If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Karen Borelli.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Motive For Murder

Oh my, where did the time go. I lost a day and need to apologize to Pat Balester for not getting his guest blog posted at midnight. Bad Jim, but I'm sure you'll all bail me out and let Pat know how much you enjoyed the blog. ~ Jim
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One of the first things I consider when I'm writing a story is the suspect's motive. Like Perry Mason would say, motive is crucial to the crime. Without it, you have no crime and no story.
I've read a lot of thrillers and mysteries in which the killer collects trophies, kills to taunt the police, or just for the pleasure of seeing the victim's fear. I have trouble getting into those stories. I prefer to keep it simple.
How about you? What's your motive for murder?
Consider the big three...or at least my big three. Money, Love, Revenge are simple, straightforward and chock full of possibilities!
Have a rich relative who is teetering on the edge of the hereafter? How much effort would it be to help them along that journey while they're teetering on the stairs? A quick push and instant inheritance. Looking for a promotion at work and that pesky young Harvard grad is grabbing the spotlight? Arrange an accident, and that promotion could be yours. Ever been tossed over by a lover or lost a job? Take that anger and use it to shape your next story. For anyone who has ever suffered a setback in life, there's a murder just waiting to happen...on paper, that is. But if you want to have some fun, try this at your next social gathering when the inevitable question arises.
Reader/Fiction fan: "Where do you get your ideas?"
You: "Well, whenever anything bad happens to me, I write down the name of the person who wronged me and think about fun ways to kill them. Then I write the story...after a lot of hands-on research. By the way, I see your kid got the lead part in the school play. My daughter really wanted that role. She cried for days."
If you're looking for a more complex motive to star in your story, consider using revenge. Hate as a motive is rich with possibilities and contains plenty of passion to move the plot along. Since revenge can stretch back decades, it works well with multiple generations and even across continents. Throw in some plundered art and a long lost heir seeking a parent they never knew, who went missing during the war (any war will do), and you've got the making of the great American crime novel.
Excellent examples of the revenge motive lay scattered through literature like so many dead bodies. Consider Shakespeare's Hamlet or The Count of Monte Cristo for top-notch tales of vengeance. Or how about Moby Dick? Wouldn't you chase someone to the ends of the earth if he bit off your leg?
One of my favorites is actually from a movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. You don't have to be a trekkie fan to love this one. After all, it's really just a crime story set in the future with revenge as its motive. Captain Kirk stranded Khan and his followers on a barren, but livable planet years ago. After natural disasters kill most of the refugees, Khan plots vengeance, and seizes the opportunity when another starship pays a visit. Taking over the ship, he seeks out (now) Admiral James T. Kirk, plans a brilliant sneak attack, and then before moving in for the kill can't resist the temptation to taunt Kirk, which makes for some great dialogue.
Kirk: What is the meaning of this attack?
Khan: Oh, I've made my meaning clear, Admiral. I have deprived your ship of power and when I swing around, I intend to deprive you of your life!
Alas, Khan, despite uttering some great quotes from Milton, becomes Captain Ahab and his hatred leads him to take reckless chances with his crew and ship. But at least he gives us a great story.
So, next time you're struggling for an idea, start with the motive. It could strike you anywhere, anytime. Come to think of it, that guy just swiped my parking spot. Now I have to walk two blocks just to get to the store. Well, we'll see about that!

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Patrick Balester is a mystery writer whose first novel, In The Dismal Swamp, was published by Avalon Books and is now available in paperback and on Kindle.  He is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime.  When not working on his next novel he posts crime commentary and reviews on his blog, Picks By Pat.

14 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Oh dear, and I forgot what the topic of this post was -- By getting this up late I've just provided Pat one more motive for murder!

The sad truth today is that it does not seem to take much of a motive for one human to kill another, although in fiction we often need something stronger than what occurs in reality.

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

I like a big, operatic motive for a crime. Sadly, as you pointed out, Jim, the motives in real life are often small and tawdry. I read of a recent multiple homicide among some teens that was started with the theft of a cheap bracelet.
Thank you for stopping by, Pat!

Warren Bull said...

Hello, Patrick,

Welcome to WWK. I read about a murder over a small bag of potato chips. Aren't there seven deadly sins? They should cover a lot of murders.

KM said...

I'd add acquiring something someone wanted badly (like drugs) to that bunch. Although maybe that's really a variation on money, since if one has enough money, one can buy pretty much enaything.

Pride is a motive, although not a very good one. "He dissed me." "He was staring at me, so I shot him." Those, alas, can be the very inadequate motives for murder.

Blind rage sometimes has a part. "I had her by the neck and was shaking her. The next thing I knew she was dead." "I pulled out the gun and pointed it at him. It went off. I don't remember pulling the trigger." In theory, these are probably manslaughter, but often that's not the way the court treats them. And with good reason--there's often a history behind the event.

Gloria Alden said...

Good to have you here at WWK, Pat. I've used the motive for a murder when the murderer was afraid the person they killed was going to find out something they didn't want found out. Actually, I used this motive twice but for different secrets.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

KM - you bring up a good point about the history before the actual murder. Without the history it's often difficult to figure out the motive.

~ Jim

Picks By Pat said...

Jim,
I often don't post on my blog until mid-day, so don't feel bad. And you are right, as is Warren Bull. Motives for murder can be petty or small. I like to think about what might drive an ordinary person (one of us, perhaps) to commit murder. I prefer to think it would have to be a grand motive, a life changing event.

Carla Damron said...

motive fascinates me. If a writer doesn't put a focus on this, I'm not gonna like their work. I like "why'd he do it" mysteries as much as "who dunnit" ones.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Welcome to WWK, Pat. I think sometimes a motive for murder can be petty if it's had years to fester and add other petty grievances to it don't you?

Incidentally, you all might not realize that Pat is adept with a camera also. Right now, the SinC national website is featuring a video he shot when Nancy Pickard and Jenny Milchman spoke to our SinC chapter about the publishing biz.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Thanks, Pat, for being with us at WWK and for your excellent suggestion. Money, love, and revenge are universal, but offer a lot of diversity. Your advice is just what I needed for a story I've been writing. Again, thanks!

Kara Cerise said...

Revenge is a juicy motive! Now I'm inspired to plot a revenge murder...on paper, of course.

E. B. Davis said...

Money is my primary motive in my WIP, but also fear of being outed to the authorities is the secondary motive. They go hand in hand and connect my murders. I think that anything can be a motive for murder in real life, but in fiction is must be compelling to interest the reader, and for the writers of amateur sleuths, the reason for them to investigate must also be compelling.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

EB got me thinking about what the motives have been in my novels. My unpublished was money; Bad Policy is revenge over money; Cabin Fever is money as a means to a higher (?!?) end; and my current WIP is back to money.

I guess that makes sense when I write about financial crimes!

Pat - I didn't know you were a videographer as well - multi-talented. Thanks to Linda for the heads up.

~ Jim

Sarah Henning said...

Starting with the motive is a great idea! Sometimes motive seems flimsy because it's thrown in there at the last second after the murderer is revealed.

Great advice, Pat!