Working on a Plot Point

August 30, 2017

As a writer, I am always trying to dig up new subjects. I prefer at this point in my career to create novel plots and characters and not to rehash the same old stuff. Never give the reader something expected. It is a real challenge and I look to my everyday life for inspiration. I don’t want to copy other authors. I pride myself on originality. I want to try my hand at something new, and so I have come up with the idea of working on a mystery short story.

Mysteries at any length are challenging as there is a kind of formula for success that you have to follow. You want the crime up front, of course, but some delay in revealing details and clues. The reader wants to be excited about continuing on to reach the climactic end. Thoughts are rolling around in my head and I will test them out with a few initial paragraphs. I will feature a certain kind of odd criminal who will be caught because he cleans up his crime scenes using his victim’s own supplies. Now that’s a twist! I hope it is intriguing. What supplies? Maybe it would work well to have him use the victim’s vacuum cleaner so that forensics could find clues in the bag. The question is whether the criminal is smart enough to take it with him. So, the victim must have a bagless model in his closet. I see the killer searching about to find it, then “aha.”

If I opt for a bagless unit like the ones on The Vacuum Challenge, I then must be sure to have the hapless criminal leave something behind. Do I tell the reader immediately or do I wait and have forensics scour the crime scene? Which will have better punch and enrich the plot? These are the kinds of questions that writers ask themselves. There is no one uniform answer. I can do it both ways. As a matter of fact, I just might do that and test different versions with family and friends. Sometimes when I am lucky, stories practically write themselves in a few hours. This time it is a mystery which is quite a different animal. It takes concentration and careful structuring to excel at this genre.

Criminals always leave the weapon behind so that road is too frequently traveled. They drop hairs that contain DNA and are found under furniture or in a corner. It takes a while for the inspectors to notice it, making the tension build. How about leaving something different and less obvious. Let me think….

A cufflink? A wallet? A coin he had touched? He would be too careful to pick up something before, during, or after the crime. Now I have it: a contact lens. This is tiny, hard to see, contains residual eye fluid and therefore DNA. It can be identified by brand as well. This is how it will be lined to the killer. When he is caught, the authorities will see that he wears contacts. They will go back to the scene of the crime and search for one.