Writing a mystery has so far been a blast. I’ll admit it. I’m loving it. Whether or not it’s actually good remains to be seen, but I am still in the first draft so I’m in the embrace your crap” phase of it. Polishing comes later.
The trick in my first draft, however, is how to kill people. This is something I rarely think of, having generally lived my life with the Judeo-Christian ethic that Thou Shall Not Kill. But that doesn’t extend to literature, right? In literature, I can go on a freaking Texas chainsaw massacre and that’s okay. (Insert evil laughter here.)
Don’t panic. I’m not actually killing that many people off in my book. One or two only. But the question is not how many but is instead how.
I was walking from the parking lot into my office one day in April or May, shortly after I started the book. These lovely ladies were walking past, smiling and chatting as they took their morning constitutional. As they passed, they smiled and waved at me, wishing me good morning as they passed. This isn’t unusual on campus, and this is a small-ish town, so people tend to smile and wave a lot, even at people they don’t know.
I wonder, though, if they would have smiled and waved if they knew what was going on in my head at that moment:
What does a person look like after they’ve been strangled? Would his eyes be bulging out of his head? And his throat was cut. Would the blood be oozing if he were recently murdered, or would he have exsanguinated quickly enough that it would be pooling? I bet it would pool, and I could make it slightly sticky so that Isabelle would be extra grossed out! How much pressure would it take for the garrote to cut the throat? Bet that would be a nasty wound.
If they had known that was what I was thinking, I bet they wouldn’t have smiled and waved, but turned tail and run.
I had a friend staying with me for a couple of days this week and she asked me how I come up with my ideas. I didn’t really know how to answer. I mean these things just come to me. Then I have to work out the details, of course, but the grain of the idea just pops into my head. But as I stood at the top of my ladder (yes, I made it up there!) the other day, I heard what could only be described as a blood-curdling scream from the apartment building next door. There are a lot of odd noises that come from that place. Hearing this was not necessarily upsetting. However, it did get me thinking.
What if someone were murdered next door? And they knew I heard it. They could kidnap me. What would happen if Isabelle were locked in the same room with the murderer and another victim? How would she keep herself alive?
And thus I had the ending for my book. Kind of. Again, no details yet, but the grain of an idea. So this either means I truly have the brain of a fiction writer, or I’m certifiable. Or both. Hey, whatever.