Motives in murder mysteries

calico cat eating dead animal - caption you are next on the listI found this blog post on motives for murder. There’s not that many real motives, and yet authors find such wonderful ways of twisting this small list into intriguing and interesting stories.

Let’s look at each of the top 5 and find  a way to twist it. I won’t cite any books, because that would be total spoiler.

#5 – Alcohol and drugs

My first though on this is two junkies killing each other over some crack in an alley.

This motive could easily be twisted to include experimental drugs. Your murderer is the parent of a child who desperately needs an experimental drug to save his life. The doctor in charge of the test won’t admit the child to the test, but his partner promises to do it if only the parent takes action.

#4 – Revenge

This is always juicy. The child murdering everyone involved in the death of a parent.

This twists nicely into revenge by proxy. Someone is driven to take revenge, but uses another person to do it. They convince this other person that their victim did a terrible wrong and must be punished.

#3 – Money

This covers all kinds of theft or swindle.  The ‘you steal all my money, I steal your life’ plot.

What if we twist it into a group murder plot. An investment club lost all the money due to the economic crash. They turn the goals of the club into killing for hire.

#2 – No apparent reason

Often the reason is not apparent because the clues are too vague – or perhaps it’s really a random act of violence.

This hardly needs twisting. When writing a mystery, it’s often about hiding the motive so the ‘who done it’ is revealed at the right moment. If the killer is removed from the victim, or a great liar, or a serial killer, the motive may be obscure.

#1 – Domestic argument

Statistically you are more likely to be killed by someone you know and care about than by a stranger.

Family dynamics are ripe for twists of this motive. What if mom is killed by the child she gave up for adoption thirty years ago that no one knew about? What if the kids were always arguing violently and one is killed? Suspicion falls on the surviving child, but the real killer is the bully at school.

There’s a saying that there are no new stories. I don’t believe that’s true because different authors will twist the basic plots in their own special way creating new and interesting stories.

Is there a book you love that twists a story in an unexpected way?