How I Write a Murder Story—the Chadwick Garrett Murder


Keep in mind all murder stories are different, and no two are ever written the same. Also when you have what you think is a fact, try to verify it from two sources or more. If you’re reading someone’s account of a murder, sometimes that writer’s account presents what he/she claims to be a fact that is really a supposition by him/her or an empirical extraction or a projection coming from their own imagination. Read every account of the murder you can find, especially what should be factual accounts from news sources. Other accounts by other writers can be useful as well because they may spur a thought or two in your mind.

When I’m reading several accounts of a murder story, I decide whether there is an angle to the story that has not been covered or covered sufficiently, and would that angle be of interest to my readers.

An example of that was the murder of the Good Samaritan in North Charleston, South Carolina after helping two young, black men pull their SUV out of a ditch. When their vehicle was out of the ditch, one of them pulled out a gun and shot Chadwick Garrett, 45, and killed him.

Chadwick, based on a witness who was there, asked the black youths for $20 to help them with their vehicle.

Oh, no, I said to myself. If he asked for pay, that destroys the Good Samaritan angle. Then I thought maybe not altogether because he was going to have to pull their vehicle out of the ditch in tow to his vehicle, and  he was taking a chance that he might do damage to his vehicle.

So I said I would bring that out in the story, and let the readers decide if he were a Good Samaritan or if he did it for the money.

One of the accounts of the murder was written by Angie Jackson, a black reporter with the local Post & Courier.

She had written a very good and thorough account of the murder, but in my estimation failed to mention one salient point. Was Chadwick Garret white or black? I felt like if this were a black on white crime, it should be told, because the media mostly ignores that type of crime. I e-mailed Ms. Jackson. She has not replied.

“Ms. Jackson—

Was that a black on black murder or a black on white murder?

Either way it is horrendous.

It still doesn’t compare to that white lunatic who killed those black churchgoers who welcomed him into their midst. I still cannot understand that, and think I never will.”

In my own mind I thought Chadwick was black, and this was primarily a black neighborhood, because I wasn’t even sure a white man would stop to help two black young men.

At that time I had nothing in what I had seen from pulling stories on Google to indicate one way or the other.

I decided to call the North Charleston, South Carolina police department. I explained that I had written a blog going on 2 years with over 300 stories on it, and I tried to be fair in what I wrote, then I asked if Chadwick Garrett was a black man or white.

A very courteous police officer, who sounded like he was black, told me Chadwick Garrett was black. I thanked him and hung up.

Of course whether Chadwick was black or white, the murder was still horrific. If Chadwick had been white, that would have probably added a couple of paragraphs to my story. A person stops to do a good deed, money aside, and fifteen minutes later he’s dead.

Then I Googled the story again, and found a story from the Washington Post that had just been posted with a picture of Chadwick wearing a hard hat on the roof of a building, a congenial looking fellow, with a kind face, and a smile that indicated he would give you the shirt off his back. That picture alone made me wish I had been friends with Chadwick.

Then I turned my attention to the two black young men, one of them a killer, according to the police who say they have the right ones in custody, and they know which one is the shooter.

I’m not giving their names. They should live in infamy until the trial, and even then I would not give their names. They deserve to remain anonymous.

These two were not the brightest two people on the planet. There was a witness at the crime scene who could describe the SUV. A woman who lived in the apartment complex where these two morons lived had reported that they stole her SUV.

How long did it take the police to put all of these developments together? About two minutes before they were over at the apartment complex arresting them.

Here’s another point. You always need to consider every angle that might make a story more interesting. Why didn’t the two morons kill the witness? All accounts I read only have said a witness, and not several.

You don’t know what happened, because nothing has been written by anyone about that. It’s okay to speculate on this. My speculation is that the two morons never saw the witness, but he/she had a clear view of them from a hidden location.

Up to now, you’ve covered all the basic points of the story. As for me I sometimes, though not always, end with a philosophical point of view. What if this or the other? Even though I didn’t know Chadwick, I think I could write at least two paragraphs about him. He was a human being, and I’m good in writing about human beings.

I would also go to the obituary for additional family facts if I could find one. Up to now I haven’t found one.

That is how I write a murder story. It might sound complex to you, but I’ve done this long enough, that when I have all the facts in my head (that’s where I store them as I read because I don’t want to stop the flow of the story as I am writing it) I can probably write the story in one sitting at the computer. Continuity is something I seldom have to stop for. And I do not become stalled on a word or phrase. I either blank the space or substitute another word or phrase, because again I do not wish to stop the flow of the story. I go back later and put in the right word.

Why is the flow of the story important? Because if it’s not there, it is evident in the jerky motion that you wrote, and very difficult to correct in a rewrite or ten rewrites. You still wind up with some words and paragraphs that are not smooth, and difficult for the readers to figure out.

The readers should go from the first word in a story to the last without ever having to pause, with enough interest in every paragraph to keep reading, and to stop at the end and appreciate what you have done. Maybe not the highest of praise, but at least a job well done.

And never, never, never use two-dollar words. You don’t want the readers having to stop and look a word up in the dictionary. In addition to that the readers will think you are trying to write over their heads, and mumble under their breaths that you are an egotistical jerk. I know plenty of two-dollar words, I know how to use them, but I don’t.

Then sit back and read your story. Don’t think you have written the greatest story ever, because you have not. There are improvements that can be made to any story, and that goes for the best stories I may think I have ever written. Pride in your story is fine. Thinking you are God’s gift to the writing world is not.



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