the result is (1) a solution that doesn’t flow logically from the clues, (2) a solution that flows too logically, making it not a puzzle at all since everyone knew who the villain was well before your ‘detective,’ or (3) a solution that falls back on old clichés (more on these in a minute.)
How do you plan your mystery? Listen to the full episode to find out!