Good evening, gentle readers!
I don't think it's any secret that I write by the seat of my pants. Generally speaking, plot outlines are for other people, not for your's truly.
That said, the one time I find it genuinely helpful to plot an outline, is when I'm considering writing a mystery.
Today, I thought I would share that process with all of you.
So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you:
How to Write a Murder Mystery.
1) Decide who you’re going to kill. (Mrs. Haversham.)
2) Decide where you’re going to kill her. (In the forest, behind the house.)
3) What kills her? (A strong blow to the back of the head.)
4) Who killed her? (Abernathy, the groundskeeper.)
5) Why did he kill her? (Mrs. Haversham was going to expose their affair to Mrs. Abernathy.)
6) Who found the body? (Mrs. Moon.)
7) What was Mrs. Moon doing in the forest? (She was gathering mushrooms.)
8) How did she react to the body? (Shock. Surprise. She ran to Haversham Manor to get help.)
9) Who did Mrs Moon tell about the murder? (Sitwell, the butler.)
10) What did Sitwell do? (He gave Mrs. Moon a glass of wine and sent for the police.)
11) Who did the police send to investigate? (Inspector Knight)
12) What’s the first thing Inspector Knight did? (Secured the crime scene.)
13) What did Inspector Knight do next? (He spoke with Mrs. Moon.)
14) What next? (Inspector Knight spoke with Mrs. Haversham’s sister, Ms. Pool, re the murder.)
15) What next? (Inspector Knight examined Mrs. Haversham’s personal belongings.)
16) What did he find? (A love letter signed by ‘A.’)
17) What next? (The Inspector spoke with Miss Pool. She suggested ‘A’ was Archie Bogswell, a young man who was smitten with Mrs. Haversham.)
18) What next? (The Inspector visits Archie who informs him that Mrs. Haversham had a string of lovers.)
19) What next? (Knight returns to Haversham Manor and speaks with Miss Pool. She admits that Archie Bogswell was telling the truth, but she didn’t know who any of her sister’s other lovers were.)
20) What next? (Knight returns to the crime scene to find Mrs. Abernathy studying the scene. She leaves after telling him it was a shame about the murder.)
21) What next? (The Inspector returns to the station where the corner - Doctor Love - has discovered a note on the corpse asking Mrs. Haversham to meet with the writer in the forest.)
22) What next? (The next day, Knight returns to the manor. He speaks with Miss Pool and begins interviewing the servants. During the interviews he asks the subjects to sign a ledger, so that he can compare their handwriting to the handwriting of the letter.)
23) What next? (Returning to the manor the next day, Knight learns from Sitwell that the groundskeeper, whom he was due to interview that morning, apparently committed suicide.)
24) What next? (Knight goes to the Abernathy cottage where he recognized Mrs. Abernathy from their brief meeting in the woods. She explains that her husband took poison some time during the night. She found him dead that morning.)
25) What next? (Knight asks Mrs. Abernathy if her husband was having an affair with Mrs. Haversham. Mrs. Abernathy admits that he was, that she came across them in the woods behind the manor.)
26) What next? (Knight leaves, but, as he rises from his chair, he notices jars of preserves in the kitchen. The glass jars are neatly labled in Mrs. Abernathy’s handwriting which matches the handwriting of the note inviting Mrs. Haversham to the woods.)
27) What next? (Knight points out the handwriting to Mrs. Abernathy who admits that she sent the letter to Mrs. Haversham. When asked why, she says that she arranged things so the situation would become explosive, so the affair would end. That she convinced her husband - a somewhat stupid man - that Mrs. Haversham wanted to tell her something important. Her husband stormed out of the house, in a temper and, when he confronted Mrs. Haversham, killed her in a fury. Then he came home and confessed everything to Mrs. Abernathy before he killed himself.)
28) What next? (Knight returns to the manor where he recounts Mrs. Abernathy’s tale to Miss Pool. He also admits he does not believe that her husband killed himself. Firstly, because suicides leave notes and, secondly, because most men don’t kill themselves with poison. However, he has no proof to support his suspicions and so he cannot arrest Mrs. Abernathy. Miss Pool tells him she is satisfied with his actions and not to worry about Mrs. Abernathy, because although she may have slipped through earthly judgement, in the end she will have to answer for her crimes to God. Comforted by Miss Pool’s words, Inspector Knight leaves Haversham Manor.)