Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In search of clues to plotting a murder

I keep thinking about the t-shirt I saw that said "A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body!"

I don't need help moving a body .... yet. If that new boss keeps it up I might. What I want to know, as many of you write romantic suspense and other genres that require a devious plot, is how do you plot a murder?

I mean, do you always know who the murderer is before you write it? Or does the murderer reveal himself or herself as you write? Do you solve the murder first and then work backwards to put in the clues?

There have to be as many ways to plot a murder as there are ways to commit one. As a writer how do you approach it? Of if you don't write murders in your stories, what sort of clues tip you off? What makes it too obvious and what sorts of things make you scratch your head until you reach the end and then say "Aha! Why didn't I see that one coming?"

What are some of your favorite romance novels that feature a really well-written murder plot? The kind where you had no clue whodunit until the last page?

And are there any fans of the game and movie Clue here? I liked the game, but I loved the movie. Tim Curry makes such a great butler!


Christine said...

The only thing I know about creating mystery and suspense is planting red herrings throughout the book to throw off the reader. I did that in my third MS regarding the cause of an allergy. I think it worked. But now I am heading into my fourth MS and I have a bit of a mystery -- no dead bodies -- and I'm wondering what the heck have I done to myself ;-)

Good Luck!!

M.V.Freeman said...

Hmmm. You are making me think. I have somewhat of a mystery, but who did it? It changes as I write the rough draft.

LOL, I like Charlaine Harris, she writes a good mystery. Dick Francis I have also enjoyed.

Plus, I try to figure out who would be the least suspicious and then I finger them for the murder.

I know this isn't helpful! Once again you make me think about this type of thing...:)

Carla Swafford said...

I love almost anything, wait...change that, anything at all that Tim Curry is in. Something about that grin.

Sorry, I don't do murder mysteries. But my books usually have some type of mystery going on. For now they come out as I write them from beginning to end.

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL Christine! I feel your pain. I can't tell you how many times I have put an element into a story and proceeded to paint myself into a corner with it.

Anyone have suggestions on how to get yourself out of a story corner?

Louisa Cornell said...

I'm with you on the least suspicious character as villain. The problem is that sometimes it backfires as readers are so smart they figure it out. My new agent figured it out so now I have to go back and make my villain a more obvious suspect so that he becomes less obvious. Does that make sense?

Louisa Cornell said...

Carla, you're good. Writing it as it comes to you has to be a challenge. I'm always afraid I will not have enough in the background to make it work.

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh, and Carla, Tim Curry is the model for the villain of my current WIP. He is SO deliciously evil!

M.V.Freeman said...

LOVE Tim Curry--just thought I'd add that.

As to writing one's self in a corner, I usually sleep on it and sometimes it works its way out...sometimes I rewrite...

Cari Hislop said...

I love Dorothy L Sayer's mysteries especially the ones with the Lord Peter Whimsey and Harriet Vane romance!

If you've never read Agatha Christie, she would be a good place to start! She was genius at plotting who dunnits and making it hard to figure out the killer! She takes a seemingly basic plot line and interweaves other more bizarre and interesting plot lines into it...building up reasons why every single person involved in the death might have wanted to kill the victim or why they wouldn't (except for the detective and co of course). She almost always ends up with a very clever murder mystery that comes together and makes perfect sense. I've never actually tried to write a mystery myself, but from what I've read every mystery writer seems to have their own way of building up the story...building suspese. It's finding what flows best for you!