NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Monday, January 31, 2011

BUT OF COURSE HE DID IT....?

Hubby and I have just sat through another episode of one of our classic UK TV detective series. Hugely popular, well written, always attracting top stars as guest actors. But half an hour into the episode, we turned to each other – on opposing sofas – and smiled knowingly.

“It was the mother who did it,” I said.

“Of course,” Hubby replied, nodding in complete agreement. “Another classic example of the Joss Ackland theory.”

I suppose I’d better explain this family joke :).

We watched a BBC spy/murder drama some years ago. It was an excellent play, but there were only a couple of “known” names in it. One was Joss Ackland, the famous British actor. I don’t know if he’s as well known across the world, though he had a starring role in one of the Lethal Weapon films.

Which fits in with my topic rather well!

He was the villain in the play we watched, as well. There were red herrings, there was a complex and challenging plot – but we suspected him all along! After all, we reasoned, why would a famous, well-respected, stage and film actor join the cast for a small cameo role with a few throwaway lines? Why would the BBC spend their budget (and my licence money) on such a grand aristocrat of the acting world, just to fill in the background during the detective’s machinations?

And of course, we were right. In the years since, we’ve watched plenty of dramas and our theory holds well across most of them *haha*. I may well be getting better at spotting the murderer, and this theory may have no more scientific basis than always choosing the jockey with the red cap on race day (which a betting friend of mine actually does), but it’s fun for us to follow!

Now, in a book, we may play a “reverse” red herring more successfully. Our characters aren’t already known to the reader, carrying expectation of a major role, associated with fame and familiarity. We can create a distant cousin who suddenly turns out to be the long-lost sister who’s named prominently in the will, or a small, quiet, nerdy person who turns out to be the maniacal slash murderer (if we so wished *cough*). Or that person who's acting suspiciously, but then we're led to believe he's innocent, but then oh look, he’s acting suspiciously again and we’ve been fooled, he *is* the murderer after all, but then …

Well, hopefully you get my point. We’re not held back by the Joss Ackland theory. And thank goodness!

Do you have your own family “theories” when you’re watching / reading mystery? Who’s *your* Star to Suspect?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Common Language

My stories often have both American and British characters and points of view. Having grown up in Britain and lived in North America for 9 years I always think I’ve got handle this, but my editor catches my boobs(:)) all the time. Here are some examples of the subtle and not so subtle differences between the two languages.

Jumper.
I’m always cold and like to keep my characters nice and cozy so I put them in lovely warm jumpers.
North Americans tend to wear sweaters

Knickers.
Marks and Spencer’s, naturally :)
In North America knickers are panties (I really hate it when female characters wear underpants, for me underpants are what my dad wears).

Pants.
Pants are also knickers in the UK. Also, if something is 'pants' it's crap.
In North America pants are trousers. 
I used to blush when people admired my pants over here, but not as fiercely as when someone commentated on my fanny. In the UK your fanny is your vagina. Seriously people, not something we uptight Brits discuss at parties. 

Vests
These foxed me for a long time. In the UK a vest is an undershirt for those extra cold days. In North America a vest is a waistcoat. 


Getting off with someone.
In the UK it usually means you scored a kiss or maybe walked someone home. In North America ‘getting off’ means something a little more...orgasmic.

Bum.
In the UK a bum is a pair of fleshy globes of loveliness that you sit on. In North American a bum is a homeless person.

Cock.
In the Midlands (UK) everyone calls everyone else ‘Cock’. Even my mom calls me cock. “Alright, Cock?” Embarrassing? You bet.
In North America you’ll get a punch in the mouth for calling someone a cock. 

Flat.
In the UK a flat (and flatmate) is the same as an apartment (with a roommate/housemate because apartmentmate just doesn't work). I don't know why it is called a flat. Stupid because it isn't flat, it is 3-D.

Spunk.
Being full of spunk in the UK is totally different to being full of spunk in North America. Not sure I want to go there. Gulp.

Differences in language affect me every day. I’m always telling the kids to get up on the pavement (sidewalk) rather than walk on the road (pavement), and when we’re doing homework we need a good rubber (eraser) to take care of mistakes. And we put the rubbish in the bin, baby, none of that trashcan garbage :) 

So what's your favorite British/US expression? What makes you giggle?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Synchronicity

Do you believe in synchronicity? Have you experienced that odd coincidence when something reminds you of a friend who happens to call you out of the blue? Or when you hear a word you only recently learned for the third time in a week?

