Make Dire Disruption your goal and learn how to write a satisfying mystery
The Dire Disruption will be at the end of Act 2, right at the midpoint climax. Like the midpoint climax in any story, it’s a watershed. After it occurs, everything changes. It’s the point where the sleuth is on the downward slope to solving the case, and the villain knows it.
For a Whodunit, the Dire Disruption will probably be focused on the sleuth. When I write my stories, I don’t fool around. I love shock and danger and surprise. I put it on the page and I almost feel sorry for my protagonist. Almost.
But for a Howcatchem, a nice twist is to plant the Dire Disruption on the villain’s doorstep. No one does that better than Columbo.
In the 1971 episode, Murder by the Book, Jack Cassidy plays the smarmiest, slimiest villain, and he does it beautifully. The victim’s wife even protests that Ken (Cassidy) could NEVER kill anyone, much less his best friend and murder mystery writing partner (played by Adam 12’s Martin Milner). That’s about the most unbelievable thing in the whole script. The guy’s a snake.
But he does murder his partner, and, under cover of darkness, dumps the body on his own front lawn. Then he calls the police immediately to report the murder. A warning, he tells Columbo. A message from the mob, who his partner was researching for a new book.
And when Columbo asks him to go through the timeline once more, there’s something bothering the Lieutenant.
“It’s you mail.”
“Isn’t it funny how people are different? Now, me. If I found my partner dead, I would never think about opening my mail.”
He points to a big pile of open mail by the phone. And the look of Jack Cassidy’s face is priceless. That’s when he knows Columbo is on to him. Dire Disruption with a twist.
You can watch Murder by the Book here: