Don’t just kill them, put a little thought behind it. There’s only a handful of basic ways to bring about the demise of your victim—shot, stabbed, poisoned, crushed, starved, tossed off a building—you get the picture. Doing it is something I’ll devote another blog post to, so for now I’m just going to talk a bit about after the fact. Let’s face it, if the opening murder is going to be the inciting incident, why not add a little something extra to the deed. Get those readers wondering what the hell is going on from the moment the body is found. Don’t just stumble over the badly decomposing corpse in a dark corner of the basement of the old abandoned house on the edge of town, have the red ember of a wooden match head draw your attention to a dark object bundled in the corner of the crumbling basement. Wait a minute. Did he say red ember? Was someone just there? Who was there? Are they still there? Adding subtle layers gets the reader’s mind churning. It’s a great foreshadowing mechanism, and it works just as well used as a red hearing if needed.
As a rule, I’ll write the first draft pretty much straight forward. No bells, no whistles, no layers, just get the main thoughts down. The new book, Between Good And Evil, came in at 50k words for the first draft. In the second draft I added in all the color and substantiating details. It’s during the second draft when most of my plot twists and turns surfaced. It’s at that point I went in and added the little details like the red ember of the match head by the body, (the red ember is for example only and not a spoiler alert), revealing its importance in a later chapter. All those what-ifs come into play here. I’ve mentioned this before; if a what-if pops up and surprises me as I'm writing a scene I’m pretty sure it will do the same for the reader. Use them to your advantage. Not everything needs to be planned. Writing the book should be just as exciting as reading it, otherwise why do it?
By the time the second draft was done I was up to 70k words. It’s off to the copy editor at this point. Once it came back I went over the edits, made changes, and adjusted plot points where needed. Once that was complete, I did the fine-tuning in the third draft. All went well and the story landed at 80k+ words. All the subtle layers are now neatly woven together into the story. The seemingly insignificant details standing alone in their respective chapters are ready for the reader to clump them all together, leading them to the Aha! moment near the end of the story once the murderer/s is revealed.
Whoever said, “The devil is in the details,” must have been a mystery writer.