Author Guest Post
What makes a good murder victim?
Some questions only get asked in certain professions. I confess (pun intended), that my work as a mystery author often leads me to ask some…unusual…questions.
- How long do certain toxic gasses need to take effect?
- If you only intended to harm or scare someone, but end up killing them, what are you charged with?
- If someone steals something from you, and you file a police report, but they return the item and apologize, do you have to press charges?
Such quandaries are the fun part of a mystery novelists’ career. We are, by nature, a curious and imaginative lot. But I think it makes for fun on the part of the reader, too. Who really wants another dead body found with a knife in the back in the woods? Now, make it an ancient Egyptian knife, a frozen body in the middle of summer, or the woods just behind an heiress’ house, and things get interesting.
So, what makes a good victim? Here’s my take:
1) We don’t want to like him or her too much.
It’s not a good idea to kill off a character everyone loves (we’ll leave that to Netflix, thanks). So, it’s good to make a character interesting but not beloved.
2) Don’t take forever.
We read murder mysteries for the thrill of watching the killer brought to justice. If you make us hang around for chapter after chapter unraveling backstory and motivation, we may look elsewhere. All that stuff is good but dole it out in juicy tidbits after the deadly deed is done.
3) Make it count.
Murder by accident—while I’ll be the first person to admit it probably happens (hello? manslaughter?), it’s not interesting. What drove someone to want this person dead? And not just injured, but gone-baby-gone dead? There had better be some deep and powerful emotions behind the crime in order to generate a good story.
4) Make it interesting.
As I said earlier, a little imagination can go a long way to craft a unique mystery. As the saying goes, there are a million ways to die. I especially love it when a story takes what might be an ordinary murder and slowly reveals all kinds of fascinating, one-of-a-kind details.
5) Don’t skimp on the justice.
Part of the attraction for a good mystery is knowing the crafty killer won’t get away with it after all. Unsolved cases, while they happen in the real world, rarely make for good novel reading. I find it especially gratifying when the odds seem against our sleuth, but he or she still manages to surmount them.
6) It’s okay to skimp on the icky parts.
Particularly in cozies, I’ve got no appetite for gore. Show me the details that are interesting and important to the case, but don’t leave me with a visual that will haunt me for days. Leave the gruesome elements to the genres that promise them and keep my cozy mysteries a tale of clever wit, loyal friends, sharp thinking, and good luck.
You’ll find most of these cozy mystery values held up with love and affection in my current novel, KNIT OR DYE TRYING. I hope you take the chance to discover the unique crime—and the unique victim—in the tale.
About Knit or Dye Trying
Knit or Dye Trying (A Riverbank Knitting Mystery)
2nd in Series
Setting – Maryland
Berkley (April 5, 2022)
Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages
ISBN-10 : 0593201809
ISBN-13 : 978-0593201800
Kindle ASIN : B093YRVK42
Business is booming for Libby Beckett and her fabulous Maryland shop, aptly named Y.A.R.N., but when a town festival brings a fatality with it, Libby gets all tangled up in murder.
As spring comes to Collinstown, the village launches a food festival to draw a new group of tourists. Libby, the proud owner of Y.A.R.N., has planned a yarn event to provide an alternative option to a foodie weekend. Artisan fiber dyer Julie Wilson—known for her work with animal-friendly, plant-based knitting fibers such as bamboo and hemp as well as her brilliant use of color—will hopefully draw a crowd with a special dyeing workshop.
The festival begins, but it draws more than crowds. First, a flock of sheep parades down the street, herded by farmers protesting Julie’s antiwool stance. Then Julie’s celebrity chef sister appears, and the siblings resume a long-standing rivalry. Despite all this, Julie’s workshop has sold out. Libby is thrilled, and they’re preparing for a full house. But the night before the event, Julie is found alone in the warehouse event space—dead. The witty “Watch Julie Wilson Dye” workshop title now has a terrible new meaning—and it’s up to Libby to catch a crafty killer.
About Allie Pleiter
An avid knitter, coffee junkie and firm believer that “pie makes everything better,” Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four novels at a time. The bestselling author of over fifty books, Allie has enjoyed a twenty-year career with over 1.5 million books sold. In addition to writing, Allie maintains an active writing productivity coaching practice and speaks regularly on the creative process, publishing, and her very favorite topic—The Chunky Method of time management for writers.
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Sounds like a fun read.
Thanks so much for hosting me–much appreciated!
You’re welcome! By the way, are they are any new undetectable poisons out now? Preferably one that can be bought online. Asking for a friend…