I tried–really hard–to kill only one person in my third mystery. I wrote plot points for every chapter and scene, had enough suspects and witnesses–I thought–to keep moving the plot. I had two subplots to add depth. I was happy with what I had. The thing is, I got to within fifty pages of the end, and I just wanted more. I wanted something dramatic, something I didn’t expect, something that would throw all of my carefully placed clues into turmoil. So I killed someone. And it just felt . . . right.
Having only one victim would be a challenge for me, I knew–a challenge I wanted to meet. But I didn’t. Maybe I wrote urban fantasy one time too many. I got used to having battles that kept escalating in danger the longer the novel went. Maybe I missed that adrenaline rush. I thought about Elizabeth George’s latest mystery, and there was only one body near the beginning of the book. BUT, there were two crimes, and the second crime felt worse than the first. It provided the oomph that made the ending pages stronger.
I’m not going to walk around, hanging my head in shame. True, I tried something and couldn’t quite pull it off this time, but I sure love how this book came together. It’s been so long since I read Agatha Christie, I can’t remember how many bodies she sprinkled through her mysteries, how she built tension as the clues added up. I recently watched a TV remake of Ten Little Indians, though, retitled And Then There Were None, and she set a record for body count in that book. I’m going to think about that with the next mysteries I read. You can learn so much by studying authors you admire. And maybe I’ll find something that will make one victim plenty to work with. Or not.
In any event, I only need to write the big last chapter and then the shorter wrap-up, and THE BODY IN THE DUMP TRUCK is done. I hope to write The End on Tuesday. (I’m not even thinking about tonight and tomorrow). But that’s only the first draft. So it will only be The End until my critique partners give me their notes. And then who knows? I’ll find out what worked and what didn’t.
In the meantime, I wish you happy writing and reading!