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It simplifies things.
I started writing a little document for each story about how the suspects knew each other before the inciting incident (usually murder in my case) and their motives behind their behavior afterward.
This evolved into other reference documents.
historical event timeline:
Whether in bullet form or in a short description, the incident must have a detailed timeline. Because it is in these facts, the murder and its motives are rooted.
The frenemies of the suspect pool share a common point in their histories—a wedding, a funeral, a picnic, etc. Something happens there and this historical event changes all of them to some degree.
Whatever the occurrence, it is the source/motive of all their following interactions… with the murder victim as the linchpin in both events.
Because the relationships between the characters were solidified long before they met again, their resulting interactions are more organic.
Think of a family stricken by a death and the member’s individual reactions. Some may feel guilt or react so strongly they that it can’t be contained. Words are said that can’t be forgotten, and/or forgiven. Violence may break out.
Just as likely, a love affair may be abandoned because of the event. Leaving one of both lovers pining or dreaming of what might have been.
Everyone goes back to their usual life, but their feelings rub raw over time. These rifts, bonds, scars, obsessions, and unfinished business overflow into the story timeline.
Later in the story, the characters will reveal certain events which may not be correctly remembered by everyone or had festered within one individual, warping their memory. No matter what happened, however, these recollections are up to the reader to interpret when the frenemies finally have it out.
The chaos between the suspect pool provokes fake alibis, lies, motives to kill, and deep dark secrets revealed.
In theory every suspect should have had an opportunity/means/motive to harm the victim. Only one commits the crime unless it’s an Orient Express retelling.
Again, whether in bullet form or not, a copy of the murder must be written down for reference.
Because if something in my mystery timeline prompts a change, I can easily update all my reference material.
In MS Word, I use the chapter/scene headings and table of contents to track my timeline. In each heading I note the day and time. As I re-rearrange my work so it will read better, I update the table of contents which supplies a new list of headings.
Reading it, I can easily see if something needs to be fixed.
In Scrivener, I use the meta-data or scene/chapter synopsis section and track my timeline from there.
My motives are simple. These three documents help me keep the facts in order so I won’t paint myself into a corner. It gives me an opportunity to update one central document as I rewrite. It also helps me find plot holes and gives me an opportunity to look objectively for plot twists.
I hope I’ve made my thoughts clear. If not, I welcome questions? Feel free to ask away.