Full confession: I’m within some 75 pages of the end of Who Bells the Cat (working title only; I don't know yet if I can keep it), and I’m considering changing the identity of the murderer.
This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I did it in the very first mystery I wrote, Midnight Confessions. I’ve even switched a couple of times in the Sebastian series, although never anywhere near this late in the writing of the story.
So why do I suddenly decide, No, wait! It’s not him. I think it's actually her? Sometimes I make the switch because I come up with a great new twist. Sometimes I realize that a sequence of events that seemed perfectly logical in abstract doesn’t hold together as well as expected once I get down to the nitty-gritty details. Once I even turned a murderer into a mere innocent suspect largely because I’d come to like him too much to turn him into a rat at the end. (No, I’m not going to tell who, so don’t ask!) Funny, I can kill off characters I like, but I have real trouble assassinating their characters.
I’m the kind of writer who likes to plot her books out very, very carefully in advance, so this kind of radical change is always both disconcerting and exciting. But my outlines have never been straightjackets. I recently moved a scene up over a hundred pages, from halfway through the book to about the 100 page mark; suddenly all the problems I’d been having with the manuscript magically disappeared. I’ve dropped everything from scenes and entire chapters to characters and motives. I dearly love adding new twists and subtle nuances. And just often enough to keep me on my toes, Sebastian will tell me, “No, you’ve got it wrong. He didn’t do it; he did.”
The photo above is from a great blog, Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World.