I’m knee-deep in this fascinating overview of Mauro Corvasce and Joseph Paglino’s book, Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide. I’m in chapter 4, dealing with drug-related homicides. Today’s discussion is about drug dealers. I’ll follow the same format of scenario, motive, and methods the authors use in the book.
The inner-city drug dealer is usually male, and he views dealing as a business: he needs to turn a profit to make it worthwhile. He doesn’t dip into his product, as that won’t make him any cash. In fact, becoming a user will bring his business to an end quickly, so he tends to avoid the stuff. He lives in an inner-city neighborhood, often the one where he was born. He belongs to the predominant ethnic group of the area and is known by the other people who live in the area.
Because of his business success, he can afford nice clothing and an expensive vehicle (or two). The people who live there respect him for his wealth and success. Because of his wealth, he has power in that neighborhood, so he’s also feared. He attracts people to him, especially children and teens, who want to work for him and achieve some measure of his success and wealth. The dealer offers these people a sense of place, of belonging, of power. He pays them more money than they could ever make at McDonalds. Since they’re minors, if they’re caught by the authorities, they don’t face heavy prison sentences. And since they are loyal to him (along with a healthy dose of fear), they won’t betray him to the police.
When his business is threatened, the drug dealer will protect his turf. Maybe someone else wants to move into his territory. Maybe someone wants to steal his money or his product. Maybe one of his underlings thinks he can do a better job of running the turf than the dealer. All these scenarios can lead to homicide.
There are plenty of ways to kill a drug dealer–you’ve seen them on TV or read them in books. Hire someone to do it. Walk up and shoot him in the back. Do a drive-by from the safety of a vehicle. Since the goal is to kill the dealer, robbery typically isn’t involved, but you can toss that into your murder mystery if it suits the scene and the character who’s committing the homicide. If the killer is a junkie looking for a score, it makes perfect sense that the dead dealer’s pockets will have been searched and emptied.
Keep in mind that the killer’s main goal is to kill his target, followed closely by getting away without being shot at or stabbed by someone loyal to the dealer.
Make it fresh:
These scenarios listed above have done portrayed so many times in TV and books they can become cliche. Readers have seen it, heard it, and are bored with it. Try injecting your scene with the unexpected to jolt the reader out of the skimming phase. Maybe instead of a greed motive, explore something further removed from normal. What if your killer truly loves the dealer and believes that killing him is the only way to save him? Or the killer is female and loves the second-in-command, who gets to take over the operation once the dealer is dead? Maybe your drug dealer is female–it’s rare, but it can be done in a realistic manner if you’re careful. The gender change, alone, can snap a reader to attention. Or maybe you choose a method that differs significantly from those typically portrayed. Knives and guns are the usual murder weapons. What about an interesting weapon of opportunity? Lead pipes are kind of overdone, but what about loose bricks, rocks, rum bottles, or a well-placed kick while wearing steel-toed combat boots? Use your imagination and your scene descriptions to come up with something unique, and you’ll make your reader happy.
Comments? Questions? The next post deals with the casual drug user (as opposed to the junkie I covered two posts ago).