Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fundamental Questions

Behind the Story of Uncertain Murder

(Part 3)


Warning:  this post contains spoilers for the first 3 books of the Watchbearers series (and HUGE spoilers for Uncertain Murder) and I recommend reading those books first.  Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing, which some of you may not want to know about.
   

I knew the basic sort of story I wanted to write, and following up on threads from the first two novels provided me with many of the essential elements of this story – I had my sleuths and the setting, a murder victim and a slew of suspects, with the presence of Turner and an assassin to complicate the picture.  But I still needed to know the answers to a couple central questions before I began writing.  Why would Sam and Bailey be looking into Brandt Keener’s death?  And how did they think they’d catch a killer?
    Why Sam would want to investigate was simple – a leaked account of suspicious circumstances could be enough to arouse her curiosity so she’d dig deeper.  And if there was only vague suspicion and no evidence of homicide, that would be an additional spur for her to stick her nose in while also keeping them from having to deal with an ongoing, official police investigation.  A good thing, since neither she nor Bailey had proper ID and would be vulnerable if they faced serious scrutiny from the authorities.  So they’d have a relatively free hand to investigate, but how would they manage it?
    Bailey might’ve been law enforcement in the future, but in the past they were both amateurs without any authority or excuse to investigate.  So they’d have to be sneaky, which would mean going undercover.  Bailey could get a job as temporary help for the weekend when the suspects would be assembling for the reading of the will, putting him in a position to observe them and provide support to Sam.  He would smuggle her onto the island so she could spy on people and search their stuff for clues.  But that sounded a bit hit and miss.  Sam would have to come up with some strategy to increase their odds of success.
    In order to apply pressure to the suspects and try to unnerve the murderer into making a mistake which would implicate themselves, Sam would haunt the house with the ‘ghost’ of the late Mr. Keener, hoping to rattle the killer.  But as they were only amateurs, what would they do after they uncovered the truth?
    Sam wouldn’t have a plan for that, but I had to have some idea how to wrap things up.  She and Bailey could deal with the killer themselves once they’d discovered his identity, but I preferred having someone with actual authority there.  Then I saw a good reason for law enforcement to be on the island which wouldn’t be directly related to Brandt’s death.  So I added an undercover federal agent who’d have been there to witness the murder but whose purpose was to pursue some problem with the victim’s finances.  Someone who could take care of cleaning up after the main characters decamped at the end.
    Now I had a good enough grasp of the setup to start writing.  What would actually happen, who else might die, and who would eventually be unmasked as the culprit?  I didn’t know.  Those were all things I still had to discover – as I wrote.
   
    Next:  Part 4 – Twists and Turns

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