A Mystery’s Pivotal Character is The Victim

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The Victim Drives Your Mystery

Although your sleuth is the hero of your mystery, the victim drives the story. The sleuth works throughout the story to uncover layers about the victim and the people (characters) involved in the victim’s life.

In a traditional mystery, the puzzle pieces the sleuth uncovers are based on the relationship between the victim and the villain. As you construct your story, you reveal the layers of the victim’s life as your sleuth learns more and more about the victim’s world.

The Essential Victim Backstory

As you work to create your character bible for your mystery, the victim holds prominent place right after your sleuth. The more you know about the victim and their world, the easier it is to construct the puzzle of your mystery.

Basics you need to know:

  • The victim’s relationship to the villain
  • The victim’s relationship to each of the suspects
  • A broad stroke backstory of the victim’s life that will enrich connections to the characters
  • The specific action the victim took to incur the villain’s ultimate strike
  • The victim’s world – usually unknown to the sleuth

To add extra depth to your victim, give them a secret and a lie the same way you do for your other mystery characters. Imagine what you can do with what suspects think they know about the victim when they share with your sleuth.

Context and the Victim

Context is the most important element in creating your character. When you create your victim character background you create the context for all the characters in your mystery. The victim’s relationship to all the other characters are the elements that help you create the puzzle.

As you take your detective and your readers deeper into the story, your detective enters a new world, the victim’s world. As he wanders the victim’s world he gathers bits and pieces of information, meets suspects and in their environment expands his vision of the victim’s world.

You need to know this world, in order to guide your sleuth through discoveries. Sometimes, because the victim’s world is new to him, he makes false assumptions or overlooks clues or mistakes a red herring for a clue.

At various places in your story, you set up clues for the sleuth that reveal the connection between the victim and the villain. Part of the fun of writing your mystery is hiding those clues to baffle your sleuth and keep your reader guessing.

The Base for Your Mystery

Even though your victim may play a small part in your story, create a rich background for this all-important character in your mystery. The murder is the incident that sets your sleuth in motion.

When you know about your victim and their world, you can pull from a rich resource to unlock relationships with other characters, hide clues that seem unimportant at the time, and slowly reveal the deep connection between the victim and the villain.

Zara Altair
Photo by DDP on Unsplash

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