Cover image for The elements of mystery fiction : writing a modern whodunit
The elements of mystery fiction : writing a modern whodunit
Tapply, William G.
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Scottsdale, AZ : Poisoned Pen Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
xiv, 187 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN3377.5.D5 T37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PN3377.5.D5 T37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whonunit has guided and inspied mystery writersveterans as well as beginners-- for nearly a decade. Here William G. Tapply, with more than 20 popular mystery and suspense novels under his belt, isolates the crucial ""elements"" of the mystery novels that publishers want to publish and readers want to read--original plots, clever clues, sympathetic sleuths, memorable villains, multi-dimensional supporting characters, true-to-life settings, sharp narrative hooks, and, of course, smooth writing. In clear readable prose using examples from many of our best contemporary mystery novelists, Tapply shows how the writer can create the pieces and fit them together to make a story you can't put down.

This new expanded edition of Elements contains original chapters by some of our best contemporary writers and most prominent personalities in the publishing world discussing writing and business issues that are vital to mystery writers in the 21st century.

Author Notes

William G. Tapply was born in Waltham, Massachusetts on July 16, 1940. He graduated from Harvard University in 1963. He wrote more than 40 books during his lifetime including the Brady Coyne mysteries series, the Stoney Calhoun Novel series, and numerous non-fiction books about fly fishing and the outdoors. He was also a contributing editor for Field and Stream, a columnist for American Angler, and part of The Writer magazine editorial board. He was an English professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts and ran The Writers Studio at Chickadee Farm with his wife Vicki Stiefel. He died on July 28, 2009 after a battle with leukemia.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anyone who cares about the craft of writing will welcome William G. Tapply's The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whodunit, a revised and expanded edition of his 1995 classic. The creator of the Brady Coyne series offers sound advice to the aspiring author in part one, while in the all-new part two such mystery savants as Barbara Peters and Otto Penzler share their expertise on such topics as editing, publishing and bookselling. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Philip R. CraigBill EidsonHallie Ephron
Introduction to the Second Editionp. ix
Introductionp. xiii
Part I Writing a Modern Whodunit
Chapter 1 The Elements of Mystery Fictionp. 1
Chapter 2 Finding Your Storyp. 9
Chapter 3 The Protagonist: The Sleuth As Hero or Heroinep. 21
Chapter 4 The Lineup: Villains, Victims, Suspects, and Other Charactersp. 33
Chapter 5 Point of View: Giving Your Reader a Place to Standp. 43
Chapter 6 Setting: The Scene of the Crimep. 59
Chapter 7 Getting It Started: Setting the Narrative Hookp. 71
Chapter 8 Structuring the Story: Building Tensionp. 79
Chapter 9 Building Conflict to Make Scenes Workp. 91
Chapter 10 Dialogue: The Lifeblood of Mystery Fictionp. 99
Chapter 11 Getting It Right: Rewriting and Revisingp. 111
Part II Other Important Considerations
Chapter 12 Writing the Mystery Seriesp. 119
Chapter 13 Standalone or Series Mystery?p. 127
Chapter 14 Seeing Double: Making Collaboration Workp. 139
Chapter 15 Doing Business with Agentsp. 147
Chapter 16 Editing and Publishing Mysteriesp. 155
Chapter 17 The Bookselling Businessp. 167
Chapter 18 Catch-23: Publicizing Your Mystery Novelp. 173
Chapter 19 Persistencep. 181