The End (Not Really)

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.)


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