Monday, February 23, 2009

How to Write a Murder Mystery, Part III

Kate White's third point in her article entitled, "How to Write a Murder Mystery" was, and let me paraphrase, to start with the characters in motion, and accelerate from there.

Anyone reading this blog (if there were anyone reading this blog) would know that there was a big gap before my post of part two, and three. The reason for this? I was rewriting my first chapter... again.

It wasn't that my WIP lacked excitement. It started with a missing woman. It did, however, lack movement. The main problem was that my protag was home alone, so there was no immediate dialog until the fourth page. And it perhaps 'told' a little more than it 'showed.' I rewrote it so that the sidekick happened to be there with her. Thus there is a little more interaction and movement than in the original version.

And I think I worked on my hook in the process. The action in the opening paragraph is slightly comical, and is consitent with the tone of the story. I'm hoping it will make people want to read more.

Now, not all cozies begin jumping right into the mystery. I've noticed recently that many cozies begin with an introduction to the main character--and a lot of back story. Now, anyone who teaches a seminar or class on fiction writing will tell you that it is something you should avoid like the plague. And yet the last few books I've picked up have started in this same way. Why? Perhaps it might work in cozies because the cozy reader is often sold on the character. Getting to know him or her before the action starts might be desirable at times. But that character really better grab you.

I've opted to start in motion. My first chapter begins with a missing woman, and ends with a dead one. But I feel a little more liberty now to include a bit more back story among the action. Now if I can squeeze more character development while she moves, that's even better.

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