I was curious if anybody has ever decided, some distance into a project, that the killer is somebody else. I'm about 60% through the fourth rewrite of Nine Days, and had a wandering thought pass through about another character being the killer. It made me wonder if this ever really happens.

Cheers --

MK

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Yes. I was (I thought) about 90% through a book and decided the killer was someone else. Fortunately for me, things laid out so it was easy to write the (now somewhat longer) ending so the original killer was being framed all along.
Damn it, Dan, now you've made me want to do it.
I have been considering this for weeks now. My original culprit makes a lot of sense, but the more I consider this dark horse, the more appealing it becomes. I need to further outline the story to figure out if that's the path I really want to take. Perhaps I'll write two endings, to see which one works better for me.

But no, you are certainly not alone in this.
Oh, yes. Frequently. And once the murder turned out not to be a murder 2/3 into the novel.
So far I haven't known who the killer was until around page 230; I suspect the same may be true in the book I'm working on now. I have my ideas, of course, and pretty much the same list of suspects as the reader.
I follow Jon's route in finding the culprit. The first thing I do is build the crime scene. Either build the act of murder as it happens--or describe the murder scene as seen for the first time by the investigating detectives. And then I follow the clues from there. Half the damn time I'm as surprised as the reader on who truns up being the nasty critter.
It happened in something I just finished. I despised my original villain, but I had to conclude that he wasn't the killer, and that another more sympathetic character was the reall culprit. I think it made the story stronger.
This happened to me, too. If we are surprised, the reader wil be, too.
Yes, I have had that happen to me. I thought about it for a few days, backed up two chapters and reinvented the whodunit and the howdunit.
I never have. I do considerable work on the backstory before I start, so I'm really sure about the relationship between the killer and the victim, and therefore, the murder. But I've heard of lots of writers making the discovery that it's someone else. You want the book to be the best it can be. If that makes more sense to you, you can't ignore it.
I was once working on a short story where I was originally planning to have the killer be the victim's mysterious stalker, and that when he was identified, that would be it. Then, just as I started working on the final scene after the stalker had been exposed, my detective suddenly spun around, and provided proof that it was, in fact, the stalker's jealous wife, who thought he and the victim were having an affair.

That was one of those "characters write themselves" moments.
Yes, I've changed mid-stream also. I've also changed the cause of death I'd started out with to something less obvious but more in line with the new culprit.

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