In my latest short story, I ran into a snag that I'd never encountered before. For a while, I was working with a plot that didn't seem to provide a plausible way for the killer to get caught.
This is definitely one of those "good" problems to have, because it probably means the case is a tough one and the readers will find it a challenge. But before they could do that, I did have to figure out how the perp gets caught--or, if the perp doesn't get caught, how the story ends.
As background, I set out to write a tough, tight "whodunnit" murder mystery with only two suspects and a remote location. Putting them there, and crafting the motivation for the killer, left a case that would not be easy for investigators to solve.
I was being very strict with myself and the circumstances I created for the murder. So no "dumb moves" by anyone in the story.
As an added degree of difficulty, the investigators aren't sure the death wasn't an accident.
Because of that, there was very little pointing toward the killer in the first place and the killer didn't have much time or opportunity to make a mistake that could tip anyone off.
To resolve this, I used an approach that I imagine some investigators take. I went through every one of the killer's actions and words to see if they provide anything that could point to that character as the perpetrator. That actually didn't work, but then I tried the "it's not what you see, but what you DON"T see" approach. In other words, if the available evidence doesn't solve the mystery, what evidence is missing that the investigators would expect to be there?
I'm still being strict with myself, but think I figured it out in a way that is realistic, believable, and in character. It's been a rewarding exercise, and it's definitely stretched my brain.
Now to write the story.