Monday, June 17, 2019

After the Murder ... By Brenda Chapman

Question: "Kill your darlings" is classic writing advice. What do you do with the bodies afterwards? 

Hmm. We're delving into the nitty gritty this week-- just what happens to the bodies after discovry?

Truth be told, there are times that I can hardly bring myself to kill off characters whom I've grown to like. In fact, in one earlier novel, I grew so fond of a character slated for the morgue that I killed off a different character instead. The manuscript came to a screeching halt as I struggled to jump start the plot and I reluctantly had to revive the dead character and kill off the intended victim. Last time I let my sympathies get the better of me. Lesson learned.

The murders in my books are not played out on the page. I lead the reader to the scene but stop short of any graphic detail. For me, the murder itself is not the focus of the story. It's necessary to kick start the puzzle and provides a crisis that lets me delve into the characters and their relationships. A necessary evil, really.

The bodies are taken to the police morgue for autopsies with a couple of officers watching. Again, I'm light on detail since I'm not a medical expert and I'm not a fan of describing organ removal. (I often close my eyes when this is on television.) Sometimes, I take the reader to the church service and burial, but these scenes are to bring the suspects together.

I also do not deal with death as an incident without repercussions. Every victim has a family, friends, circle of community that are terribly affected by murder and I attempt to show this grief. Murder causes trauma and a police investigation can exacerbate and prolong the suffering. I also attempt to show that these deaths affect the police officers. Officer Kala Stonechild always says a silent prayer over the dead body or in the place where they were killed. The Major Crimes team will get together to decompress after a particularly traumatic day.

To find out more about how I deal with the bodies, pick up a copy of Cold Mourning and start the journey into my mysteries set in the beautiful settings of Kingston and Ottawa with side trips around the region. The discovery of a body is only the beginning of the puzzle and the hook used to draw you into the story.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Brenda. I cut the graphic details much of the time, letting the reader fill it in and not slow the pace. And best of luck with Cold Mourning — it sounds like a hit.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Dietrich - Meeting readers, many of them do not like the graphic stuff. Others are okay with it, but I'm happy enough to leave it out:-) You're right about the fact that leaving out a lot of graphic details keeps the plot moving.