Enough from us fictioneers here at CB on what constitutes a good crime short story. What does a mystery reader look for in a mystery short?
3 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF A CRIME SHORT STORY
by Brooklyn White
I’m a voracious reader and am hardly seen without a book (or if you want to be more accurate and keeping with the current trend, my Kindle), and there are some kinds of books that suit my tastes better than others. I love murder mysteries, but truth is, I often find myself longing to turn the pages and discover who did it much before it’s time to find out. That is where short stories, especially the ones that feature crime, come in – they help me satisfy this longing for quick and almost-instant thrills. I’m not too finicky about the authors I read when it comes to short stories like I am when it concerns full-length novels, and that’s because short stories allow you to easily gauge whether or not they have what it takes to impress. In short, the kind of crime short story I like should have these essential elements to be able to hold your attention, make you eager to turn each page, and also leave you disappointed that the story has come to an end:
- Brevity: Yes, it’s called a short story, but you’d be surprised at the number of aspiring authors who are just not able to tell a story within a few thousand words. They take a long time to set the situation and establish their characters that the intensity that should be a part of a short story is often missing. A good crime short story should be brief and stick firmly to the storyline without deviating into sidelines that are not really relevant to the main story idea. In a nutshell, a good crime short story writer must know how to cut a long story short.
- Suspense: When you’re penning a short story, it’s essential to keep the suspense up right from the first or second paragraph. You know you don’t have much time to set the mood or situation that can build up to a point where you are sure to gain the reader’s attention. Your work must be bang on target right from the beginning. When there is suspense, the reader begins to form their own ideas as to how the story is going to end, and that’s when you need to throw in a few red herrings that will make them sit up again and read more eagerly. This way, you keep the suspense going till the very end when the true intent of the crime or the real criminal is revealed.
- Surprise: Almost every reader of short stories know that there is going to be a surprise ending, so the job of the writer is made that much more difficult – they have to keep the reader from guessing too easily what’s coming at the end. The classic twist in the tale is expected, and a good crime writer knows how to twist it just enough so that it’s not too outlandish or too straightforward.