It amazed me, as I prepped for this challenge, just how many options I had for most letters, and C was one of those. I chose this big three because they are central to mystery and crime writing. The mystery or crime fiction story begins with the crime, which leaves clues, and ends with custody.
Clues are left after any crime. Some are very subtle and only make sense in conjunction with other clues, such as a timeline of suspects’ actions. Others are bold and obvious and supportive of other evidence, like DNA analysis. But some clues are planted to be distractors or are misinterpreted in light of other evidence.
Susan Spann, in an article on writing mysteries on Chick Wendig’s “Terrible Minds” says there are three kinds of clues: “genuine clues” that point to the criminal; “fake clues” meant to lead the reader and detective in another direction; and “pivotal clues” meant to change or shift the investigation in the story. The mystery writer needs to make a list of each to sprinkle into the story.
Some pivotal clues lead to the breakthrough from yesterday’s post. In story arc terms, they probably occur at the major turning points.
Crime is an unlawful act for which there are penalties if apprehended (a really good A word). In most mysteries and crime fiction, the most common crime is murder. Murder is the ultimate stakes. One can recover from a burglary or robbery or can usually recover from assault and battery. There’s no coming back from murder. The higher the stakes, the more engaged readers tend to be. But there are lots of other crimes, that written well, can also draw in readers. That’s why we use the modifier “murder mystery” to identify the mystery’s crime.
Custody is a synonym for being imprisoned or jailed. The suspect is locked up, does time, or goes inside. An interesting thing about custody relates to due process rules on questioning and Miranda rights. More on those in later entries. Suffice it to say, you may be confused about how interrogation happens legally as I used to be. I can clear that up for you.
Being in custody is the direct result of being arrested, but not all custody comes from arrests. Custody can result from other actions as well, such as the suspect submitting to the authority of a public safety official or being detained for questioning.
An arrest means you were charged with a crime. For serious crimes the suspect can be held in custody for a long time, with a judge determining if the person can be released on bail pending trial.
If not arrested, but only detained (held in custody) for questioning, police can hold a suspect for eight hours, only four of which can be questioning.
Now let’s get to part 3 of our continuing tale:
Categorizing her questions was a brilliant move she’d made decades ago. Now she had a pool of answers she could tap into so the responses seemed genuine, heartfelt, and on the mark. Still each answer required her to personalize it because people had a way of sending the damn things in and later asking for them to be reprinted. She obliged, but it wouldn’t do to have the exact words appearing over and over! She sighed as she picked up a folder of the latest stack of repeated questions and answers she’d given.
Why couldn’t people be more original or, maybe more appropriately, why was there such a limited supply of situations that caused angst? Why didn’t she ever get a letter that said the person was a serial killer and wanted to off her? Why didn’t a thief want to know how to anonymously return the stolen goods? Why didn’t abusive priests seek absolution from her? Now those would be questions to sink her teeth into. These petty issues about cheating husbands and out-of-control children, over and over and over, were boring. She sighed, picked through some of the letters and began to read one.