Monday, April 6, 2015

Write Away: E is for Embezzle, Ensemble, and Evidence

Since I couldn’t choose among the options, I picked these three terms. I am seriously considering writing a dictionary for mystery and crime fiction writers using these terms and some others I can’t use in this challenge. Does that sound like a good idea to you? You could look up terms more easily than with regular dictionary entries. I’m pondering this, but your input would be helpful.

On to “E is for …”

Embezzle is a crime I used in the first book of my culinary mystery series. One of the characters goes beyond the pale when the fear of a revealed embezzlement looms. This is a perfectly good crime to include in a mystery, but it is usually a secondary plot, as it was for me. There would have to be much higher stakes/consequences of the embezzlement for it to stand as the major crime. And that can happen, but usually in thrillers rather than mysteries.

 To embezzle means to that someone either steals or misappropriates money that one is entrusted to safeguard or that belongs to where one works. So someone in Company A’s payroll might embezzle funds, but a Company A secretary hacking into Company B’s bank account is just flat out stealing. She had no ordinary or legitimate access to the money, so it is common theft.

An Ensemble cast of characters usually makes a mystery more enjoyable to read and opens up many potential secondary plot lines. The ensemble allows the detective to play off the strengths and limitations of other characters, revealing information about the protagonist that would be difficult to know otherwise. Cozies rely on ensemble casts to move the plot forward or thwart the solving of the crime, whereas police procedurals have less emphasis on ensembles.

In any mystery or crime fiction you write, however, there needs to be at least a minimum supportive cast. Choose ensemble companions to highlight the detective’s assets and liabilities, thus enriching your protagonist’s profile.

Evidence is another one of those “gotta have it” components in mystery and crime fiction. Just as there is no mystery without a crime, there is no mystery story without evidence. With no evidence, a crime is unsolvable. The End.

At heart, evidence is either a thing or a statement that helps solve the crime. Evidence is the body of accumulated facts and/or information the detective has available. Multiple pieces of evidence are needed to form a convincing case that can be “proved beyond a reasonable doubt”, the standard set for trials. When writing a mystery story, the author must compile the case against the suspect just as a detective might. There must be an accumulation of evidence that results in a preponderance of facts or information that points to one person.

Often there is false evidence, misinterpreted evidence, overlooked evidence, tampered with evidence, inadmissible evidence, and lost evidence included in mysteries and crime fiction. The effect of these is to slow down the investigation by stopping it for a time or leading it astray for a while. In the end, in mysteries, if not real life, the evidential discrepancies are resolved and the crime solved.

Ready for part 5 of the short story? Aunt Fran is answering the question a reader sent in:

Easy one, thank God!” she said aloud. She began typing:
 Aunt Fran says:
Dear Leaving,
Don't leave him. Not at this time. 
Think this through, Dear. He’s not gambling the money away. Dan is spending it on your home to make a nest the two of you can share. Nests are made of twigs and weeds, both of which are perfectly normal in both nests and marriages. 
A nest made only of cotton bolls might be comfy looking and might feel great for a while, but it won’t hold up. Nests of woven twigs are strong, but you must help with the weaving. If you are not interested in making a strong nest together, perhaps flying away is the answer. But first, try to work things out with Dan. Have you two talked since you married about your plan to quit work?
Together, work on a timeline that is reasonable to both of you. The woven twigs you create this way will cradle you forever.

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