How to Write a Murder Mystery For Lazy Writers

That would be me (hi!). When I finished writing my fantasy story, I had a conundrum. What to write next? The truth is that I don’t really read fantasy. I have an appreciation for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Movies (the dragon is my favourite character). I’m a sucker for a visually stunning movie.

When I read, my preference tends towards authors more than genre. I love Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charles De Lint, Terry Pratchett, Arthur Conan Doyle (Holmes has been a hero of mine since I was a little girl), Agatha Christie, etc. When I watch television, which is admittedly rare these days, I always tend toward the murder mystery / detective crime drama.

Ideally, I would like to write in a genre that I love to read, but I never felt I was clever enough to weave a murder mystery that wouldn’t be painfully obvious from the get go. And so I never even tried. I write stories about the improbable happening to damaged people, sometimes helping them to grow and sometimes damaging them further. I admit, I’m not very nice to my characters.

A month or so ago, I was thinking about what I would need to learn/do in order to take a bash at writing a murder mystery. Police procedure, obviously. Something about forensic science. Psychology. Surgical Anatomy. The list got long very fast. You can see why I haven’t done this before.

But then it occurred to me that those were things I would need to know if my MC was a detective. Could I write a mystery without a Holmes/Poirot-style character? Sure. So, who would you need your MC to be in order for them to have no idea about how the police work? Literally, anyone else.

Then I started to wonder, who would have the most interesting point of view? Well, I’ve seen stories written from the killer’s perspective (that’s one of my favourite novels … I won’t tell you the name of it because that fact alone ruins the whole story if you haven’t read it before). The victim’s perspective. That could be difficult, but not impossible. Then there is always that poor slob who is caught in the middle and doesn’t really know why. Wrong Place Wrong Time Guy is always a favourite — the underdog who has to prove his own innocence.

But what if he wasn’t innocent? Or what if he didn’t know one way or the other? That was my lightbulb moment. I don’t have to create a detective that isn’t derrivitive of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot or any of the others, because it’s not about them. It’s suddenly even less about the crime itself, and more about the character.

What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of crime scene with no memory of what had happened? How would you deal with the possibility of being a killer? Do any of us really know ourselves well enough to know for sure that we would never go that far?

Thus we have the premise of my new novel. The murder mystery for a writer not clever enough to weave a mystery.

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