“Killer” scenes in a mystery novel incorporate some kind of change. This change results from the characters repeated effort to overcome an obstacle. Other scenes may be used to introduce characters or to provide backstory that is essential to establish character motivation. Often scenes provide information needed to enable the reader to understand the sequence of events. These are description or exposition scenes.
“Killer” mystery novel scenes have three basic components: a point of view character and her goal, an obstacle to that goal, and a positive, neutral or negative resolution. In addition, scenes may contain dialogue, description, conflict and suspense.
In general, scenes follow a loose pattern. The point of view character appears early in the scene. Usually the scene will take place in only one setting that is described near the opening. In fact, a change of setting often signals a new scene. The length of scenes may vary. Some last for only a couple of paragraphs, others for several pages. A general rule of thumb is description or exposition scenes are shorter while those that focus on suspense and emotion are longer. Each scene should link to a previous one in the story though not necessarily one that immediately precedes.
Begin each “killer” scene with something that raises a question, catches the interest, or shows action. You must hook the reader. Next, introduce the problem the point of view character must overcome. Increase the drama by making her every attempt fail. When she finally succeeds, she must face an even greater challenge until the final climax when the frustrated, nearly beaten sleuth finally wins. This is what creates a well-connected novel.
Caution: Don’t fill every scene with white-knuckle tension. Throw in some less tense narrative type scenes.
“Killer” scenes are the ones that will keep your readers turning the pages of your mystery novel.
Additional writing tips:
9 Ways to Create Tension in a Mystery Novel
How Do Conflict and Crisis Differ in a Mystery Novel?
How Important is Conflict in a Mystery Story?
Pacing: A Critical Element in the Mystery Novel
Alibis and Motives Can Make or Break a Mystery Novel