Character Building 101: The Murder Victim

In this post, we will talk about the victim of a murder at the beginning of a mystery. Some authors introduce the victim and the crime scene, then create a cookie cutter story where the cops/detective try to solve the crime and capture the suspect(s).

In order to create a great story, the victim needs to have their own background. When you create a murder victim, they need to be created as the other characters in the story are created. Even if you do not use all of the details, it is important to know who the character was.

If you start with the murder victim, or have the victim become the second character created, you can fill in the rest of the “cast” within your story. The victim’s family, friends, enemies and co-workers are potential suspects. They can fill in the details of the victim to your main character as the main character tries to solve the mystery and bring the suspect(s) to justice.

Not everything the suspects say to your main character has to be true. The main character can hear one thing and find out the opposite is actually true during the investigation. Ask yourself, was the murder intentional or was it an accident? What would the killer gain, if the victim was intentionally murdered? Was it revenge, a blackmail threat towards another character, a hostage? In the event the murdered character was a hostage, say for example a bank robbery, is it possible the victim was a target for one of the robbers? Perhaps the victim was in charge of the bank branch, and the robbers were paid by somebody who was fired or thought they were wronged in some way?

Another question to ask is, how has this death impacted the other characters who knew them? Was the victim the sole provider of his family? if so, how has their family coped with the news? Has anyone began to show addictive behaviors? Want to go on a rampage trying to take the law into their own hands? Perhaps the victim was a harsh person and those around the victim are glad that they’re gone?

These elements should come into play for any sort of mystery/suspense novel that has to do with a murder. Emotions and personality types should also come into play. As with all stories, this type of story would need to have research dealing with psychology to make the most impact on your various characters and the readers.


Unconventional Mystery Sidekicks

Most people have heard of Sherlock Holmes. Many others have heard of Father Brown. Father Brown is an unconventional detective on account of him being a priest who solves murders with two of his parishioners.
This post is going to be about other types of unconventional detectives. My hope is to provide you all with inspiration for your stories. I’m far from a mystery novelist, though I hope to eventually create my own series eventually.

One type of unconventional detective that is used is that of a psychic detective. In some of the stories I’ve read, and movies I have watched on the subject, the detective sees pictures of the murder scene/the life of the person when they touch an object belonging to the criminal/victim (Psychometry) or they will get impressions. I like the impressions route because seeing the scenes play out would be much easier for the crime to be solved.

Imagine that the detective would get impressions instead of “video”. If they felt what the owner of an item felt at the time the murder was committed, the detective would have a difficult time concentrating. Perhaps an impression they receive would be a scent, such as smoke from a pipe or soil from a lake. The detective wouldn’t really know what those meant until they come across the scent by accident. If the item was owned by multiple people, the murder would be much harder to solve on account of the impressions from others confusing the detective’s senses.

Another option would be some kind of divine intervention, though, in this case, a ghost might be the sidekick. If the detective went around saying that he was communicating with spirits, their collegues would think they were bonkers and question the detective’s information every step of the way. This scenario would be great for a first novel within the series. Even if the detective’s collegues began to believe them by the end of the novel, others in later installments of the series could also question the detective’s validity.

One more option that I can think of at this time, though, I’m not sure if it has been done before, is if the detective has multiple personalities. Perhaps the sidekick is the detective’s own mind, where another personality helps the main personality solve the crimes? The detective could speak of the other personality as if it was a real person, confusing others in the process. With this last option, you may need to research multiple personalities so that you could show the signs of it more accurately, or you can have the character act completely opposite of what someone with that disorder would be known for. With a station full of police and detectives, many of them may end up having at least one case dealing with multiple personalities, so if you make it glaringly obvious to the reader, other characters should be able to see it as well.

With these three types of sidekicks for your detective, I hope you could use these examples and maybe come up with something unique in order to grab the reader and keep their attention as they explore your story’s world along with your characters. Have fun planning!