Friday, January 05, 2007

Weekend 1: Interview with a killer

killer2.jpgFirst weekend with The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery: Interview the killer.

There are four parts to the work on the killer:

1. Interview with the killer
2. Character sketch
3. Murder checklist
4. Plotting with scene cards

Part 1 - Interview with the killer
The first part, Interview with the killer, is the bulk of the project for the weekend and quite possibly will provide answers for 2 and 3.

This was unexpectedly easier than one would think. How can you interview someone you know nothing about who has done something you know nothing about?

It's actually not as impossible as you think because people -- and characters are people too -- love to talk about themselves :-)

I did begin by picking out a murder reason. Here's a couple of resources:I had this vague impression the murderer would be a youngish woman, in a fantasy world that was almost contemporary. Then I had her sit down (after her death with an angel reporter but that's all pretty vague and won't appear in the story) and start talking about the murder and her past and basics about who she is and what led up to the murder. I didn't have her answers planned out. They were made up on the spot. In a couple of places she contradicted herself and came up with better answers so while it's not necessary to be consistent, you'll notice that made up answers open doorways of possibilities that lead to more possibilities which flesh out the character and background for you.
Part 2 - Character sketch
The one he's given is pretty vague and basic.
  • Personal: Name, age, sex, profession, residence, birthplace, skills, hobbies, weaknesses etc.
  • Objects: Home, toys, wardrobe, vehicle, tools, jewelry, etc.
    (That one didn't do much for me but it might be because mine is a murder to eliminate control rather than one to gain something.)
  • Character links: Connections (blood, money, work) to other characters.
  • Resource base: This phrase doesn't quite do it for me ;-) but what the authors mean is what the killer is trying to get (treasure, power source, object of desire). What's between the killer and what he wants?
Part 3 - Murder Checklist
This is the environment the killer operates in:
  • Place (where, indoors or out, did the killer choose, how much planning, etc.)
  • Time (when, what time of day -- which affects what the character is wearing and has with him and what he has access to)
  • Lighting (artificial, natural, twilight, blazing sun of the desert)
  • Weapon (why, how did the character get access to the weapon, how much knowledge does the character have, is it an immediate death or slow death (poison)
  • Wounds (what kind of wounds, did the killer try to remove signs of the murder)
  • Weather (season, temperature, what affects on the murder or the body does this have?)
  • Planning (how much planning was involved, where did the killer get the weapon, was planning on paper or in her head?)
  • Disposal (how was (if it was) the body disposed of? left there? left for animals? thrown in the ocean? etc.)
Part 4 - Plotting with scene cards
These are index cards with brief descriptions of scenes. For now you'll create 2 or 3. As you gather more, as the story grows more complex, you'll be able to shuffle them about to see how the order affects the story.

Give each scene a title (this will help when you start shuffling!) and tell a bit about who, what, where. Make stuff up! You can always change it later.
  1. Murderer Onstage - This is the first time the murderer appears. (It might also coincide with:
  2. Murderer meets the sleuth - It might be an interview. It might be inadvertant. It might be at the crime scene. It might be a friend they've known.
  3. Murderer Confesses or Murderer Revealed - This might be the classic everyone gathered in the library as the sleuth goes through the possibilities. Or it might be the sleuth explaining.
And that's it.

Next week is the Victim.
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