I’m exploring Mauro Corvasce and Joseph Paglino’s book, Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide, chapter 4, dealing with drug-related homicides. Today’s discussion covers casual drug users. I’ll follow the same format of scenario, motive, and methods the authors use in the book.
Casual drug users, as opposed to junkies, tend to be from the middle-class, usually older teens and young adults. They use “recreationally” for fun and generally are not addicted (obtaining and using drugs is not their chief goal in life). Murders among these people usually occur at parties where all the guests are under the influence of narcotics, and typically are not premeditated. Today’s drugs of choice are heroin and meth, but you can choose any drug you like for your murder mystery. Meth keeps the user awake and active for twenty-four hours, so they can “party” for longer periods of time. Heroine is highly addictive. Marijuana relaxes the user, and therefore a party full of these users will look much different than a party of meth users.
Regardless of which drug you plunk into your murder scene, they all can cause irritability, impaired judgment, and violent behavior. Which is perfect for a murder mystery!
Motives involving casual drug users vary with the drug they’ve taken. Meth causes irritability and violence, and something as simple as an argument over which music to play on the stereo can lead to homicide. If you’ve chosen heroin for your fictional party, the stakes go much higher. Here are some common motives for heroin-inspired murders (copied out of the book):
- Cover up a theft done to get money to buy the drug
- Stop an informant from going to the police
- Stop someone from informing a teenager’s parents about the drug use
“Since these drug users are from middle-class and upper-class families,” the authors say, “the motive for murder is usually not profit oriented.” However, as the author of your story, you can make it all about profit if you want. Or about love. Or revenge. Or Cheetos dust spilled on an expensive sofa. Just keep in mind that most homicides among casual drug users aren’t premeditated–they’re usually spur-of-the-moment, drug-induced rages against whoever happens to be there.
Usually, casual drug users don’t show up at the neighborhood party with murder on their minds (in other words, they didn’t arrive with a gun in their pocket). It’s much more common for partiers to get high, their inhibitions are lowered and their judgment becomes impaired, then they argue with someone. This leads to fighting, most often hand-to-hand, which will continue until others break up the fight or someone ends up dead. If the attacker is in his own home, he might retreat to find a weapon, then return to shoot his opponent (or stab, or bludgeon, or garrote…). If the attacker isn’t at home and finds himself losing the fight, he may drive away, find a weapon, then return to finish off his opponent. You can play with these variations, but they typically involve some sort of cooling off period, where the combatants are separated for a span of time, then come back together when one or both are armed.
It’s also believable that, once the combatants are armed, someone else steps in to separate them and gets killed in the process. Or someone on the sidelines threatens to call the police and ends up dead. Or one of the combatants has horrible aim and someone other than the intended victim dies. Again, the variations are plentiful. Choose one that works with your scene and your characters. As I said in the previous post, choosing unique and fresh methods and motives will engage the reader more fully, so don’t settle for the typical factors, even if the scene is a short or minor one.