The secret of good death writing is keeping the reader alive throughout.
In Thrillers, it’s something like ‘WTF’s gonna happen to the protagonist?’
In Murder-Mysteries, it’s ‘Who dunnit or Why’d they do it?’
In Sci-Fi… “Is this even possible?’
In Romance… ‘Is she gonna get laid?’
In Literary… ‘How elegant is the prose and what new Scrabble words can I pick up?’ (No wonder Literary is fading fast.)
And, No, I’m not trying to sell you Blog-subscribers the book. I’ll give you a free digital copy if you sign my mailing list, because that way you’ll sell it for me by WOM. (That used to be Word-Of-Mouth. Now it’s Word-Of-Mouse. I like that term!)
The central question in No Witnesses is ‘Why did the informants have to be murdered?’ Not who. It’s obvious from the opening that the ghost dunnit, because it’s a ghost story. It’s based on a real ghost story that actually happened to me when I was a police officer and it scared the living shit out of me. But then ghost stories are supposed to do that and it makes for a good hook.
So the question keeps getting raised. ‘Why did the informants HAVE to be murdered?’ And it’s answered at the end of the book, which you have to keep reading in order to find out.
So far, readers have been very positive; most turning around and reading it a second time. The best compliment that a fiction writer could ever have is ‘I couldn’t put it down!’ and I’ve got that from even those who don’t know me.
So that’s how to put life into a death story – raise the question of who or why they did it – which is what Murder Mysteries are about.
Do it repeatedly and delay the answer by throwing in red herrings with twists & turns. Like Agatha Christie did.
Blend this with some of the basics of story-telling; a good opening hook, realistic dialogue, limited use of adjective & adverbs, carefully placed descriptors, interesting characters, the suspension of disbelief, and that old thing of show & tell.
What do you think brings a story to life?
I’m dying to hear your words.