Posted by: nancycurteman | September 20, 2012

How to Write Murder Victims

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Mystery writers need to give as much attention to plumping out their victims as they do to fleshing out their sleuths and villains. The victim is really the character around which the whole novel revolves. Without a victim, there would be no story.

There are basically three kinds of victims. One is the senselessly murdered victim of random killers—psychos, serial killers. A second is the well-loved victim that nobody would ever want to hurt. A third is the victim everyone despised. All these victims require backstory that includes some of their life experiences, family, goals, and physical appearance. Readers must be able to empathize with the murder mystery victim. They cannot do that unless they know something about him.

The kind of victims everyone despised are great characters for a mystery novel because they provide so many possible suspects. Everyone who hated them can turn into a red herring.

The well-loved victim presents a challenge. Why would anyone want to kill such a wonderful person? Maybe the adored victim wasn’t so adorable—mean character traits only the murderer knew about, a secret past with a secret enemy, hidden despicable behavior. Maybe the very traits that make this victim so wonderful caused his death. Could he be a victim of extreme jealousy or envy?

Every victim needs at least one advocate. Someone who cares enough to seek out information about him in an effort to discover the perpetrator of the dastardly deed. Either something about the victim, his family or the crime must impact the sleuth enough to create a connection that will drive an investigation.

As I wrote in a previous post, a murder victim should be more than just a dead body.

More tips:

How to Make a Mystery Novel Victim More Than Just a Dead Body

How to Make a Mystery Novel Victim More Than Just a Dead Body


  1. Good thoughts, NC.

    I just finished “Death of a Bore” . . . the victim was disliked by many . . . suspects multiplied. Hamish MacBeth sorted it out. 😀


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