I’m getting within spitting distance of the end of my new mystery, A Cut Above. I’m trying to make as many of the suspects into as strong of candidates to be the murderer as possible. Looking back at the chapters I’ve written, I’ve introduced enough suspects, but I haven’t focused on some of them like I should have. So I’m trying to add a few more twists and turns before the big reveal.
I don’t know why, because I do a lot of cause and effect when I outline, but I always come up short on words and punch near the end of a book. I always have to skirmish to add more. Usually, I’m fighting mild panic, worrying I’ll get everything right, but this time, my characters have been especially generous, and they’ve thought of ways to make themselves look worse than they already did. One of them is happily trying to throw the blame on the others under consideration, and that adds to the mix.
One of the things I enjoy about cozies is that many of them choose a victim who’s so unpleasant, people would stand in line to rid the world of her. That’s not mandatory, of course, but does make things more fun. Donna Amick, the first victim in my book, would have a longer line than most. It’s hard to decide who killed her when everyone wanted her dead. Unfortunately, in most mysteries, after the protagonist starts digging deeper for clues, there’s a second victim. And often, that person is someone likeable. And then the investigation changes course a little, because the protagonist has to decide why that person died.
I’m a little pleased with myself this time because I thought of a twist I didn’t see coming . Before I start writing, I know who the victim/s will be, who the suspects are, and who the killer is. I’ve read blogs by writers who don’t know which of their characters committed the crime until the end of the book. That amazes me. I don’t know how they can plant clues and red herrings when they don’t know who did what. But even with my knowing, my characters can think of something I didn’t and make it work in the story. That happened this time, and it added to the fun.
I’ve been talking about common plotting techniques in cozies, but Ilona Andrews answered a reader’s question about self-publishing, and how even though the author has a lot of freedom and control, he’d still better know the basic “rules” for each genre before he breaks them. I thought she gave an especially good answer, so here’s a link to it: I Have the Power! (ilona-andrews.com). And if you read it, you’ll see even choosing a cover for your book comes with expectations.
Soon, I hope to introduce you to Karnie, the protagonist in A Cut Above, who works in her family’s butcher shop. In the meantime, happy reading. And happy writing!