I started with what I thought would be a fun and easy project, a murder mystery with a female detective who is attempting to solve a string of violent murders of men throughout Philadelphia. These are young, handsome men, and their body parts are being found all over the city. But then I started to get hung up in the procedural stuff. Like, do the detectives first interview any witnesses or the people who find the bodies? Or is that the job of cops? Are detectives cops? How hard is it to become a detective? I realize that all of the answers to these questions are readily available in the universe, but I also promised myself I wouldn't drop out to the writing to Google anything. Not a word. Not even to conduct a spell check or determine the Latin word for dog. Then the second thing I realized is that I have no idea how to write a murder mystery.
So, I confess, during my non-writing time, I did look that up, and discovered that most everyone recommends that the writer know from the very beginning who the killer is, and work backwards from the climax of the story. I didn't know who the killer was, other than that I wanted her to be female. See, my original plan was to flip the switch on the typical murder mystery, which often has lovely female bodies piling up like mad. Mystery writers are prone to killing off the young and beautiful and female. Not every mystery writer does this. Laura Lipman, a writer who I have only recently discovered, has a strong female detective, Tess Monaghan, and the book I just finished last night had a total body count of six--four were young black men, and one of the women was, unfortunately, a female prostitute. I wonder if most mystery writers have a hard time not killing off destitute, drug addled prostitutes in their stories? So, this is what attracted me to the idea, that I would write something that was unexpected, that the victims would be hot young men, killed not by a crazy woman who had been rejected by them, but by someone whose justification for murder was more specifically cerebral. I won't tell you what my idea was for the main bad gal, but even the solution I came to has some gender bias in it that I can't seem to figure out how to erase. Okay, the hint would be that the murderer has an ethical reason for doing what she's doing, even though it's extreme. But what I'd like to do is to figure out a way to have the killer not have any of the traditional tropes--she's not killing because she feels rejected, or because she was harmed by a man in her life or because she craves love an d attention or because she's a straight up psychopath. Maybe I have to figure out more about what the motives typically are for men murderers in these stories.
If you would like to offer me a $20,000 advance to continue writing, I wouldn't say no.