We've been having this discussion on the Crime Thru Time list. Some historical mystery authors prefer to unfold their book slowly, telling about the weather, describing the setting, revealing the players, and then several chapters in--boom! There's a body. It was my contention that, One: most of these authors have been published for quite a few years and this was accepted practice when they started publishing. Now, agents and editors seem to expect a little more movement, a snappier beginning to get to the story sooner. And Two: that there certainly isn't any one way to drop the body into the plot. Because I'm writing a "Medieval Noir", my pace is considerably faster than other medieval mysteries and the body shows up usually in the first chapter. I don't feel the need to let the reader get comfortable with the setting and characters first. Let them sweat it out with the protagonist. Let it unfold for the reader just as it unfolds for him. Let them absorb the setting as the story progresses.

What about you? When does your body show up? Are the demands of the publishing industry a factor for you in this? Or is it strictly writing style or even a product of the genre in which you write?

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"Scene placement." Great idea.
Doesn't it depend on the type of book? A murder thriller needs a murder pretty quickly. A missing person book can hold it back.
The "murder thriller" tag was referring to a story where a murder is being investigated, or where it sets off a chain of events, so that's what I meant. There are many other sorts of crime thrillers, however, where the body is part of the plot development. For example, a stalker-type book.

I agree that impact is the important thing, but if the story is about what happens after a murder, I wouldn't waste pages and pages on scene-setting.
I tend to agree. But a lot depends on what sort of book it is. In a murder mystery of the traditional type, clues need to be shown in the crime setting. This also applies to the police procedural.
Now the emphasis on impact makes me think that the effect involved here tends to be blood and guts, i.e. description of gross wounds and mutilations, blood sprayed all over the walls, evidence of torture, or surroundings that show the place was used for torture. Similarly, detailedf descriptions of rotting corpses and the various stages of maggot activity would fall into the "impact category."
I personally don't work that way, though I do use violence and do describe the act of murder, but generally for psychological purposes. I suspect that different types of books appeal to different readers.
Sounds to me like your making up good stuff, Angela.
I like books that get started very quickly.
For me everthing needs to go shit shaped from the off.
Then it's great if the author draws back and gives context etc. I t makes what's just happened even more exciting.
When I wrote my first book I put a murder in straight away but admit I did this so that publishers would have a great opening and not bin my mss beofre page ten. In retrospect I think it was still the right thing to do - boom- and we're off.
In my second book it was important that my protagonist knew the murder was afoot before it took place so that she would become involved but I still wanted a strong opener and went for a scene showing the reason why the murder took place ie a gang rape. I hope it works.
Yes, I, too, usually put the murder in the first chapter, though usually at the end. But by the fourth book, the plot seemed to suit better that the murder was delayed by a few chapters. Not that things weren't going downhill from the beginning for my poor, beleaguered protagonist. It is the demands of the industry that things start off quickly, I think, but plot can take over, too, and change your structure. But only once you get established. I'm hoping that the typical medieval mystery reader will be willing to take a faster ride with me and still get the satisfaction of hanging around in the time period.
Gang rape is impact, maybe more so than a murder. I have read the first chapter of your next book, Helen. It has impact!!
Too kind.
I tend to agree with Parker. If it's a murder mystery, then a body has to appear pretty quickly or you'll lose the reader pretty quickly. If it's a gang plotting to rob a casino, then you face the problem of building tenson early on. On the other hand, if it's a spy novel it usually doesn't matter where the body shows up as the good spy/bad spy usually will keep the reader hooked. In any case, it's necessary to get into the plot without a lot of romance novel exposition (descriptive nonsense). In crime fiction, suspense has to be thoughout the novel. I think our readers have proven they like their action early on. I won't bash any writer but I've been known to trash crime novels by successful writers who try to inject too much into subsequent novels after making the A-list.
Sounds good to me.
Angela, you pose the question on pace and I'm in. I think pace is one of the most difficult task that the author of any genre faces.


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