• Debbie Rasure

Six Questions to Help Your Fictional Detective Solve the Crime

When I was just a pup back in journalism school, the first concept I learned was calledThe Five Ws and One H. Catchy title, huh?

Nowadays, most people know this refers to the questions who, what, where, when, why and how. While this is a useful tool for journalists, it is also a concept that your sleuth can apply to help her bring the killer to justice. Here’s how.

Who is the victim?

Answering this question is about so much more than giving a character a name. Understanding who your story’s victim is can provide vital clues to the identity of the killer as well as red herrings to throw your detective off track. Why? Because most people are killed by someone they know.

What was the cause of death and how was the murder accomplished?

These questions are closely related and can tell your fictional detective a lot about the culprit. Was the victim strangled? What did the murderer use to do the deed? Bare hands? A necktie? An electric cord? A wire? Each of these options would reveal something important about the murderer.

Where did the murder take place?

Was it in the comfort of the victim’s home? Out on a jogging track? In the parking lot of his or her work place? In a hotel room? Answer this question and you’ve got a lot of options for who might have seen something to help your detective nab the bad guy.

When did the incident happen?

Here is another example of when the answer to the question can reveal a lot more than time of day or night. Was it shortly after he fired someone from his job? Or maybe when she was on her way to meet someone?

Why did this person have to die?

This question goes directly to motive and can provide a vital clue to the identity of the killer. Sometimes your story’s why is because of the victim and sometimes it is because of the killer. It can be based something that is true about the victim (he failed a student, blowing the kid’s chances of getting into college), true about the killer (he is being blackmailed into doing the deed), or something imagined about the victim by the killer (he was having a fling with the killer’s wife), or . . . the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Your turn - what techniques do you use to brainstorm your story’s framework?

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