by Annette J Young
A murder mystery story takes many forms. It requires forethought and careful planning to tie all the threads of an in-depth plot together. Each aspect is important. Many people focus on the murderer but what of the victim? You have to understand their importance within the story too. In my own novel, I decided that the victim would die right at the start of the book, my aim was to create impact and drama hooking the reader from the opening pages. Compassion for the victim and for those who were left behind were built into the story so that the reader could share the sense of disbelief and grief. In other novels, the reader follows the victim, sometimes growing to know these characters, unaware of their impending and untimely demise. When they have grown attached to the character, death creates shock and a sense of loss.
If you are planning to write a murder mystery, then careful planning is required. What do you want the reader to feel at the time of the death? Are you trying to shock them or to make them feel the loss of this character in a deep sense or, perhaps a mixture of the two? They may not feel an attachment to the victim, or, equally, the moment of death replays in their minds over and over. In addition to the reader’s needs, you must also consider how the victim feels before death. Are you weaving suspenseful situations around them? Are they being followed or watched from the shadows? Have you created tension and drama? If you can create an emotive game of cat and mouse, the reader will be hooked.
To write a good murder mystery, you must slip into the mind of the victim so to create beautifully written passages that evoke tragedy, fear and intensity. Imagine walking down an isolated and poorly lit road late one night. Your senses will be heightened as your eyes search the shadows for movement. Your ears will strain for the sound of someone stealthily creeping nearer and your mouth will become dry and you’ll swallow nervously, muscles tightening as you prepare to run if you need to.
A victim’s fear will grow if you play on the fears that we all experience. Imagine yourself in your house late one night, you are alone and suddenly, the lights are extinguished unexpectedly. As you peer into the darkness, you hear noises that are new and unknown. You can’t decipher them, is it a door opening as an intruder enters your home? Perhaps you hear soft footsteps on the stairs and the creaking of a loose floorboard. If you can imagine yourself in these situations, you’ll tap into the sensation of fear and be able to relay all the tension and suspense to the reader.
When you write a murder mystery, you need a good understanding of the plot and how the characters all play an integral part. Think of them as actors learning their lines moving across the stage at your direction. You are creating a world in which one or more of your characters experiences an unnatural and even painful death. Don’t just write that they have been murdered, live it, breathe in the tension and feel the fear if you wish the reader to do the same.
Do you want to write a murder mystery? Take a look at this blog post: Step Inside the Mind of a Killer