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Something Happened on the Way to My Fictional Murder

I've read more of her books than this, but usually at my mom's house.

I’ve read more of her books than this, but usually at my mom’s house.

I’ve spent the last week plotting fictional murder.

And me a newly minted grandma. I should feel shame. Instead, I’m frustrated. It’s not as easy as you’d think it would be to kill off a character, even one created to be a red shirt (victim).

In theory, you know all the relevant stuff, though I’ll admit to a lot of bluffing early in a project. But, in theory, you start with the ending, the denouement, and work you way back to the actual murder. You mix all the mystery ingredients together (red herrings, weapons, motives and means, obstacles, etc) and then just figure out a way for the detective to solve the mystery and eventually you have a story. Voila!

No problem (at least until the editing begins).

So far I’m murdered almost everyone in the scene. And then brought them back to life. And no, this isn’t a zombie story. And one of them is still dead and I think this character will probably stay dead. Someone has to die for the story to happen and I’ve tried killing off everyone but the characters who can’t die. So yeah, probably not last minute save for this character (who is NOT happy about that).

When you put an author together with a computer, an idea, and a dead body, story happens.

Okay, sorry. It sounded funnier in my head, but then I’ve been killing off characters for a week and story isn’t happening as fast as I’d like.

The thing is, my problem isn’t just my dead body, it’s with the characters. They persist is doing what they want, instead of what I need them to do. Don’t they know I’m in charge?

Apparently not.

I think they are laughing at me. Possibly even mocking me.

And then they did the unthinkable (unwritable?) They “told” me who did it. Okay, yes, I need to know who did it, but they aren’t hiding it from the reader either. They want to totally telegraph who did it. This is supposed to be a mystery, a whodunit, not a look-whodunit-and-isn’t-this-author-lame-it?

For some reason, this got me thinking about Dame Agatha. Someone challenged her to write a story where you know who the killer is from the start of the story. She wrote The Unexpected Guest. What’s fun about this story (besides everything) is that the victim bears some resemblance to Christie’s brother (you need to read her autobiography to learn how). Anyway, the hubs and I got to see the play performed and I enjoyed it way more than the stuffy critics who saw it the first time.

And I walked away not sure who did it. How cool is that? I would like to be about half that cool with this story.

Agatha Christie’s stories are fun. She’s very good at constructing puzzles.

And I’m not her. Only I kinda need to be to finish this story. Which means I might have to schmooze my characters into helping me figure this thing out. I wish I’d quit writing myself into corners, though. It makes me claustrophobic. And makes my characters laugh and mock me.

Do you ever wonder how the author did it? Ever want to see what’s behind the curtain? Because right now, I’d love to sit down with Dame Agatha and get some advice on how to get my characters to cough up my story. And no, it’s not pretty behind my curtain right now. You so don’t want to go there!

Perilously and very puzzled-ly yours,

Pauline loves puzzles, written and jigsaw, but writing them sometimes makes her head explode. Okay, almost explode. To read more about her and her books, you can pop over to her website at

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