Our minds delight in pattern. Writers minds especially. Patterns are the secret joy of storytelling. Not only the patterns in our work but the ones that crop up all around us. When I see a photo that illustrates something I’ve been writing, or hear a song that could be sound track to what I wrote, there is a rightness to the world.
“There I am again!” my secret heart cheers.
After I wrote my first mystery, In Plain View, I happened to wander into a shop near home. There was a poster on display, a panorama photograph of a farm house surrounded by weather worn fences and bare limbed trees.
IPV is set in the deep Midwest, where hundred year-old oaks rise from oceans of grass. These trees embody survival. Shaped by fire, lightning, drought and snow, they rarely have perfect forms. They’ve seen too much for that. The search for justice in my story begins when a man wearing Amish clothes is found hanging from one of these ancient trees. At his feet, lay a pile of pornographic magazines.

It’s magic hour in the photo, the moment when light slices through the atmosphere at the horizon and paints the world a luminous pink.
Maddy O’Hara, the heroine of In Plain View, is a news photographer. She knows about light and shadow. She knows about that moment between—between good and evil, between who you are and who you may become. Maddy’s returned to the Midwest to care for her orphaned niece. Although the barn in the photo needs painting and the fence needs mending, the house seems solid. One window glows like a beacon. The light of home.
One glance at that poster and my mind’s eye saw the whole story. The poster hangs in my office now. Tribute to a moment of artistic synchronicity.
There I am again!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Writing Humor in Your Mystery


When I was a little girl my mom bought me a pretty pink dress. I eagerly tried it on and felt so beautiful. Parading around the living room, I showed it off for my parents and siblings. But I had a secret. I also liked to be comfortable. Therefore, the scratchy pink undies that went with the dress never made it on. Not a problem until I bent over to pick up the bone for the puppy and gave everyone an unexpected view of what was (or wasn't) underneath.

Writing humor can be a lot like wearing pretty clothes on the outside, but going bare-bottomed underneath. You have a secret - a plan to put your characters into unexpected and amusing situations and watch them try to figure it out. The end goal is to create chaos with laughable consequence and yet still further the plot.

Inserting humor into a mystery can be difficult. Mysteries are by nature a rather serious affair. Before you start to write, decide if the subject matter of your novel is suited to comedy. Also keep in mind that humor in mysteries is typically more successful when focused on the characters not on the mystery itself. Take Columbo, for example. The bumbling, seemingly inept detective of this series constantly got himself into one comical situation after the next. But he always solved the mystery and caught the bad guy.

How can you effectively use humor in your mystery? One way is to make an ordinary situation extraordinary. Shake things up with a surprise situation or an unexpected result to an otherwise normal day. Play with words by using metaphors, similes, irony or satire. Bring misunderstandings to the forefront of the action and incorporate a bit of silliness. Let the reader in on the joke, but keep the characters clueless. This is often an effective technique because it helps the reader relate to the characters since, at one time or another, we’ve all been the butt of the joke (or the joke has been on us).

Expectations are also important. The reader will know instantly when a character’s decision will cause a problem later in the book. Lead the reader along, show them how they are right, but then surprise them. Someone once asked silent-screen legend Charlie Chaplin how to do the perfect banana peel gag. He answered that it would be to have a woman walking down the street directly toward a banana peel on the sidewalk. The audience will make a logical assumption about what will happen next. However, it’s funny when instead of slipping on the banana peel, the woman cleverly jumps over it … only to fall into an open manhole on the other side.

For my latest mystery, No One Lives Twice, I spent a lot of time working on the humorous aspect of the story. It’s hard work. I had to choose my words and situations with care. There is a lot of rewriting, beta reading, and revising. Timing is another critical aspect for humor writers. You have to figure out the best time to reveal the punch line, the absurd ending, or the result of a hysterical situation. It’s important to keep the reader interested and invested, as well as amused. The end goal is to create chaos with laughable consequence and yet still further the plot.

