What's up, readers? I've been doing a lot of studying the mystery formula. I might go back and do a blog entry on what that is generally, and what it entails, but today I wanted to take a minute to talk about Crime Complications, what place they have in a mystery story, why they are so important and what a few of them you can use in your own work are.
(Edit: Yes, I know, I'm double late, I'm the worst; sometimes it's a struggle. The choice was get the blog done or get my prose done and guess what I'm here to do? Write prose and chew gum. My husband is still sleeping and I can't find my gum in the dark.)
Ready? Let's get to it!
Crime Complications are plot details, introduced in the first act, that make a mystery more difficult to solve for your sleuth. Pretty simple, right? Except, for me at least, this is legitimately the hardest thing to outline because I look at it and my mind blanks out on me.
You're going to throw wrenches into your plot during your pitch points later, for sure, but these are the things you list up front. The ones that aren't spoilers. The ones that make this a challenge for your sleuth from the get go.
I have a particular problem with this, and thought it others might as well. In the interest of discretion I've been outlining an urban fantasy series, as if I didn't already have enough balls in the air. Name of my sex tape. Moving right along, that's involved trying to make things incredibly sticky for the protagonist--name of her sex tape. Wow, why can't I stop this morning?
So anyway. Crime Complications. Say your victim was incredibly popular on social media and people start showing up asking about the crime and getting underfoot. Or the victim wasn't murdered, is still alive and your sleuth has to be careful for their privacy. Or the victim has been dead for 20 years already and everyone but like two people are over it. Or the statute of limitations on whatever this crime was will be up in a week or two and your sleuth has to haul ass.
Or, perhaps the murder was committed in a manner that can't be proven in court like magic and the sleuth has to find another way around that if they want to do this legal like.
What I am not talking about are things like the sleuth's spouse threatening to divorce them over work or a missing sibling. Those are private life subplots and that's a topic for another blog.
I try to throw in two or three of these bad boys. It puts the pressure on, makes the story feel more immediate, and honestly they're just really fun to work with. Now, I am still figuring this one out, so naturally I don't have as much to say about it, but your assignment for the week should you choose to accept it (a dangerous quest, I know, but bear with me) is to brainstorm some ideas for crime complications that could work for your characters.
Megan R. Miller
PS. Still working on Torchlighters. I've heard back from most of my beta readers and some of the final edits are getting done. We're just around the corner from pre-release and I can say with absolute confidence this is my strongest piece to date. Get hype with me! Woo!