LESSON TWO: THE CRIME
The first mystery I tried to write was an agonizing experience.
I had a great crime to solve.
Lots of great suspects.
Lots of great intrigue.
A great heroine with lots of moxie.
While I wrote I struggled along with her to solve the case. The problem was that I had no idea of who committed the crime, how they did it or why. I was writing the story from a reader's point of view. This meant that as the story progressed, it kept changing.
About a third of the way in and I’d get stuck, because I really didn’t know where I was headed. After several “weak fixes” I’d struggle on and then come up with the perfect solution. The problem was that the “new fantastic idea” had a ripple effect like a tsunami in reverse. I’d have to go back to page one and rewrite. Losing characters. Adding new characters.Changing settings. Deleting scenes that didn’t fit anymore. Writing new scenes that did. And. And. And. And it didn’t just happen once, but three or four times. All on the same manuscript. I think in the end I threw away about 200 pages.
Lesson Two is designed to help you avoid the waste-of-time-rewriting syndrome of not having a solid crime plot before you start to write.
Your job is to work out the details of the crime.
1. What did he (or she) do?
2. How did he do it?
3. Why did he do it?
4. What's his plan to avoid being caught?
5. What's his relationship with his victim? And your hero?
6. How is he covering his tracks?
Now it's time write out the actual crime scene as it happens from the criminal's point of view. This scene probably won't appear in your final story, but it will help you focus and provide you with the vital clues you need to sprinkle into your manuscript.