Your thriller has an intriguing plot, a captivating sleuth and a mysterious villain. Now what? Well, there’s still one more character who needs to be just as compelling: The victim. After all, your whole Whodunit revolves around the victim.
Victims generally come in two flavors.
There’s the beloved character who no one would ever want to hurt, and it seems like absolutely no one could have a motive to kill. This creates a challenging mystery: Why would anyone murder such a well-loved person? There’s always greed — maybe the victim had something that someone else wanted. Maybe the victim wasn’t quite so adored after all—hiding a mean streak, covered-up a secret past, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Then there’s the malcontent who everyone despises, and just about every other character in the story is a viable murder suspect. Red herrings galore! With an abundance of suspects, the reader must pay close attention to figure out which one has not only motive, but means AND opportunity.
Both types of victims need a fleshed-out back story. Even if the entire history doesn’t find its way into the final draft, the author must be intimately familiar with it to create a memorable, yet peripheral, character, Readers must connect in some way with the dearly departed. That won’t happen unless the victim leaves an impression.
Finally, whether beloved by all or despised by many, the victim must have at least one Person of Significance. This person is motivated by his connection to the victim to ask questions, seek out information and pursue the truth. He can be the Protagonist or he can be a supporting character who sets the plot in motion, allowing the Protagonist to begin investigating the murder.
More than just a dead body, the victim must be a character who leaves a lasting impression.
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