I’ve just made a decision. I’ve decided where my victim is going to die.
It’s been bothering me. I knew they had to die – and why (the motive). I knew how they were going to die (the method, or means). But I hadn’t quite worked out the where (which is mostly to do with the opportunity).
You see, the thing is, it’s easy killing someone in your mind.
Especially if that someone is a fictional character. When you’re working out your plot, all you really focus on is that X has to die.
But as you try to flesh out that initially sketchy plot, you realise that you really have to nail down every detail of this crime you’ve so blithely called for. Not just the where, the when, too, has to be precisely mapped out. To the minute, sometimes.
This is the stage I’m at with my current WIP. I’ve reached the point where I have to commit to a where and a when. What I’m looking for is a where that allows me to keep open a range of suspects who might be responsible.
I had initially thought that this victim would die in their home.
But I decided that that closed down the number of possible suspects too much. So I moved the scene of the crime to a more public place.
That throws up other difficulties, of course. It can’t be such a public place that the crime would most likely be witnessed, or interrupted. And if the access is too open, aren’t there then too many possible suspects?
Of course, it all depends what kind of book you’re writing. And what kind of killer your murderer is.
In this story, there’s a nod towards traditional golden age detective stories. While it’s not strictly a closed community murder, there is a community from which the potential suspects are drawn.
As always when writing detective fiction, there’s a tension between the plausible and the possible. The modern reader, I think, demands psychological plausibility in addition to logical possibility. Whereas in the past, writers have been more able to get away with satisfying only the latter of those standards.
Murderers can be lucky though.
So I think we are allowed to give them a small window in which they can commit their crime and get away with it. Five minutes earlier, or five minutes later and someone might have caught them red-handed. It’s just bad luck for the victim that things worked out the way they did.
And in seizing on this unique moment of opportunity to kill someone, the murderer is fulfilling their destiny, and revealing their character through action, which is what happens in all the best stories. So they don’t just kill, they are able to do everything they need to do to conceal their crime.
So, yeah, that’s where I’m at.