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Don't Try to Impress the Reader with Fancy Words
Have you ever searched your Thesaurus for twenty minutes trying to find the perfect word? And when you found it, was it a word you've never used before? Throw it away.
Fancy words are fine for literary fiction. But in the mystery genre you don't need or even want them. They're just going to gum up the works. You'll make the reader slow down and think about the words, and maybe even consult a dictionary. Or, she might skip over words and miss what you're trying to say. Congratulations. You've just killed your story.
Your prose should be transparent. The reader should not be thinking about the words at all. She should be seeing the story.
Cut the Excess Words
Can you get your point across with less words? Then do it! Cut every unnecessary word. For example, the word "that" is often unneeded:
"She told him that he was not the man that she was looking for."
Now, without the that's: "She told him he was not the man she was looking for."
Cut the Excess Sentences
Sometimes you can cut out an entire sentence and lose none of the meaning. Do it. An unneeded sentence just slows down your story. "But it adds to the meaning of the paragraph," you say. Then keep it. But check it again. Does that sentence truly add something? Or have you simply fallen in love with how it rolls off your tongue?
Similes, Metaphors, Allusions
Should you eliminate all similes, metaphors, and allusions from your mystery novel? No. They can beautiful and powerful. But use them sparingly. Sometimes a face is poetry. Sometimes a voice is like a Nightingale's. Sometimes you must make a reference to something else. But use these figures of speech sparingly---like salt. Just a sprinkle can make your prose more tasty. But pouring it on will render your story inedible.
Make Every Word Count
Do you like it when a reader skips over parts of your writing? Neither do I. But how can you train him to read every word? By letting him know from the very first paragraph that your writing contains absolutely no fat. When he realizes he can't skip over words without missing something important, he will begin to read every one of them.
It's Not About the Words
A murder mystery is not about the words. It's about telling the story in the most effective way. Words are the tools. They're not the story. So, use your them wisely to capture your reader's imagination. And entice him into the murder mystery world you've created.
Robert Burton Robinson has written several mystery novels : Bicycle Shop Murder, Hideaway Hospital Murders, Illusion of Luck, Fly the Rain, and Sweet Ginger Poison. His books are available from Amazon.com and other retailers.
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