Celebrating East African Writing!

The Mystery Junkie

Like many of you, I was raised on the Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. I went through an Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Phase.


I have now graduated to Patricia Cornwell’s medical examiner detective series, Kathy Reich’s forensic anthropology series, and some of Ruth Rendell’s tragic detective stories. I am a die-hard mystery junkie.

Mystery junkies seek a particular experience: they want the intellectual challenge of solving the crime before the detective does, and the pleasure of knowing that everything will come together in the end. Which is why it is so much harder and so much easier at the same time to follow the standard rules of writing mystery. Of course, the best way of testing the mystery writing rules that follow is to read widely in the genre. See how others use them or how and when they get away with breaking them.

Do you want to know the rules?

I oblige. But of course, you will have to dig harder to find out more about the rules.

1. In mystery writing, plot is everything.

2. Introduce both the detective and the culprit early on.
3. Introduce the crime within the first three chapters of your mystery novel.
4. The crime should be sufficiently violent — preferably a murder.
5. The crime should be believable.
6. The detective should solve the case using only rational and scientific methods.
7. The culprit must be capable of committing the crime.
8. In mystery writing, don’t try to fool your reader.
9. Do your research.
10. Wait as long as possible to reveal the culprit.

And now let’s get back to the Contemporary Nairobi Writing Challenge. The terms remain the same. Every author who wins the Story of the Week, will have the opportunity to have their work in expedited review at the Storymoja Editorial Review Table. To win that spot, please send in a story that fits into the categories below.

–         Contemporary Nairobi setting

–         Has two or more young professionals as main characters

–         Can be either Crime/Detective Fiction, Romance or Life Crisis Fiction

–         Must be complete enough to stand as a story by itself

–         Has a running mystery; story must be short but the mystery should make it possible to develop the story into a novella (10000 words)

–         Should not be more than 2000 words

In addition to the expedited review, the winning author will have a Writer Profile on our site, as well as stand a chance to win KES 500 and one of the Storymoja titles.

So who has taken up the challenge this week?

Jaimin Vyas with To a T: I want you to listen to me. You have been a failure all your life. You will continue to be a failure. I will not be a part of that failure. So I am going to make you a deal. I want you to split that 200,000 dollars…

Moraa Gitaa with Second Chance Dad: What the hell was I supposed to do?! I return home unexpectedly from a writer’s workshop and find you in bed with another woman. A month later she’s pregnant. Carrying my husband’s baby…

Chrispus Kimaru with Inside a Swinging Rope: You are lucky you have your mum, my husband died two weeks after we discovered all our savings and our land’s title deed were gone. I know everyone blames me, even the other families in the slum look at me…

Naomi Kamau with If who you are is what you have…: I am Raymond Rukata the new occupant of House NO. 5 in village flats near Delamere farm in Naivasha. I moved in two months ago after losing my job as an accountant at Pang Pang Motor garage in Nakuru.

And finally, Nyasili Atetwe with Adding Holes to my Belt: He yawned, rubbed his face with his hand as if to refresh himself and then leaned on the table with his elbow; a smile, wildly inscrutable lighted up his face. Julia wondered if the smile meant her well…

May the best writer win!



This entry was posted on June 20, 2010 by in Writing.
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