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Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition, 2nd Edition by Sara Paretsky, Hallie Ephron

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Chapter 2

The Mystery Sleuth

“A really good detective never gets married.”

—Raymond Chandler, Raymond Chandler Speaking

An editor once told me that when she reads a manuscript, especially the first of a new series, she’s looking primarily for a compelling protagonist who will anchor the story. Readers need to care about what happened to that character before the book opens and what’s going to happen to that character after the book ends. The journey of solving the mystery should be transformational so that by the end the protagonist has changed in some fundamental way.

So what kind of character makes readers care? It goes without saying that the character must be fully realized and complex, not a cipher or a cliché. She needs to be sympathetic, ...

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