Wednesday, January 23, 2008

But Why?

Motive: the engine that drives a good mystery. Method is important, of course. Finding clever ways to murder a victim is kind of fun. I think it’s also one of the less-recognized marks of the traditional or “cozy” mystery. Noir mysteries have plenty of violence, but it tends to be with obvious weapons, such as knives, bombs and guns. Traditional mysteries go for obscure poisons, fishing line tied across the top of a staircase, or the disabled gas line.

But motives tend to be the same small handful: hatred, money, revenge. I finished and shipped a draft of Thai Die on Saturday, and normally at this point I’d take some time off. But I feel all anxious about the next one, in a good way, so I’m fooling around with it. I have a great murder method (obscure but not poisonous), a terrific clue that directly involves needlework, but only the vaguest idea of a motive. That is, there are a lot of possibilities, but not one that immediately jumps up and shouts, “Here I am, take me!” My victim is, like a lot of victims, a very not-nice person. (How else to generate a lot of suspects?) I will need a motive like several other people have (so the reader doesn't leap on it with a glad "Ah-ha!"), but one that leads to a hidden motive, a blockbuster motive.

Meanwhile my editor should be starting to read Thai Die, and – I’m sure – wrinkling her nose here and there.

We had company over on Sunday, a couple I’ve known for many years. We don’t see each other as much anymore, but it was warming to notice how easily we fell into good conversation, as if we were still practically neighbors. They were the ones who introduced me to the Society for Creative Anachronism, and it was in that organization that I met my dearly-beloved husband. Sweet people, very brainy, too.

And that’s all I have to say today.

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