Friday, April 06, 2012

How Am I Going to Kill You?

Hello there! I interrupt this blog break to bring you the wonderful writer Elizabeth Bailey, talking about killing  characters!

I will be back next Wednesday. Until then, have a great Easter/ Passover/ Chocolate Bunny Eating holiday!

Now over to Elizabeth...

How am I going to kill you?

This is the first question for the crime writer, I’ve discovered. A tad macabre, but that’s the genre.

Hello there, victim, how would you like to die? I can strangle, bludgeon, knife or poison you, just for starters. But if that ain’t good enough, let’s be inventive. The sky’s the limit. The other day someone got mirrored to death in Midsomer Murders!

Problem is, the moment you decide how to kill someone, you’ve immediately got to find out what that’s going to do to their body. Enter medical research. That leads backwards to what your sleuth can and can’t notice and what it will tell her. She has to work out how it was done before she can figure out whodunnit.

Just to complicate matters, when you set your crime in a historical context, you’ve got to find out what your medical man would have known at that time. Which isn’t what he knows now by a long chalk. At which point, thank heavens for the internet!

I turned up the most marvellous contemporary treatise on poisons on Google books, which tells me exactly what was known or thought about it, as well as how to recognise it, for every possible poison you could think of, and some you couldn’t. This is for the book I’m currently writing. You can also dig up lots of accounts of horrific 18th century murders, which is extremely helpful, thank you, generating plenty of ideas.

There’s a strange satisfaction about killing victims off, I find. Does this mean I’m a closet murderer? Let’s be charitable, and say that it’s pure imagination and the writer’s mind. After all, I may kill them, but I’m also revenging their deaths and seeing that justice is done.

The other thing I’ve found is that you can’t avoid the inevitable exposition where your sleuth says how it was done. I’ve managed to steer clear of the cliché of gathering suspects together for the purpose, though, and tried to make it a natural part of the investigation process. But as a reader I wouldn’t be satisfied if the puzzle wasn’t somehow explained.

I don’t honestly think I’m going to spend too long worrying over the how-am-I-going-to-kill-you question. Ideas for future books seem to leap out at me with images of full-blown murders ready made. I’ve got a humdinger for book four, but I haven’t a clue who dunnit or why! But that, for me as writer, is the fun of the genre.

Elizabeth Bailey’s second novel in her Lady Fan Mystery Series, THE DEATHLY PORTENT, comes out in April in the US and June in the UK.

The blacksmith has been bludgeoned to death and the village blame the local witch, a girl with second sight. The Fanshawes have broken down on the road and when Ottilia hears the news, she cajoles Francis into going to Witherley, where a full-blown investigation  leads her into personal danger before she can find out the perpetrator. 


More details at www.elizabethbailey.co.uk.

59 comments:

  1. That sounds really intriguing. I loved THE GILDED SHROUD. Adored Ottilia and Francis, and the best mother-in-law ever. Can't wait to read about a dead blacksmith and a witch as well.

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    1. I'm so pleased, thank you, Jenny. Mother-in-law makes another appearance in book three. You know how one gets about families of characters..

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  2. Great post! Crime writing is way too complicated for me, but I really enjoy reading it! The Deathly Portent sounds fab!

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    1. Thank you, Kyra! I thought it was too complex for me too, but it turned out I can handle it, thank goodness.

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  3. Great post, Liz, and a fascinating sounding story!

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  4. Interesting post. But I also belong to the people who prefer to read instead of to write.

    I cae over from Alex' blog.

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  5. Elizabeth, Your novel sounds like a thrilling read, and I hope that I never get on your bad side! Talli, we met around this time last year, and everything Alex says about you is true! Julie

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    1. Thank you, and to Rosemary and EdiFano (??). Yes, I'm getting handy with all sorts of weapons!

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  6. Sounds great to read, I have a list a mile long to read, hope I get around to reading them all.

    Have a good day,

    Yvonne,

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  7. Hello lovely Talli!! Yes, I am gathering my chocolate bunnies and hot cross buns for the coming Easter Feast! Yay!!!

    Hello Elizabeth!! It's funny cos I love the Poirot (as played by David Suchet) series shown on repeat ad finitum on ITV3 and laugh all the time at the end when he gathers all the suspects and then accuses them all of doing the crime until one of them breaks and screams out "yes I did it!" LOL!

    Take care
    x

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    1. I love Poirot too, and watch it endlessly. Also Murder She Wrote and I'm a sucker for Cadfael. And thanks, Yvonne - take your time!

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  8. It must takes loads of research to write a crime novel. I would feel really guilty at killing people off, my husband would become wary of me and my family would stop visiting. Great fun though.

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    1. But research is so interesting, I get lost in it and forget the book, that's the trouble. I have to make the victims a bit unpleasant so I don't mind them getting killed!

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  9. Ooh, now I'm definitely intrigued. Great post and a great insight into what goes into writing a crime novel. Look forward to reading it. Have a lovely Easter, ladies x

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    1. Thanks, Jan. Glad you like the sound of the book.

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  10. How to kill someone is one of those things that I'm afraid to research for fear someone will think I'm psycho or terrorist.

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  11. This is my world! I mostly stick to the good old blunt instrument, but I have had to venture into the world of the little known poison. The comment about research is very pertinent this week in view of the coalition's disgraceful Big Brother proposals.

    I loved Ottilia and Francis, too, and agree with Jenny - the best mother-in-law in the world. Can't wait for the next one.

