When I started writing my murder mystery book – Who Killed September Falls? I embarked upon a crazy challenge to complete it within one month and while this was a self-inflicted deadline, I didn’t want to lose the essence of it being a good novel either. My preparation was to focus on the characters and to have a fair idea of the plot. For me, the characters are pretty much the most important aspect of any book; I knew that they would have to drive the plot forward and that some aspects of my story might change as a result. So I was prepared to be flexible and to amend sections as I wrote, if that was needed.
I was aware that I had to consider the needs of the reader too, engaging them meant creating vivid scenes and planting strategic hooks that would keep them turning the pages. I wasn’t just writing for my own pleasure, but for the reader too. Creating powerful characters is important irrespective of genre and for me, it was vital that I created a powerful and unbreakable connection between Arianne and September.
For those who have not read the book, it starts with the murder of September Falls, so the plot unfolds with her best friend Arianne Tawnison desperate to find out more about the senseless killing so that she can come to terms with it. As with any fatal crime, those that are left behind experience their own sense of hell and Arianne could not move on after the death of her childhood friend. There were too many unanswered questions and a killer still on the loose.
My idea was that through the eyes of Arianne and other characters that had been closely linked to the victim, September’s personality and traits would come to life but often in conflicting terms. In real life, our perceptions of people and events change substantially. It made sense to me that Arianne would discover a great deal more about her friend following her death and from very different viewpoints. I was really keen that the reader would feel the connection between the two friends but also to experience the sense of bewilderment that must come from experiencing a tragic loss. Human emotion was the key to my connecting with the reader and because I was writing the story often with tears in my eyes, I wanted the readers to feel that rawness too.
So not only was it important to bring the emotion to life, but to also plant the seeds of doubt in the readers’ mind too. This meant really getting to know my characters and understanding what made them tick. I planted little red herrings that I hoped would make the reader think and would lead them astray but I also planted genuine clues. I wanted to create the mystery and tension and suspicion that would occur if you are investigating a dangerous situation. Arianne knew that she was taking risks but having received and read the personal journal that September had sent to her just days before her death, it was as if her friend was directing her from beyond the grave.
So, I had characters that interacted and that forced the story forward, I had emotion and I had intrigue and mystery and I also had a fairly grisly murder to start the whole thing off. I was pleased with the novel and its subsequent success, and there is nothing like receiving personal feedback as to how the story had gripped those who read it. I learned a great deal from the process and I will take a slightly different approach with my next murder mystery book – the sequel Who Killed Kendra Laine? But the essence will always remain with character development.
Watch the book trailer here.