My novel is a mystery but I've been struggling with putting a murder in it. It seems to me that committing murder on the page is too closely akin to committing it in real life. But the thing is murder is fairly central to plot in the mystery genre, so this was posing a problem in my novel. What kind of mystery was my sleuth going to solve if not a murder and how was I going to make it suspenseful enough to make someone want to keep reading? I wrote about my dilemma in an email message to my WriMo buddy Arlyn and her response was so cool that I have to share it here:
One day I sat down to 'murder' someone in a story, and it was awkward and not too cleanly done at first. I grazed a few people and a mule with bullets before I finally let an arrow hit a target, and even then, I just let someone find the body in a stream in the mountains and didn't go into any details. Somehow that helped me turn the corner, though that story is now scrap paper. Then I wrote another one and added suspense and some graphic, but no blood, and the story took off just fine. I'm happy with it. I had to come to place where it was not about the deed, but about sorting out what happened, who did it and chasing that killer down so they wouldn't get away with it. For me, it's now not about a violation of the sanctity of life, but about the quirks and weird stories people tell themselves to justify their actions –and then the integrity of the protagonist who finds the murderer and won't let them get away with it and forces them to face what they've done.
So today in my story I'm going to write about a body being found . . . and just see where it goes from there.