Wednesday 7 October 2015


By Melodie Campbell

“Why would you ever want to write about murder?” said the horrified relative.  “Why not write a nice little romance?”

Why indeed?

As I quickly added another relative to kill in my next book (you would be shocked how often that happens….) it occurred to me that there were many reasons to write about murder. 

It’s the challenge of creating the clever puzzle.  Plotting a mystery is like playing a chess game.  You always have to think several moves ahead.  Your reader is begging you to challenge them, and is working to beat you – meaning to guess the killer before your detective does - to the end.

It’s plot driven.  Murder mysteries start with action – a murder.  Yes, characterization is important, and particularly motivation.  But murder is by nature an action, and thus something happens in the book you are writing.  And quite often, it happens again and again.It’s important.  This is murder, after all.  We’re not talking about a simple threat or theft.  A lot is at stake.  Murder is the final act.  The worst that can happen.  The end of it all.

It’s a place to put all your darkest fantasies.  There are a few people I’ve wanted to kill in my life.  They did me wrong.  And while I do have a bit of a reputation for recklessness, I value my freedom more.  So what I can’t do in reality, I relish doing in fiction.

Finally – it’s fun. This is the part I don’t say in mixed company (meaning non-writers and relatives.)  I can’t explain exactly why it’s fun – you’ll have to trust me on this part.  But plotting to do away with characters in highly original ways is a real power trip.  I’m smiling just thinking about it.

Of course, I can understand where some of the relative angst comes from.  In A PURSE TO DIE FOR, a gathering of relatives for a funeral results in the death of one or two. 

In THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE, a cousin of Gina’s does her wrong.  So she does him back, in a particularly crafty and oh-so-satisfying way.

It was entirely accidental, that use of relatives.  Honest.  I wasn’t thinking of anyone in particular.
 Not much I wasn’t.

Do you ever kill off real people in your fiction?  Under a different name, of course! 


  1. I keep reading about so many other writers who bemoan having to kill their characters. It's nice to hear from someone else who takes pleasure in it. ;-)

    IWSG October

  2. CD, I am laughing! Yes, I'm a crime writer. We must be twisted that way. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I had the opportunity to be at a Left Coast Crime event (I wasn't at the conference, but was hosting a table for my writing group), and to go out to lunch with a bunch of mystery writers. I write horror. We had some fantastic conversations around that table! There's something satisfying about getting all the dark out in fiction.

  4. So true, Shannon! And the things we talk about would scare most normal people away from the bar :)
    Thanks for commenting!