Wednesday, January 6, 2010

HBC or LBC? – Decisions, Decisions

No, HBC and LBC are not new cholesterol acronyms or new TV networks. They stand for “High Body Count” and “Low Body Count.”

Every time I start a new book, Rudy, my former boyfriend who still reads my works-in-progress, asks: “So, does this new book have a high body count or a low body count?”

The first time he asked, I replied, “Huh?” Then he pointed out the body count differences in the books I’d already written. For example, my Ghost of Granny Apples books tend to be LBC (ghosts notwithstanding), while in my Odelia Grey series, the number of corpses can fluctuate greatly from book to book.

When I write the books, it never occurs to me to count the dead bodies. I simply write what comes and let the corpses fall where and when they may as the plot progresses. Of course, I always know ahead of time the featured victim – the one who gets the ball rolling – but the others are often left up to the muses. Although there are times when I get three fourths of the way through a manuscript and think: “Hmm, another dead body might raise the tension. (drumming fingers on desk) Who shall it be?”

When Rudy received the first several chapters of Murder In Vein, the first book in my new vampire mystery series, he made a sniffing noise and said: “I can smell an HBC coming.”

Well, duh! It’s about vampires. Of course, it will be an HBC!

How about you? Do you know ahead of time whether your new book will be HBC or LBC?

Sue Ann Jaffarian
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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm pretty far into the cozy genre with my books. I have 2 bodies per book. I might consider 3, but that would be top of the range for my books.

I love it! HBC or LBC. I'll have to remember that...

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Alan Orloff said...

I never really thought about whether a book should be HBC or LBC going in. Whatever the story dictates, I guess, is what I, um, shoot for.

G.M. Malliet said...

Would we have Ten Little Indians without - what was it, eight - bodies? For me, it just depends...I definitely don't think about it before wading in.

Jess Lourey said...

I have a LBC in my books but a HRH (high raunchy humor). Your post has inspired me to up my BC. Also love the title for your vampire novel--very clever--and want to know why it didn't work out with you and Rudy.

G.M. Malliet said...

p.s. Just remembered: Body count in Ten Little Indians had to be seven. It's time for someone to make an updated movie version of that story.

Mark said...


Are you talking about the book, the movie, the play....

I haven't seen any movie versions, but in the play I saw, the body count was 8 since the villain died in the end.

In the book, the body count was 10.

G.M. Malliet said...

Mark - good memory! I was thinking about the movie, actually: And Then There Were None. Made in 1945 (had to look that up).

And I believe you're right - the bad guy didn't make it. He died twice, in a way, thus messing up my body count.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Some days feel like HBC days, don't they? Like when I was cut off and nearly side swiped by a large Mercedes sedan on my way to work this morning.

I am just over half way through Murder in Vein - body count so far = 6 and rising. And that doesn't count the undead. And I'm having fun!

Jess - Rudy and I simply evolved into better friends than lovers. BTW, he thinks Murder in Vein is kinky.

Mike Dennis said...

The novel I just finished has 10 bodies. I'm not certain if that qualifies as HBC, because the book doesn't have a "bloodbath" feel to it. I guess it's all relative. But to what, I'm not sure.

Keith Raffel said...

Sue Ann, you trust an ex to read your manuscripts? Please imagine the comments I have running through my head, because I'm sure as hell not posting them here.

Cricket McRae said...

My immediate thought upon reading this post was that the body count is low in my gentle little mysteries. Then I started counting and see each one has more death than the last--not to mention all the people I put in the hospital. The one I'm working on now will have more than ever, verging on being a true HBC mystery.

Looking forward to Murder in Vein, Sue Ann!

Deborah Sharp said...

Uh-oh ... now I have BC envy ... mine are all LBC, exactly one murder per book. Does it count that I injure people, fictionally (and also imagine very, very HBC when I'm driving among idiots on I-95)?
Good post Sue Ann!