Creating a Murder

I met with a friend today to do a bit of brainstorming for the murder at the museum event, but we got stymied when it came to figuring out physical clues. We never got further than my original examples of a weapon, a blood spot, a fingerprint, and some sort of photographic clue. In my own mystery stories, I’ve depended on conversations, especially when one character contradicts another because physical clues always seemed so Nancy Drew-ish. And yet, that’s what I need for this event — clues for the participants to find. Even though I can think of things to plant around the museum, I can’t figure out how any of those clues would lead people to suspect a particular character.

Because neither of us were able to come up with anything other than what we already had, we went on to discuss the victims. Since the event will be called “A Murder of Crows,” by definition, that means that two or more people will have to be victims. My idea is a married couple — traveling salespeople. Perhaps the man sells men’s haberdashery and the woman sells women’s unmentionables. I envision them killed in their bed, but I have no idea how someone would kill two people without one or the other being aware of it, though it’s possible only one of the couple was the intended victim, and the other woke up and saw the killer.

But I haven’t a clue why anyone would want to kill one or both of these seemingly innocuous characters. We discussed the possibility of the couple being spies, but there doesn’t seem to be anything noteworthy happening in this area around that time (1900), nor does there seem — at first glance — to be anything spy-worthy about that time in the USA, either. If we jettison the spy idea, we could have the couple ending up with some sort of contraband — an Indian relic, for example — and the owner wants it back or a greedy person sees it as a source of personal riches.

There are lots of other possibilities, of course. Most of the costumed characters would need to have to a motive, otherwise, there’s no real game. Often in a mystery story, you start out with no one who has a motive, so the detective needs to search out a motive to discover the perpetrator, but I don’t think that sort of scenario would be feasible in this case. Too much work for the participants.

Which means that I would have to come up with a motive to assign to each of the characters. Possibilities are: robbery, jealousy, vengeance, lust and passion (as in a crime of passion), money, loathing, anger, fear, mistaken identity, covering up secrets and lies, prevention of a greater crime (killing an assassin, for example)

I won’t have another meeting on the topic until next week, so it will give me a chance to let things stew in my brain pan. With any luck, I’ll cook up a likely scenario and plenty of suspects.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

7 Responses to “Creating a Murder”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Have you ever read The Man From The Train by Bill James? It’s about a series of very similar axe murders from the late 1890s through the 1910s, many of which feature striking similarities. This includes the famous Villisca Axe Murder House. James goes about piecing them together and how many of them might have been done by the same killer. This killer would often sneak into a home after midnight and kill the occupants before they could do anything. Then he would get out and get on a train and leave before anyone could find out, often being days away before the murders were discovered. If James’s theory holds up, the killer was just that good, that he could kill entire families without being caught or waking anyone up.
    Maybe your killer can be similar. Maybe they’re so good at what they do, neither person awoke before they were dead. Especially if the weapon used allowed for a quick and possibly silent death.

  2. Joe Says:

    Speaking of motive, when it comes to crows, it’s only a murder if there’s just caws. 🙂

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