Posted by: nancycurteman | April 5, 2011

How to Write Turning Points in a Mystery Novel

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Turning points in a mystery novel are events that move your story forward. They are vehicles to show the changes your characters experience as they move towards the climax of your story. Turning points are important because they keep your readers turning the pages of your book.

Turning points come in sizes small, medium and large. Your climax is usually the largest turning point in your novel. It is the point of highest tension or action that will lead to the final solution to the mystery puzzle.

You should place some well-spaced, medium-sized turning points in your novel. These are important because they enable your readers to see how your characters change. These dramatic events should heighten suspense as you head towards the climax.

You need to plant a small, subtle turning points in most of your scenes. These are the little clues your reader will remember when the villain is finally revealed.

The kind of turning points you choose will depend on your storyline. Your character may discover something important about himself. He may change an attitude. She may realize she can let go of an old need. She may finally take control of her destiny. A disaster or twist of fate may impact his life. New information may change the direction of his investigation.

Change is what you’re seeking when you write turning points in your mystery novel. Big changes and small changes are the key to a fast-paced story.

More writing tips:

Alibis and Motives Can Make or Break a Mystery Novel
How to Write “Killer” Scenes in a Mystery Novel
How to Write Character Arc in a Mystery Novel
4 Ways to Use Blogging to Promote Your Mystery Novel
How Subplots Enrich Your Mystery Novel


  1. I’m glad to hear there is something right in my mystery MS. Turning points are the catalyst to more tension, as each change in circumstance deepens the danger, propelling the plot and the reader’s concern. Thank you for sharing your expertise.


  2. Thanks, NC.

    In real life, we must also focus on the turning points . . . to see the changes that we must make if we are to manifest our dreams. 😀


    • Nice philosophical perspective. I certainly agree.


  3. Nancy,
    I’m a bit confused. When you say “turning points”, are you referring to character growth, or are you writing about foreshadowing sprinkled throughout… or both?


    • Good question, Richard. As I state in the first paragraph of my post, turning points “are vehicles to show the changes your characters experience as they move towards the climax of your story.” These changes can be internal or external. A character may change his internal feelings about himself, or he may change his investigative path based on a new event or clue. Foreshadowing can be tied to some of these changes.


  4. Great advice Nancy and I think it can apply to any genre. A novel is like a long journey our characters take and the path has to have obstacles and twists and turns that change them along the way. I remember reading somewhere that if your character is the same by the end of the novel, then, you haven’t done your job properly.


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