What’s a Mystery Writer To Do?
I mean, when she can’t figure out who the killer is? Now, you really can’t have a mystery without a killer, that’s for sure. But when I wrote Death of a Hot Chick, I went through a million drafts (seemed like anyway) without finding my killer.
I’d worked on my mystery for months, seemed like years. Well, yes, it did run over twelve months for sure. But—I’d hit a brick wall. Who killed the victim in chapter one? Who would be revealed as the nasty guy in the last chapter? She was dead—no doubt about it. But who dun it? What to do?
Write another draft. Surely the killer would be revealed. I started all over, honed the sentences, refined the clues, brought out new sub-plots, added and subtracted scenes. Even got a chapter or two further along toward the finish line. But… no killer stepped up.
Okay, try again. Piece of cake. Answer will burst forth. Umm, no. Seven drafts later and the brick wall was ever higher. There were clues, red herrings, false accusations, but no killer stepped forward.
I had three guys well positioned, each with a reason to off the hot chick of my mystery. Her father, her fiancé, and the guy whose boat she’d ended up with due to a bit of financial hockus-pokus. (Okay, although some of my characters believed the victim was a sweet young thing, she had issues.) But, I just couldn’t pin-point the killer. What to do?
Desperation lurked. I stared at my three guys, and finally said, “I give up. Tell me.” I handed them the virtual pen and let them have a go at explaining their actions on the day in question. They went at it. A short while later, one of them, at the end of his half page, said, “And then I killed her.”
Whew. Problem solved. And, added benefit, reviewers have said they absolutely could not figure out before hand who did it. (Although, I can’t recommend this seven-draft system, it did work for me that time.)
When I’m reading, I especially like a book, especially a mystery, where I can’t predict the ending. I do like to guess what will happen, and sometimes I’m correct. Sometimes I change my mind with every chapter. That’s a great read! I don’t mind at all being fooled—as long as the solution makes sense. (One can always go back and find those hidden clues and red herrings. So much fun!)
How about you? Do you like to be puzzled, or do you prefer to solve the mystery along with the sleuth?
(Okay I’ll add the universal link for all e‑book readers here.)