1. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Whodunit - Plotting a Crime

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Charisma, Aug 15, 2014.

    So I have a question about writing a mystery/crime novel.

    I've read that most famous crime novelists, like Agatha Christie, would write a rough sketch of the story first and then, depending on which character aroused the least suspicion, connect him/her to the crime. This was determined by picking a character, who, for instance, seemed to have little or no relevance to the crime. The narrators/MCs would keep talking about all those other people so convincingly, our mind wouldn't go to those side characters. In essence, the mystery and suspense was ensured because the reader would have little exposure to the character.

    While I don't dispute the technique, I am wondering if it is possible to retain mystery/suspense even if the suspect is an integral character who, say, the MC is infatuated with. Sort of like someone so close to you (as a reader) that your mind doesn't go there. My own novel has that sort of angle, and though I have taken some necessary precautions, I'm not sure how true and tried this technique is.

    There could also be technical reasons for why the person is not a formidable suspect, but despite the MC's focus on the character, is it possible to keep the reader in the dark long enough for it to be a surprise? If so, do you have examples from literature of when this was successfully pulled off? BTW, this is in context of first person POV.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2014
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm sure this has been done, although I don't read lots of whodunnts. If you have a cast of characters of integral and less integral ones, I would imagine it's possible, and even come as a surprise to the reader if someone very close to the MC did it.

    You might want to create a premise where the reader thinks there's no way the sweet girl in the office who has the hots for the MC did it 'cause she has an alibi, or she would never allow the MC close to her if she had something to hide etc. to mask her guilt?
     
  3. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Yeah, I do have some safeguards in place to keep the suspicion away from the main character, trying to keep the reader preoccupied with other plot details, and making the character seem like an impossible choice. But I have no experience writing or reading a mystery which used this structure.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Dark Knight Rises uses exactly that, doesn't it? Remember Miranda-something? (sorry, I forget her surname) Bruce Wayne was having sex with the woman and at the very end it was revealed that she was the child who escaped from that dungeon pit and has come back to revenge. (can you tell the plot sorta escaped me when I watched it? I'm not familiar with Batman's history...)

    Either way - the woman was Batman's love interest in the film and she turns out to be the one behind it all. Watch it and see how it was done, perhaps. :)

    To be honest, in Hunger Games, they kinda do a similar thing, except in reverse. Peeta was painted to be a suspicious character and the reader no longer knew whether he could be trusted - yet he was the love interest and Katniss's protector, and the book was done in first person. Study Collins' technique in the first book and then reverse it for yourself, perhaps.
     
  5. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Does that matter, in the end? Experiment, see how it goes and whether you can pull it off without sacrificing plausibility or going too gimmicky with plot twists and stuff.
     
  6. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    It might be too obvious if no evidence points at the actual criminal. It's okay, if not preferable, when the protagonist or other characters suspect almost everyone else (unlike in real life, where the authorities are usually pretty damn sure who did what, but just need to prove it). The suspicion can be to varying extents, though, allowing you to keep most of the focus away from the killer.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2014
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  7. Charisma
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    @Mckk I'm not a Batman fan, but I have read the Hunger Games series. I'm not sure how I'd reverse her technique, but I guess with first person you can easily blindside the reader, and that's one thing I might use to an extent.

    @KaTrian I suppose. I guess I'll really know if it works or not when I give it to beta readers.

    @Okon True. Well, currently the case is structured so that the criminal does not even fall into the demographic the police think he belongs to, and for good reason. So yeah, I want to make the story so that the reader doesn't even care for the particular character as a potential suspect. It's only after the MC has an epiphany about the case that I want that presumption to derail.
     

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