The Challenge of a Good Mystery by J.T. Bishop

 After I finished my third book and completed my trilogy, I wondered what to write next. Writing the first three books about an extraterrestrial community that lives on earth was a thrill and I loved completing that story, but I found myself not quite wanting to leave that world, but at the same time wanting to do something different. I wanted a challenge. Not that writing a trilogy isn’t a challenge on its own, but I’ve always appreciated a good whodunit murder mystery. A story that leaves you guessing until the end.

When I was a teenager, I was one of the many who watched the TV series Dallas and waited for three months to find out who shot J.R. I appreciate a good tale that can pull in a reader, carry them through and surprise them. Not all stories successfully accomplish this. I’m sure you’ve read stories where you’ve guessed the bad guy by the third chapter. I know I have.
So I wanted to put my writing skills to the test. Could I pull off a good mystery thriller that captured the essence of the first three books, but keep the reader wondering until the very end? I planned to find out.

The story showed up rather easily, as inspired stories typically do. But keeping track of the twists and turns and keeping the killer a secret was enough to make me question this challenge. Was I giving away too much? Was I giving the right clues? The kind that might sway a reader in one direction to keep them from looking in another?

Despite my concerns, I kept writing and the words took shape. I’d created a fun array of characters with some serious dysfunction, a sexy romance, and one (or two) unsolved murders. I even successfully managed a satisfying arc that connected the story to my trilogy, allowing me to keep that story alive and kicking. I was pleased. But the question of whether I had successfully kept the murderer’s secret would not be known until someone read it. That was the true test.
I turned the book over to my early readers, and anxiously awaited their feedback. I can happily report that they didn’t figure it out. I kept getting updates from them as they read. “Is it so and so?” or “It’s this, isn’t it?” I just smiled and told them to keep reading, satisfied that I’d managed to do what I wanted. Keep ‘em guessing.

And so now I have the bug. My fifth book contains a murder mystery too. And I think it’s pretty good. As I continue to write, I find that my skills improve, as is the case with most things once you get a little practice. Connecting my stories back to the trilogy allows me a lot of dramatic license, as well.

Now my next big challenge? Merging my trilogy and my last three books together and creating a plausible story with all the characters involved. It’s a little daunting. Plus, I’ll be adding another mystery to the mix as well. As of now, the story is only an idea. There are no specifics, but I know I will rise to the task. I think that’s the point of anything you love to do. Constantly up your game. Take on something new and get out of your comfort zone. It’s how we all evolve our skills into something more. Without it, we lose the edge, and without that, the fun. Doing the same thing gets boring after a while.

So trying new things breathes fresh life into old skills, and offers your followers a new appreciation of your talents, and if done well, keeps them coming back for more, while also inspiring and exciting you. It’s a win-win for both.

So what’s your next challenge? Are you ready to try something new? Comment and let me know what you’re going to do to up your game.

Born and raised in Dallas, TX, J. T. Bishop began writing in 2012. Inspired by a video that theorized the meaning of the end of the Mayan calendar, J. T. began the Red-Line trilogy. The video surmised that the earth was the central hub of activity for extraterrestrials thousands of years ago. J.T. didn’t know whether that was true or not, but it did spawn an idea. What if those extraterrestrials were still here? Two years and a lot of work later, the first three Red-Line books were complete, but she’s not done. The Red-Line saga develops as she continues to write new books.

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Great post. I try to have something new in each of my mysteries.

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