Writing Fiction: Murder Victims

What would a murder mystery be without a death? If it happens off the page, it’s a cozy mystery. If you see the death happen on the page, through a character’s viewpoint, it could be a thriller (like the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child). 

How does a writer decide who the victim will be? In some cases, the victim’s name can be nominated by friends or family. Lisa Gardner has a contest to Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy. Some writer’s auction off the opportunity at a fundraising event. The name is separate from the person’s appearance or traits. 

In my case, any person who really annoys me or is too stupid to live is a potential candidate. I may take certain aspects of that person, but only I will really know who the inspiration was. Enough details will be changed to prevent a lawsuit for libel. In the romance genre, the joke was that the best way to avoid being sued was to give the character a small penis. Who would want to claim that identifying aspect?

Some characters die to move the story forward. These are typically minor characters, who may be in one story. J.K. Rowling killed off one of her recurring characters in the Harry Potter series, and fans mourned his loss. 

Some characters die because the author is tired of them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes, only to bring him back to life after the public demanded more Sherlock. Killing off a character for good works best when there is a body. In this case, Sherlock disappeared into the water beneath the falls, and the body wasn’t found. Presto, he reappears, and lived again through many stories.

Every mystery author has their own way of dealing with death.

I’d be interested in hearing about yours.