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Blogs From Exile

An intriguing problem for a mystery writer

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. 


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My latest short story, for fans of crime and mystery

HANDLER HANK by Vincent H. O’Neil

Here’s a question for you: When are undercover cops most at risk? Some people think it’s when they’re all alone with a gang of criminals, completely cut off from backup—but that’s wrong. That’s the meat-and-potatoes of undercover, and most of the  Read More 
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DEATH TROUPE gets its first official review!

The Midwest Book Review’s excellent review of DEATH TROUPE:

It's quite annoying when fiction becomes reality. More so when your fiction is murder. "Death Troupe" follows the theatre group known as the Jerome Barron players who have earned the nickname Death Troupe, surrounding their practice of doing murder mystery plays. But when their  Read More 
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Hearing the Music: How composing a song and composing a story can be almost the exact same thing

In my latest novel Death Troupe, the play’s gruff director Jerome Barron gives some advice to his playwright, main character Jack Glynn:

“Do me a favor, Jack. Get yourself a nice set of headphones and listen to a few classical tunes. Pick something that really hits you, that gets your blood going or  Read More 
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Getting It Write: When your main character is a writer

In my new novel Death Troupe, the main character is a playwright. Creating such a role was a new experience for me, and I was surprised by how much work it turned out to be. I’ve read many novels in which the protagonist was some kind of writer (Stephen King’s The Shining,  Read More 
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Murder, Romance, Suspense, and Theater: My new novel Death Troupe

Now available on Amazon:

DEATH TROUPE by Vincent H. O’Neil (394 pages)

The Jerome Barron Players have a problem. Their writer, Ryan Betancourt, has killed himself under mysterious circumstances and they need a replacement right away. The Players, unofficially known as Death Troupe, come together once a year to perform a high-end murder mystery  Read More 
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Starting your mystery novel can be murder

One of the great things about being an author is that I get to meet so many talented writers, both published and not-yet-published. We ask each other everything under the sun, but one of the most common questions in the mystery genre is how to begin plotting the story. Murder mysteries aren’t like  Read More 
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When your characters misbehave

The studio guy told me, “Kid, you have no future in this business.”
So I asked him, “Why?”
He said, “When Tony Curtis first walked onscreen carrying a bag of groceries—a bag of GROCERIES—you took one look at him and thought, THAT'S a movie star!”
So I asked, “Weren't you supposed to  Read More 
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Motivating Your Murderer

One of the great things about writing murder mysteries is the opportunity to imagine the mind of the villain. After all, no matter how many times we say we’d like to kill someone in real life, most of us thankfully aren’t ever going to get closer to the mindset of an actual  Read More 
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The Mighty Tiny Tim

Originally posted on The Stiletto Gang's website on December 16, 2009:

Recently, I had the good fortune to have two short stories included in anthologies. So when The Stiletto Gang (I have to work that name into one of my mystery novels) offered me the chance to guest blog for them, I decided to try and  Read More 
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