Life and Death > Historical Mystery Writing

Too much talk, not enough action

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My dilemma in my character driven murder mystery is that I have plenty of conversation, which reveals character and problems to solve, but nothing actually happens, apart from the body discovered on the night of the Ball. My characters go from point A to point B and talk. Then to point C and talk. I want something dramatic to happen while they are talking. Do you think this is really necessary or is what their conversation reveals enough to satisfy the reader?

Dave Freas:
If you're writing a 'cozy' type mystery (like Agatha Christie), talking may be enough and the drama comes from what the conversations reveal.  If you're writing an action type mystery, then no.  In that style, you want things - car chases, assaults, narrow escapes - to happen.

You can have dramatic things happen at points A, B, and C.  If one is the murder scene or victim's home, your characters can notice some abnormality the police overlooked.  Or the murder can be lurking nearby and attack them.  Or bobbytrap either place so that anyone poking about is (almost) killed in an explosion or fire.

The dialog between your characters can be dramatic, too.  They could disagree on how to interpret the evidence, pursue the bad guy, or even whether to have Chinese or Thai food for lunch.

Hope this helps.


Thanks Dave,
This does help. At the moment mine reads like a cozy, but I want it to be more dramatic. I'm hung up on this point: "What happens to tilt the world and bring her closer to her black spot in the novel". I like your suggestion of the booby trap or the killer lurking or discovering some physical evidence.

Dave Freas:
Are your main characters policemen/women or are they private citizens?

If they're private citizens, there many ways to up the dramatic moments.  The police could catch them mucking about the crime scene or victim's apartment and charge them with hindering or interfering with a police investigation (or the Australian equivalent thereof).  They could become suspects in (or even be arrested for) the murder.

The killer could spot them snooping around and come after them at their home(s) or work (or even on the street) to end their prying.

They could talk to someone about the crime or victim, then in a 'conversational' dramatic moment,  they could realize he or she is the killer.

Hope this helps.


B L McAllister:
Change it if you must, but I have to remark that some people (count me in) prefer cozies to action mysteries. If it comes out as a cozy, be sure I learn about it.


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