Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Soon Should a Murder Occur in a Mystery Novel?

How soon a murder should take place in a mystery novel depends on the type of novel being written.  In some mysteries, the murder occurs on the very first page or chapter, in others not until chapter six, and in still others…not at all.

The Traditional Mystery

In a traditional or Agatha Christie type novel, the murder usually occurs very early. Sometimes the book opens with a murder on the first page.  Traditionally the murder should take place in the first chapter unless there is some strong reason why it must be delayed.   If there is going to be a murder in the book, as a rule of thumb, it should at least happen before chapter six.  This is because the crime must be introduced early enough to center the book around it.

 It is important that the murder occur early in this type of book, for this kind of novel centers around “whodunit”.  The victim is already dead and the detective must sort through suspects and clues to find out who killed the victim. 

The Suspense or Thriller

A suspense or thriller may start with a threat rather than a murder.  This may be a missing person, a kidnapping, or other threat of some kind.  The murder may occur much later in the book.

 In this type of book, the intended victim may not be the person who winds up getting killed.  Or in some instances the villain is thwarted before anyone gets killed.  But quite a bit of excitement is generated through chases and narrow misses.

The No-Murder Mystery

Some mysteries center around a crime other than murder.  These books may involve a theft instead, such as the stealing of a bag of diamonds or some other treasure.  The mystery revolves around who took the valuables, and not who committed murder.

Another instance of a mystery where no actual murder may occur is in the case of a kidnapped pet or some such crime that doesn’t involve a human victim.  The pet is usually returned safely, and the mystery is solved without undue violence.

There is no set answer as to when a murder should take place in a mystery.  The genres have blended so that a murder in the first chapter is not always the norm.  No matter what the sub-genre, a mystery must start with some kind of action to draw the reader in.  If not a murder, it is essential that an event such as a theft, missing person, or other exciting event must be introduced in the first chapter. 

For more writing tips, check out our nonfiction books on writing and writing mysteries.

No comments:

Post a Comment