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Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition, 2nd Edition by Sara Paretsky, Hallie Ephron

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Chapter 3

The Crime and the Victim’s Secrets

“Everybody counts or nobody counts. That’s it. It means I bust my ass to make the case whether it’s a prostitute or the mayor’s wife.”

—Detective Harry Bosch, in Michael Connelly’s The Last Coyote

At the center of every mystery is a crime. Someone does something bad, and someone else—a victim—gets hurt or killed. The search for the culprit forms the backbone of the novel. Even if you don’t yet know who did it, a good place to start planning your story is with the crime scenario. Decide who gets hurt, how, and where.

THE CRIME

The crime might take place when the novel opens, or it might occur later, after the story is well underway. It might have happened in the past. There are no rules about who gets ...

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