I like detective stories, murder mysteries, whatever you like to call them. So I decided to write one. I’ve read enough of them, should be a breeze.
I got off to a good start: an eerily quiet, snowy morning, a kid on his way to school discovers a corpse in a snow bank. Enter the suitably surly detective, aroused before his shift by a heartless supervisor, and his chain-smoking assistant, as inexplicably cheerful as his boss was sour. I brilliantly describe a snow-filled unplowed winter morning in a medium sized city in 1957, complete with telling detail, and not too many, not too few red herrings. The crime scene and the corpse are especially inspired.
The detective mopes about, poking things, occasionally making notes, and getting the photographer to take lots of pictures. People on the block are waking up and getting in the way. A rube of a uniformed cop is dispatched to interview everyone while the surly detective mysteriously (or pointlessly?) disappears down an alley. The body is hauled away. The investigation begins in earnest, as they determine the cause of death.
See, it’s just this kind of meaningless, unliterary stuff that causes so much trouble. Because I can’t really know the cause of death until I know how the deed was done, which in turn has to be clever enough to confuse the police, and, of course, the reader. Which means I have to know the ending.
Which means I have to ruin the story for myself before I can write it!
I ask you, is that fair?
Ought to be a law…..
Maybe the detectives can never find out how it was done, just give up, and go have a beer?
That sounds about right.
…and take pleasure in the omniscience you hold over your readers. Wreaks havoc on the ego in uncountable ways. You could do it, though.
The problem is, when I know something, it seems so obvious that all contrivances to disguise it seem so transparent that anyone can see through them. Sigh.
Gather together a bunch of ways to kill someone and toss them in a jar; when you get to this point in the story, draw one out and let it decide the next steps. You could do this for several plot junctures, including highly suspicious characters turning out to be guilty and actually finding out who did it and why.