I’m writing a murder mystery. I expect to finish it in about 10 years.
I’m at the “plotting a murder” stage. Which, I’ll be frank, is a strange stage. I’ve never plotted a murder, though I’ve solved many. Fictional murders, people. We’re talking about fictional murders. Concentrate.
When I started writing this novel I, with my usual attention to detail, had no plan whatsoever. I just sat down and channeled my muses for about an hour or so, letting the words drip from my fingertips like honey.
Shockingly, every time I would re-read the paragraph or so that had taken me an entire hour to craft (efficiency above all), I’d think to myself, “What is this god-awful slovenly mess?” and delete it all dramatically.
It’s a very emotional experience, writing.
The interesting thing about plotting a murder (fictional) is that it’s primarily not about “the murder.” It’s not about the clues, it’s not about the weapon, it’s not about the concealment of the crime – or any of the cliches.
Plotting a murder, like anything else I can write about, has everything to do with plotting people. We all know that narratives often center around some kind of crucible because situations that test us reveal who we are at our very cores. The murder-y setting is a crucible of chaos and fear into which I throw my characters to see their true selves emerge. I’m surprised this didn’t occur to me sooner. Actually, I’m not. There is this pattern in my life of me not realizing crucial things at crucial times.
I struggled and struggled to start this damn book. I decided to start at the beginning because I really had nowhere else to start. I started with WORDS, I started with FEELINGS. I started with self-indulgent descriptions of fantasy realities. None of this took me anywhere. Everything I wrote felt aimless and ungrounded.
So then, not knowing what else to do, I decided to put all these characters in a room and started a conversation. I sat down and thought about the people – started to get to know them. Their names, jobs, personalities, flaws. And, though I couldn’t tell you the details of the beginning, middle, and end of their story by any means, the nothingness I’ve been staring at for months has now become a very blurry picture.
I looooove this blurry picture. Let me tell you. After staring at a depressing void for months, this blurry picture is GORGEOUS, full of all this potential.