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  12. I prefer poison as the M.O. for most dodgy dealings, but nothing beats good old death by combat - there's something slightly honourable about it.

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  13. I love this! I haven't "killed" anyone in my current WIP, but the new story I'm writing will definitely have a body count. I'm contemplating taking the easy way out and having them die in a battle scene. "What, I didn't kill him! It was the big bearded guy with the spear!"

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    1. Thanks to SP Bowers, Lesley (my fellow murdering author), Jamie and Julie. It's fascinating I'm not the only one contemplating killing off my characters!

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  14. Hey, here from Alex's blog. Funny thing is I have seen your books all over the place but it never dawned on me to find your blog. New follower :)

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  15. Now that is a way to catch our attention! I love the opening line of this post. :) Great job!

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  16. Great post. I love the style and voice of how Elizabeth explains writing in her chosen genre. Excellent!

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  17. Great post, Liz! Though I don't write in the mystery sort of genre, I do regularly kill people off, and figuring out the ins and outs of a death do tend to be essential for getting it done!

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    1. Thank you, tasha, Ciara, Madeleine and William. I'm so pleased we got you going on this! Nothing like crime for getting people together, eh?

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  18. somehow I missed the opening sentence and thought, "Wow, Talli's really changed!" Hee-hee.
    Elizabeth, that was fascinating to learn how you plan.
    Happy weekend of chocolate to all!

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  19. I don't write mysteries so I haven't had to work my way back from a death yet.

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  20. Thanks Tricia, Susanne and Alex. It's a great game to play - more fun than romance, I'm finding.

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  21. Wow, I didn't think about all the complications. I'm glad I enjoy mysteries rather than try to write them.

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  22. Great guest post! I love how much thinking goes into writing a murder mystery, but I'll admit the research scares me a little...

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  23. Oh, that's it - always blame the witch - she gets zero respect :) I write crime fiction, too. Nice to meet you.

    Hi, Talli!

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  24. Sounds like a great story. It is strangely cathartic to kill off a character here and there! :)

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  25. There is a lot of work that goes into killing a character! :-) Nice to meet you and happy weekend to you both!

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  26. Have a great weekend, ladies! Happy Easter! :)

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  27. I might have to spend time thinking about the Why, but the How is worryingly easy :-)

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  28. Happy Easter/Passover to you too. Hope the easter bunny doesn't go too far overboard on chocolate!

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  29. Thank to all the new commenters here - Susan, Elana, Carol, Jemi, Tracy, Carrie, Sarah and Carole! Glad you all enjoyed the post. Happy Easter to all!

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  30. I wouldn't know where to start with a crime novel, but I'm sure they must be fun to write.

    Love the sound of your book.

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  31. I love period murder mysteries. Am off to download The Gilded Shroud right now!

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  32. Its great to meet Elizabeth and good luck with The Deathly Portent! Isn't it fun to develop then kill off characters? I kill a lot of them but not all. Keeps the reader guessing who gets it next.

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  33. Sounds like a great book! And how fun to start off with an idea for a novel, not knowing yourself whodunnit! Nice to meet you, Elizabeth. :)

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  34. The book sounds very exciting and deadly! Yay! I loved the post about killing your characters. Isn't it great that we can kill, create mayhem, rob banks, kidnap . . . whatever and never fear the law. We just have to fear the critics! Here's to knocking off characters and doing it well.

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  35. Interesting. I've never known how crime writers deal with this important point! :)

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  36. And another mystery? How did writers manage before the Internet? Great that we can share.
    Thanks.Have a great weekend.

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  37. Amazing - I hadn't thought much of the medical aspect before. Sounds like a compelling book. Best of luck. I think I would shy away from bludgeoning though!

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  38. Great post! I love that you don't know who did it on the novel you are working on. :)

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  39. I just wanted to thank you for following my blog. To "spread the love” I have clicked through to some of your commercial content.
    Carole’s Chatter

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  40. When I saw the title, I was afraid to read on! I see the importance in deciding the method of killing characters, Elizabeth.

    Thanks for hosting, Talli. I hope you had a great weekend.

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  41. I've never written a crime novel, so I never had to consider how to kill a character. I did kill one in a non-crime novel. But it wasn't planned at the beginning.
    And, wow, all the research that has to be done around the killing. Nice insight into a genre I have yet to write (or not).

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  42. That's why I've never dared try a historical novel - so much research!

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  43. I've got to admit, this kind of makes me want to write a crime novel! LOL! Loved it, great post.

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  44. I just killed a character in my current WIP. Doh. Not easy--and yet satisfying in a sick way.

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  45. Nice to meet you Elizabeth! All these poor victims, dying at our hands... I find the historical ones the most interesting.

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  46. Great post and good to meet you Elizabeth!

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  47. That's a gorgeous cover, Elizabeth! Your poor victims... :-)

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  48. Great post! Wow a whole book on poisons! I never thought about having to know what happens to the body for each type of death in a crime novel.

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  49. Congrats on the U.S. release of your book, Elizabeth.

    I've always found the death scenes and medical aspect in crime and mystery books to be fascinating. I can tell a lot of research is needed to make those scenes authentic.

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  50. Dropping back in and catching all these extra posts! Why, thank you so much, glad you enjoyed the post. Wonderful, isn't it, to be able to do all this stuff with impunity from the law??!!

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Coffee and wine for all!