Mystery Novels consist of some basic elements—protagonist, antagonist, plot, setting, conflict and resolution. Most mystery writers understand these elements and can fold them into an interesting, well-written story. However, authors may run into small uncertainties about the proper way to write some small details. In this post I’ve assembled a few small details that can make a big difference in a story. You may have wondered about some of them.
- The man is five feet tall or The man is five foot tall. Which is correct? The answer is that it depends. In general a simple test can tell us which one is correct. Nothing is 6 yard long, it is 6 yards long. And we do not say that there are twelve inch in one foot, but twelve inches in one foot. Thus we would say, The man is five feet tall. But, consider this. We would never say “a 12 inches ruler.” we’d say “a 12 inch ruler.” When using the term as a compound adjective it does sound better to say the 5-foot-tall man. When using an adjective modifier, use foot.
- A character shakes his head or nods. What is the difference? Noddingthe head is an up and down movement and means yes or I agree or approve. People nod off when sleepy.
Shaking the head is a sideways movement and suggests a negative response such as “No.” People also shake their heads to show disapproval, disdain, despair or disappointment.
- Italics or quotation marks for titles. Where do you use them? Generally speaking italics are used for titles of large works, book, movie and television show titles.
Quotation marks are used for sections of works—chapter titles, magazine articles, poems and short stories.
- A word about ellipses. An ellipsis is a set of three periods preceded and followed by one space ( … ). An ellipsis can indicate an omission in a quote, trailing off of a thought (I thought that … It’s not important) or hesitation (I want to … I mean … it’s like this … ). One further point about the ellipsis. If it is at the end of a sentence, don’t forget to add a fourth dot for the period.
Correct use of these small details could make a big difference in the quality of your writing.