Welcome to my April A-Z Challenge! This year I am dealing with terms mystery and crime fiction writers know and use. Consider this month as a sort of Mystery Writing 101.
By the same token, I hope that even experienced writers will garner some new information or insights. Some days I will only present one term, but a goodly number of my 26 posts have two or three terms.
With my challenge, you get a two-fer. Not only will the letter of the day be featured in mystery/crime fiction terms, but I have written a short story for you in 26 parts. Each day’s paragraph begins with the letter of the day. Let’s get to it!
A is for Alias, Alibi, and Arrest
Alias can be an adverb, noun, or verb, but in this context, I am sticking with noun. In mysteries, someone typically assumes an alias for a nefarious purpose. In Mission Impastable, my first culinary mystery, a main character’s alias is a big plot point.
However, an alias can also be used as protective cover for someone hiding in plain sight for non-nefarious purposes. In this case, often the intent is to remain camouflaged while gathering data or searching for something. The much-overused, and generally ineffective “missing twin” trope often relies on aliases.
Alibi is a standard component in crime fiction. The mystery writer prepares real and false alibis (that can be revealed as false when new evidence emerges) for each suspect. This is tricky. The author has to use a timeline to make sure where everyone is at the time of the crime.
After knowing where everyone is, a trail of clues to support/dispute each alibi is created. The author sprinkles in clues to dismantle the alibi of the perpetrator. This aspect is one of the reasons I think writing mysteries is harder than other genres I write.
Arrest (a noun and a verb) is the finale in mystery and crime fiction. Readers of all but literary mysteries will not be satisfied if there is no justice, no arrest and prosecution, at the end. An arrest can happen on-stage or off-stage depending on the sub-genre. Often cozies leave off the details of arresting the perpetrator. But if you are writing police procedurals or a cozy where the arrest happens, do your research so you write it accurately. Do not rely on TV or movies for what actually occurs.
For example, a street arrest requires a full-search before handing off to a transport officer. The transport officer also does a full-search before handing off the prisoner off to the booking officer, who, you guessed it, also does a full-search. Arrest details, like handcuffing or not, and how to handcuff are very important to give your mystery credibility.
The List: A Story in 26 Parts
Aunt Fran, “Palpably Pink” acrylic fingernails stuck on the ends of bony fingers, grasped the orb and shook the Magic 8 Ball once more, willing the ball to give the right answer to her question this time. The “right answer”, of course, being one she agreed with. “Is the dolt’s wife cheating on him?”
“Without a doubt” floated into view.
That will do, she decided and began typing the answer to the man’s question on the antique gray IBM Selectric she hauled all over the country with her. It was one of her “charming eccentricities” the interviewers referred to when writing about the advice column maven. That and her penchant for trying every shade of red hair dye the manufacturers produced. Nobody knew that she relied on the Magic 8 Ball for crafting her answers. But she had long ago learned that life’s exigencies could be boiled down to the orb’s few essential phrases.