We had you at “axe murderer,” right? (Axe murderers, we note, are people, too, and need to be respected in the interests of diversity, which we think means we shouldn’t discriminate against them in favor of poisoners, garden variety stranglers or plain old push-off-a-cliffers. Wood-chipper offers, of course, are in an exalted category because they exhibit the ecologically correct murder technique of recycling dead bodies as mulch. It’s so important to help the planet through homicide…)
But we digress.
One of the challenges we have in writing short stories as opposed to novels – as we alluded to in an earlier blog—is finding new, exciting and not oh-so-last-year’s-untrendy way of offing people (literarily speaking, of course). Another challenge, which we didn’t allude to (but are herein) is making murder mirthful. Our natural bent is to make something funny. That said, playing murder for laughs is well, murder, because unless the offer or off-ee is a stand-up comic, it’s hard to generate a giggle when presenting the reader with a stiff. Worse, the more descriptive you are about random missing or maimed body parts, the harder it is to play it for laughs without generating a high (and highly unfunny) “ick” factor—unless of course the depraved murderer managed to cut off all the victim’s cellulite, in which case it becomes a fat-free murder, ba-da-bing! Though in one of our novels, With Murder You Get Sushi, we went for a laugh after a car bomb exploded at a gold course by having a “hand”—in reality, a golf club cover—land near our part-time sleuth, Emma Jones. Eew.
You can definitely play murder for laughs, if not 18 holes.
In truth, some of our short stories are taking a decidedly dark tone, like a recent one in which a loving couple find out that signing up for TrueSociopathLove dating service wasn’t a wise move. Never fear, the evil couple walk into the sunset together, holding hands and gazing longingly into each other’s … gun barrels. (Just kidding, let’s just say that it’s a rude awakening for each of them to realize he/she is dating another wacko – I mean, “misunderstood yet sensitive homicidal being” and…but we won’t spoil the ending except to note that at last one of them gets what he/she deserves.) So, our ending is perhaps ironic but that doesn’t count as funny, strictly speaking. Does it?
There are of course, ways to make murder funny, besides have the victims suffocate in a surfeit of sloth sh- …OK, we admit to overdoing the alliteration. One of them is through ancillary characters. Specifically, snarky comments made by ancillary characters. One short story we did featured murder in a white out. The search and rescue team recovering the body had choice—and funny—comments about the deceased, which we used to paint an idea of just how unpleasant the playboy perp was. (Ok, it’s bad now, one of us needs to join Alliteration Anonymous.) We used wordplay at the end—the murderer’s shoe size being used to nail the “heel”—to add a last humorous touch to the story.
But we do have standards when it comes to ridding the planet excess human beings.
- No dog can be harmed in any way during the story. Even a tick bite is out. Well, maybe not a tick bite, but no real harm, AND
- The deceased has to deserve the killing. Okay, biblically we know that all deserve to die, but we’re referring to a looser standard here. No mothers with young children will be offed, unless they are cruel stepmothers (a tried and true trope). No sweet old ladies. In fact, sweet old ladies are allowed to get away with murder in our stories.
You need not ask about lawyers, politicians, drug dealers, used-car salesmen, and agents of the IRS. They are all fair game. So are slimy ex-boyfriends, the Costco clerk who was just rude to you, the neighbor who has sicced the planning commission on you because of recent yard work, the insecure ex-boss who micro-managed you, and the next person to irritate you.
In short, murder can be a stress-relieving activity, and a total scream.