Thursday, October 18, 2012

Murder's Not as Easy as It Looks

Vicarious murder, I mean. Not sure how difficult the real kind is, and I really don't want to know.

For a mystery writer, though, murder becomes problematical. First, it has to be entertaining for the reader. Some writers go for gory detail, but that isn't my cup of poison, so I have to be creative. And when you've got a few books out, you start to realize that all the murders can't be the same kind. The victim can't always be shot or pushed down the stairs. Readers notice these things.

To make matters worse, a crime must have repercussions. If the police know a murder's been committed, there will be an investigation. If that happens, likely suspects will be examined for motive, means, and opportunity. Everyone who's ever seen Perry Mason re-runs knows it, so the writer must help his killer remain undetected, at least for 200 pages or so.

Does he make the murder seem accidental? Good idea, but how? When you actually try to set up a convenient accident, you'll find it isn't as simple as it might seem. What if someone sees the killer at the victim's house? How does he get the person to cooperate in his own demise? What about all those CSI people who'll be looking at every shred of evidence?

Does the killer try to blame someone else? Possible, but he (or she) will have to assure that the person hasn't got an alibi. He'll have to lead the police to his choice of suspect and away from himself.

And what about the method? Face-to-face methods are quick but require either sangfroid or the opposite (would that be sangchaud?) More removed methods call for careful planning. Many a murder mystery has been ruined for me because the killer could not have known he'd get the right victim and might just as easily killed someone else entirely (of course, that could be part of the plot...)

Right now I'm planning my next plot (or is that plotting my next plan?), and I want the victim to die of poison. Fine. Now which poison will provide what I want: a quick death that looks like suicide that can be administered by an unknowing third party by a manipulative killer several thousand miles away?

I don't ask for much, really. I just want an entertaining (vicarious) death.

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