Steps you will take:
- Work out a crime (don’t make it in any way mysterious)
- Begin to cover up the crime
- Outline what the culprit does to hide his or her tracks
- Leave three definite and accurate clues.
On the basis of what you have learned throughout the course draft your detective story. Remember: plot, characters, location and the art of the detective.
“The crime was murder. Nothing too mysterious. Nothing that you haven’t seen on the bestseller lists a thousand times over the decades. Nothing the newspapers haven’t reported hundreds of times in a slow year. And nothing you haven’t thought of doing yourself in your darker moments.
Let’s think about this for a beat? Who would you murder if you could get away with it? Come come; play the game; there’s always someone who bugs you so much that you’ve fantasised sewing their mouth shut with a pretty, blood-red ribbon and thrusting a snapped fishing rod through their heart with a viciousness that would shock even the most hardened detective. Would that be your MO? Your modus operandi of choice? Or would it be something sneakier? Arsenic in the sugar? Pillow over the face? But I digress.
This was a simple, commonplace murder and I didn’t do it. But, let’s be honest: I’m not so sure about you.”
I sighed and sat back from the keyboard glaring at the words I’d just dragged from the depths of my mind and plastered on the screen in front of me. It sat mockingly on the desk of the upstairs study I used as my writing den. That is, when the wife didn’t want to use the room for another endless Zoom meetin with her cronies.
I took and deep breath and then coughed as a stray crumb shot straight into my windpipe. It shot out and landed on the screen with a wet plop and began to drift past the lines I’d just spent and hour creating. Yeah, that’s what I thought of that!
This writing lark isn’t as straightforward as it’s made out to be. It’s not some cookie-cutter thing where you just follow a list. It’s subtler and yet coarser than that. It’s only the most delicate, nuanced plot that’ll grab your readers by their delicate parts hard enough to drag their attention through to the last page. I mean, take …
“God in hell, what was that!”
I stood up, only dimly aware of the chair scooting across the carpet behind me and smashing into the wall. A hellish sound like banshees being torn apart beneath my feet and protesting their pain with every tortured breath. What was the wife doing down there?
“Ethyl? What is it?”
The sound abruptly stopped to be replaced by a phlegmy gurgling sound. As if someone were trying to breath through a hole in their throat. A bloody hole.
As I rushed towards the stairs I imagined (not fantasised – don’t get me wrong) the wife lying there on the kitchen floor with blood pouring out of her wounds. When you’re a writer, you get that a lot. Your imagination takes over. You fear the worst, even as you hope for the best.
Turns out she wasn’t dead. It was the latest gadget in her arsenal. No, arsenal – don’t be rude now. Some blender, grinder thing. Some kind of disappointment to the writer in me, but to the loving husband I really am (honest) – it was lovely see her stick her finger in the mix and then pop it in her mouth.
And then she dropped like a sack of meat and I could tell, just by the expression on her face and the twisted way her limbs arranged themselves on the lino, not to mention the blue tinge rippling across her face, that she was a gonner.
I’d seen enough zombie movies to know what would happen next and I scanned the room for something sharp enough to push through her head into her brain. Nothing. Okay, it’d have to be decapitation then. My eyes fell on the spade. I’d just been digging out a bumper crop of spuds from the garden and so there it was, propped up next to the door on a sheet of newspaper. Keeping a close eye on the wife, or the thing that she’d become, I strode over to the door and snatched up the weapon.
Advancing on her with the spade held over my head ready for the severing stroke I was aware of my mind working out the best angle to come at her neck from. The downward slice would be best because it would deliver the most force, but it’d be messy. A slightly sideways stroke would be cleaner, but not so sure to do the job. What if I missed and hit her shoulder instead? Gah, enough of this. Downward stroke it is. I tensed my muscled and started to release the spade downwards, but then stopped myself. Wouldn’t it be best to make sure? I mean, what if she wasn’t quite dead? What if she didn’t turn? I stood there in an agony of indecision.
Then, as luck would have it, the Director resolved my dilemma for me. He stood up and yelled “cut!”