I haven’t actually forgotten this site! Things have just been a little busy around here (who knew it would be that hard to put in an extra outlet for the A/C, even with someone else doing most of the work?) but I’ve been working hard on planning this novel. (Discussion of plot follows, but no real spoilers)
I realized when outlining that I really did not have a clear view of the movements of the people on the Deep Space Telescopic Array Station around and during the course of the murder. This was leading to unconscionable vagueness — I basically didn’t address alibis at all in the original novella. Over coffee this morning (Great little coffeeshop, loathsome website) I finally nailed down all the alibis, and the movements of the murderer. In the process I realized that I could throw considerably more confusion into the mix, and not rely on “it happened later” for the cleanup.
I found a useful method of doing this: I wrote out skeletal notes of what happened on a blank page, then went through and “interviewed” each of the suspects. For example, Dr. Cruz says, “I was asleep when the alarm went off. I got dressed and went up to the galley — that’s standard procedure. Dr. Wei was already there, she was treating Dr. Fairbanks for a head wound. There was a lot of blood, and he seemed pretty dazed, but she had it in hand. So I did what I thought was the most sensible thing: I started a pot of coffee and waited for Bashir to tell us what the hell was going on.”
The collection of these gave me a Rashomon-like sense of what was going on. I already sorta-kinda knew, but it forced me to think through the whole thing from the perspective of each character. In the process a bunch of little details came up — and I realized to my delight that I had (purely unintentionally!) managed things so that nobody really paid attention to the comings and goings of the two characters who claim to have been in parts of the station from which they could not have killed Alphons Tou. How lovely.
I’m not sure how much of this will make it into the novel itself. All of the witnesses will be interviewed, but not all of them would necessarily be that forthcoming with the detective. Some might lie, some might forget or misremember details until pressed.
I think that this is definitely a trick I will use again.
(As a side note, for obvious reasons I’ve been changing references to the character originally named B. P. Scanlon to ‘Bashir’. Depending on how quickly the novel progresses relative to the comedy of errors in the Gulf, it may be reverted)