In the golden age mysteries, the victim doesn't necessarily die right away, but I have heard that the convention today is to kill your first victim off within the first 30 pages. Is this a hard and fast rule? Are there successful examples of mysteries that don't lead off with a murder immediately? Look forward to your thoughts.

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I've wondered this, too, since my victim doesn't die until page 98. Granted, some spooky stuff happens before then, but I'm looking forward to at least one crushing rejection on that front. Oddly, it hasn't made me want to change the story line at all. The story is what it is, and the victim dies when s/he dies -- I can't see eviscerating the whole plot line just to move the murder closer to the front.

I can think of several good books that don't open with the murder, and some that don't have a murder in them at all, but I read a lot of old stuff. I get annoyed with books that try too hard to 'hook' me with mayhem at the beginning. Of course, there are many great books that open with mayhem -- I'm not saying it's a deal-killer, just that, in my opinion, it's gotten a little tiresome. Too many new books (still just my opinion) start high and stay high all the way through, which makes for boring reading, for this writer. I like a little introspection with my corpses.

I read a lot of the old stuff, too. Hopefully there's still a market for the slower lead-in. Thanks.
That criteria makes a lot of sense to me. In the case of my victim I think it's fun to see her get her just desserts. Thanks.
I think if the reader can get to know the victim and there's suspense leading up to his/her killing, dropping the first corpse on pg. 100-or-so would work just fine. I'm teaching Murder On the Orient Express right now, in fact, and this is Christie's strategy in what has to be one of the most static mysteries of all time--yet it works very well as pre-war puzzle. Depends a lot on what you've got your detective doing in the meantime, I think.
That's a good point about the suspense being there. I think Christie likes to seduce the reader into fantasizing about who the killer will be in MOOE. And everyone is happy in the end because they are at least partly right! Thanks.
Keep in mind the current readers' attention span. That has changed dramatically since Christie. I don't like hard and fast rules, but you do need a hook and some suspense.
How true. We're all AD ... oh yeah, D. The hook (or inciting incident) and suspense makes sense. Thanks.
Hollywood has certainly changed the rules for readers. Let's face it, many readers have the attention span of a TV show, and are tuned into story beats via the way in which a TV show or movie plays out. I believe that makes many writers feel that they are pressured to structure their stories more like a screenplay than a novel.

From personal experience, I know my fiction writing will always be influenced by Hollywood story structure. I feel compelled to follow certain rules of screenwriting meant to grab the attention of the "always bored" Hollywood reader. For example, most screenwriting how-to books and most Hollywood readers will insist that you grab your audience on Page One of the script with an inciting incident that sets up your whole story and establishes your main character.

Having made the recent decision to leave behind screenwriting and shift my writing energy into writing novels, I now feel liberated from such constraining structural rules. I am happy to report that this new freedom feels like loosening my belt a couple of notches after eating a heavy Thanksgiving meal. When I write these days, I often say to myself "you don't have to do it that way anymore." Without the screenwriting rules, I can approach a writing challenge in much more creative and literary ways.

I don't know if my post helped, but I wanted to share my personal experience as it relates to "rules" and writing.
The need for a strong inciting incident makes sense. Congratulations on your new-found freedom and have fun (just don't like down on the floor like I do after Thanksgiving meals - you'll fall asleep!) Thanks.
In the police-procedural novels I write, the homicide detectives don't show up until there is a homicide. So naturally I start out with a body somewhere in the first ten pages of the book. But it doesn't have to be that way. It all boils down to how well you tell the story. Period.
The sub-genre certainly must affect this body appearance convention, that makes sense. In my case it's a sexy cosy so I think I can get away with it. In fact, the seduction may actually be required. Thanks.
Just started a Connelly novel (nothing wrong with his sales!). No body! Instead a new phone number that gets calls for a hooker called Lilly. And the reader knows that there is something terribly wrong with Lilly and reads on through pages of technical crap about computer stuff. :)


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