At the start of this week I was contemplating the murder victim in a new murder mystery story I will be writing and I ran into a familiar little issue. It’s something that always crops up in these circumstances and, in so doing, presents me with a contradictory problem that can be tricky to overcome.
You see, in order to generate a decent number of likely suspects there naturally needs to be something about the victim that attracts all this interest in the first place. Of course, you could approach this by having all the suspects driven by precisely the same motive, but that can hem you in as far as plot goes.
Alternatively, you can look to come up with a range of potential motives for the various suspects. This certainly provides more scope for developing an interesting plot, with the chance to drop red herrings a plenty and to lead the reader down more than one or two blind alleys.
Either way, things are much easier if the victim is a bad ‘un, someone who has given others very good reason to want them dead. And I must admit it does make me feel less guilty putting an end to a dastardly character than it does a pleasant one.
The problem, however, is that readers tend not to develop much sympathy for an unpleasant victim of murder, which can leave the former somewhat indifferent when it comes to finding out who did it. They might even consider the murder something of a laudable public service.
As usual, therefore, I am taking my time addressing this thorny little issue, giving my sub-conscious plenty of space to come up with a suitable candidate or two for the role of victim. A dash of something suspect about them, an unhappy family member or two, perhaps a mistake made in the past, but otherwise a pleasant and likeable character a reader could warm to. It’s almost a shame to think they’re going to die a horrible, grissly death!
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