5 Characteristics of the Perfect Murder Mystery Hero

Today’s post is by screenwriter Neil Chase.

There are many important elements to a successful murder mystery, but the hero is arguably the most important.

This character needs to be someone that readers can root for and sympathize with. How to do that? Let’s take a look at the 5 most important characteristics of a murder mystery hero.

  1. The perfect murder mystery hero is brilliant (in a unique way)

When it comes to creating a great murder mystery protagonist, one quality is essential: intelligence. An intelligent hero is able to use their quick wit and sharp mind to piece together clues and solve the mystery. They see things others do not and connect the dots in unusual ways.

Here are a few tips for creating a brilliant murder mystery hero:

  • Give your hero a backstory that explains why they’re drawn to solving puzzles in general and murders specifically. Perhaps they witnessed a crime as a child or have personal experience with loss. This will help make them more relatable and sympathetic.
  • Make your hero’s intelligence apparent from the start. Before the case even starts, give us a taste of what they can do and how their mind is superior to those around them.
  • Once the case is on, they should be able to see through lies and spot clues that others would miss.
  • Give your hero plenty of obstacles to overcome. The more difficult the mystery, the more satisfying it will be for readers when your hero finally solves it.
  1. They are always willing to help solve the crime, even if it means putting their own life at risk

The perfect murder mystery hero is always willing to help solve the crime, even if it means putting their own life at risk. They are clever and resourceful, able to piece together seemingly disparate clues to uncover the killer’s identity, but they are also cool under pressure and maintain their composure in the face of danger in order to catch the culprit. Above all, they are driven by a strong sense of justice, determined to uncover the murderer no matter what the cost.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher fits this model well, often putting his own life in danger due to strong moral convictions and an iron will.

  1. They have a strong moral code and will fight for the underdog

There are many different types of murder mystery heroes, from the classic detective to the hard-boiled private investigator. But whatever their individual quirks and traits may be, all great murder mystery heroes share one essential quality: a strong sense of justice and fairness.

This is what drives them to seek out the truth, even in the face of danger. It is what compels them to stand up for the victim, even when everyone else has given up hope. And it is what allows them to see through the lies and deception to get at the heart of the matter.

In a world full of darkness and cruelty, the perfect murder mystery hero shines like a beacon of light, always ready to fight for justice and bring the truth to light. A great example is Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe—an honest man in a corrupt world, willing to seek out the truth despite the dangers involved.

  1. They are able to think on their feet and come up with clever solutions to complex problems

The perfect murder mystery hero is able to think on their feet and come up with clever solutions to complex problems. They are always one step ahead, and their quick wit and sharp mind help them to solve the case before anyone else.

The best murder mystery heroes are also resourceful and detail-oriented, able to piece together the puzzle, even when all of the pieces seem to be disconnected.

In short, the perfect murder mystery hero is someone who is both brilliant and brave, able to outsmart the villain and save the day!

  1. They are likable and relatable, so readers can easily connect with them

The perfect murder mystery hero is someone that readers can easily connect with and root for. They should be relatable so that readers feel like they understand them, and likable so that readers are invested in their story.

To make your hero more likable, give them positive qualities such as courage, determination, and compassion. Readers will be drawn to a hero that they can admire and who they want to see succeed.

On the flip side, make your hero more relatable by giving them relatable problems. Perhaps they struggle in their job, or they’re dealing with a difficult personal situation. This will help readers to connect with them and feel empathy for their situation.

A good example is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, who suffers through varying degrees of addiction with alcohol, tobacco, opium, and cocaine.

Finally, make sure to give the hero a clear motivation. Why are they solving this mystery? Is it for justice? For vengeance? For the pure thrill of the chase? Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that will pull readers in and keep them invested in your story.

Bonus Tip: Make them instantly memorable!

Your hero needs to stand out from the crowd, not only through their brilliant and deductive mind but through appearance and personality.

From Columbo‘s disheveled appearance and “Just one more question …” to Miss Marple‘s grandmotherly demeanor and a knack for gossip, to Kojak‘s bald tough-guy exterior and love for lollipops, to Jack Reacher‘s intimidating size and military skills, to Sherlock Holmes‘s superiority complex and violin, each one is immediately recognizable and memorable from page one.

By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to creating the perfect murder mystery hero!

If you want to write a murder mystery that will keep your readers guessing until the very end, make sure your hero has these five characteristics.

By following these tips, you can create a character that is both intriguing and compelling, someone who your readers will be dying to solve the mystery alongside. With the right combination of planning and creativity, your perfect murder mystery hero is just waiting to be born!

Neil Chase is a story and writing coach, award-winning screenwriter and actor, and author of the acclaimed horror-western novel, Iron Dogs. Neil believes that all writers have the potential to create great work. His passion is helping writers find their voice and develop their skills so that they can create stories that are both entertaining and meaningful. If you’re ready to take your writing to the next level, check out his website for tips and inspiration!

Featured Photo by Sander Sammy on Unsplash

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One Comment

  1. This has a lot of great advice! I’m currently working on a paranormal cozy mystery I just started, and it’s reminded me that I might need to do a bit more work on my sleuth to make my story better. In particular, the flaws of the protagonist. I think it’s so important to make our characters more relatable if we want our readers to keep reading.

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