I’ve written this post a couple times now. Every time I do, it’s always so popular so I like to rewrite it each year for Mystery Month.
Keeping track of a crime when writing a mystery novel can be hard. There’s a lot to remember – clues and evidence, witnesses and suspects, the overall timeline, and more.
The best way to figure it all out and keep track of it is to answer some important, but fairly simple questions.
The who can be a number of people. Ask yourself, Who is the…
- Detectives, officers, assistants, anyone solving the crime
- Friends and family of the victim
- Friends and family of the culprit
- Person who discovered the crime
The what is the general term for the crime and anything else going on. Some things may not be known right away, but they’ll come to light eventually.
- What happened? (What is the crime – murder, robbery, etc.)
- What are the key items? (murder weapon, evidence, etc.)
- What was the motive?
- What happened before the crime occurred?
- What happened after the crime occurred?
Location is everything and sometimes it’s not where it seems.
- Where does the story take place?
- Where does the crime take place?
- Where was the crime found? (Sometimes, bodies are moved to trick investigators into thinking the murder happened in a different place.)
- Where were the clues and evidence hidden?
- Where was the culprit hiding?
- Where were the witnesses when the crime occurred?
- Where was the victim when the crime occurred? (If a robbery, where did they go?)
Timing is everything. When it comes to a solving a crime, figuring out the timeline of events is important.
- When did the crime occur?
- When was the crime discovered?
- When did the authorities arrive at the scene? When were they called?
- When do the investigators find the clues? Piece together the evidence?
- When does the culprit get caught? When does the crime wrap up?
The motive is the driving force behind the crime. If there’s no motive, then you pretty much have a flop of a crime.
- Why did the culprit commit the crime?
- Why did the culprit choose their victim?
- Why is the investigator the best one to solve the case?
- Why does the investigator agree to solve the case in the first place?
- Why does the crime take so long – or short – to solve?
How everything is constructed makes it believable and aids the timeline. It answers last minute questions that anyone may have in and out of the story.
- How long was the investigation?
- How did the culprit plan it out? How did they commit it?
- How was the culprit caught? (Or get away?)
- How did other characters react to the crime?
- How did the investigator figure it all out?
A lot of the questions are similar to each other or pretty much mean the exact same thing, but I always find it helpful to comb through it all multiple times and make sure you’re consistent with yourself.