I am writing my first 'important to the plot' murder scene investigation, with victim in situ.  How much detail do you describe, would you write a couple of pages, a chapter or just a paragraph or two. I would appreciate any insight or do's and don'ts from my fellow Crimespacers. Thanks..

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Thanks Thomas, Wow I think I'm going to copy and paste those points and put it on my writing/think board as blueprint for my murder scenes. Thanks for your time.
It depends on a lot of things.

- What's important? Not just to what clues you want to lay out, but to you as a writer. Do you want this to be a CSI-oriented book? Do you want to be more about the cops solving the crime, and how they respond and interact? You'll tend to write it best based on what you think is important, so go with your gut, at least for the first draft.

- What's the pacing of the story? WIll the amount of time spent seem too slow if the rest of the story is action oriented, or too abrupt if you're telling it in a more cerebral fashion?

- What suits your voice? If the rest of the book leans toward the "less is more" school of description, you might not want to spend too much time here. If description is key to the book as a whole, then go for it here.

- What are your strengths as a writer? Always play to your strengths. That doesn't mean you don;t work to improve other facets of your writing, or you don;t try to try new things, but at least start with your strength. As Linus said when Lucy started to psychoanalyze him because people always had their hands behind their backs in his drawings, "I do it because I can't draw hands."

- Read. Find writers whose handling of such matters you like, and see what works, why you think ti works for them, and will it work in the context of what else you're trying to. Or why it doesn't work. Either lesson is as valuable.

Good luck and have fun.
What Dana said.
Thanks Dana - I think description is a fairly key component to my writing, and I am guilty of dumping too much information at once.

I hadn't considered the pacing of the story, will read back and look for any inconsistencies.

It is about cops solving the crime and their lives and how their investigative processes are shaped by their life experiences.

I like the light and shade of Peter Robinson's 'Banks' series, and Patterson's 'Women's Murder club', I guess that is style I am hoping to emulate. I like reading Child's Reacher books but I don't have that sort of punch to my writing, I would love to write in the style of De Mille, however I lack his ability to write with his quirky humour, wouldn't we all like to write like him.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Try some Ed McBain 87th Precinct stories if you haven't already. No one has ever written better stories about cops solving crimes.
I'm sorry to say that I never warmed up to McBain. And isn't he a tad dated by now?
McBain's novels were never about the technology of crime solving. His cops solved crimes by talking to people and putting things together, which is how mist crimes are still solved. High-tech CSI stuff can help to convict someone, but it's rarely how they get caught in the first place.
That's not really exactly what I meant, though these days a police procedural has to take modern science into account. McBain really had nothing to work with except fingerprints.
Hi Gaile,

I think the best answer would be, go with your gut feeling and what you think is best.

Me, it would depend. I'd probably start the book AFTER the murder happened because my books focus heavily on the actual sleuthing and investigation. I like to get going with the crime fighting. I tend to start my books where the crime has already happened or is in progress when the book begins.

Some writers would prefer to show the murder. It really depends on the direction you wanna go and what you feel is right for your story.

Stew on it a bit and the right answer will come to you. Do what you think is interesting and go from there.

I hoped I helped a little but I feel this a question that is based on opinions and taste so it's hard for me to say what another writer should or shouldn't do in this type of situation. If this is a hardcore mystery, sure show the murder if you'd like. But if it's a cozy (which I don't read), I don't think you could. I believe cozies shy away from violence and blood.

To me writing a mystery or crime novel without at least some violence is like eating a hamburger with no bun, LOL!

Best Wishes!

Thanks Stacy, this murder victim is the third, however it is pivotal to the plot. My prologue introduces her and an intruder in her house (not part the murder scene). In the previous chapter I have written up to the point of her assailant attacking her. There is plenty of violence, however it is contrasted with some 'coziness' as part of the on going story. It feels right gut wise. What authors of crime would you consider to be 'cozy style' writers?
Thanks Dan - Yep, the details are important to the solution and important for the 'red herrings' or twists. Now I think I have to work on planting a 'It never would have been solved if hadn't been for such-and-such.' Hmmmm, that's worth at least a couple of pages and a full nights pondering.......
I think it also depends, to an extent, on the kind of book you're writing. I write humorous crime fiction, so I don't overdo the blood and gore descriptions, though, of course, it's essential to get what you put in as accurate as possible. I've found books on forensics and scene of crime invaluable and Writers' Digest Books do a good selection, as does Amazon. I try to break parts of my murder scene up with dialogue so you put the information in in a levened way rather than in one undigestible lump. For whatever kind of crime novel you're writing, I wouldn't take too long over it; it's essential, I always think, to remember that what you're writing is meant to be entertainment rather than textbook.


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