Storytelling and the Ides of March

Storytelling and the Ides of March by Debra H. Goldstein

Today is the Ides of March. Originally thought of as a day to settle debts, it became a day of notoriety because of it being the date Julius Caesar was killed. Its significance is that it is believed to have changed the fate of the Romans.

As a writer of mysteries, I often think about how lives and plot lines change when there is a murder.

There is the act and whodunit. Based upon the Shakespeare play and movies, I always through it was Brutus, but (accordingly to Wikipedia), at least sixty senators were party to the conspiracy and act of stabbing Julius Caesar to death. They hoped to overturn his policies, but they didn’t succeed. Instead, the Roman empire imploded.

In my books, murder is never random. It ties to a social issue, conflict between people, or a means to an end. As I create the details of the murder, I embrace its importance in setting the tone and establishing the movement of the story.

The murder also is a catalyst for how the characters behave. Some hide from its brutality, others dive into the why behind the crime, and of course, the protagonist tries to find out who did the dastardly deed and what the character’s motivation was. In the moment, there are characters who go into shock at the loss, individuals who have unkind things to say about the dead body, and those who observe the details for what’s out of place and find their minds filled with questions.

Some of the reactions are genuine, some fake, but all add to the characterization and move the plot along. Now that you know the way Caesar died, how do you think Cleopatra reacted? How would you write her next chapter-the one that began the day after the Ides of March?


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