How can you do this? Look for the humor in everyday life. Focus on the bright side of every situation, including dark ones. People would rather laugh than cry when faced with difficult life experiences such as death, disease or hardship. Play off experiences you’ve had, nearly had, or have happened to a friend. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. You will find the best humor comes from within, an honest, amusing moment we can share with others through the eyes of our fictional characters.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cliche

Once upon a time in a land far far away....I ran upon a little creature they said was named, Cliche.

He was a hairy little bugger who mumbled and repeated himself.  If confronted, Cliche would raise his mutant fist and warn, "Read my lips." But you really couldn't read them.  They looked like tractor tires in need of air. If you ever tried to correct Cliche, he would point one of his two fingers at you and retort, "Rome wasn't built in a day, you know." And then he would stomp off with feet that looked like flattened sausages.

Cliche was often seen about town, grumbling softly and carrying a big stick. He moved as slow as molasses and had a protruding stomach acquired from an avid habit of dumpster diving.  Antennas twitching over a sea of fast food wraps, he would hold aloft a chicken bone and let loose a demonic laugh.  "Waste not, want not," he'd preach and then execute a perfect swan dive back into the rubbish.

If you tried to warn Cliche that his lifestyle was detrimental to his health he would just snort and wiggle his whiskers.  Turning his scaly back on you, he would slink off into the shadows and proclaim, "don't you know, a Cliche has nine lives?"

Have you seen Cliche?  What have you heard him say?


Monday, January 17, 2011

Squeezing the Clock

Unlike other writers who do it full-time because their writing income is sufficient, their spouses are very supportive, they're retired, or they won the lottery, I juggle a day job, which averages 60 hours per week and can reach 100; night classes and an ungodly amount of group work as I pursue an MBA; and family obligations, which are many when you're the oldest of twenty-six grandchildren (yes, we're Catholic). Although I have four weeks of vacation every year, they have been sacrificed for block week MBA courses.

And somehow I find time in my schedule to write--in fifteen-minute intervals. My morning walk to work takes fifteen minutes and I sometimes use it to work out a problem scene in my head. If I don't have a meeting, I'll take fifteen minutes during lunch to edit one of the current works-in-progress. Before calling it a night, I'll take my notebook computer to bed and write for fifteen minutes--maybe more if I don't have a 6 AM meeting.

While they might not seem like much, especially to people who write 6 hours per day and crank out as many titles per year (if not per month), those fifteen-minute writing intervals do add up. Like I juggle my life, I also juggle my writing because working on only one WIP at a time would bore me. Currently, I'm editing an 80k+ romantic suspense, fleshing out an erotic romance short, 40 percent complete on another romantic suspense, and just starting on a contemporary romance. I'm sure my editors at Carina Press and Ellora's Cave would prefer that I focus on one writing project at a time to improve my pitiful completion rate, but I find this process works for me.

So, any tips for a busy writer? (And, no, quitting my day job is not an option because I enjoy it and am accustomed to the lifestyle it affords me.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

20 Tips for Writing the Cozy or Traditional Mystery


Despite the glut in recent years of everything from knitting mysteries to miniature car racing mysteries, the cozy or (preferred term) traditional mystery continues to be a perennial favorite with readers.

Though it has a reputation for being quaint, old-fashioned, and unrealistic, the cozy is actually one of the sub-genres that has evolved the most since the Golden Age of crime fiction. In fact, many of the old “rules” of writing these stories -- including that of avoiding strong romantic subplots -- are no longer even relevant these days.

Though I don’t happen to write a cozy mystery series for Carina Press, I do write a rather popular one for Samhain Publishing -- that would be Holmes & Moriarity series -- so I thought I’d share a few tips.

1 - The main protagonist of a cozy mystery must not be a professional criminal investigator. It’s not accident that these books are all about amateur sleuths with occupations like party coordinator or (ahem) mystery author. The fun of these books is to see an ordinary person caught in extraordinary circumstances without the resources of the police or the private investigator.

That said, for the sake of sanity, the protagonist is often dating a cop or a private investigator.

2 - The cozy mystery typically takes place within a confined and relatively isolated environment with a limited cast of characters. The setting can be anywhere from a grand snowbound country manor in the wilds of the English Lake District to the unfortunate little seaside town where that terrorist Jessica Fletcher used to live.

Yes, the limited cast of characters does make it generally easy to guess who-dunnit, but the charm of these books is more in the journey and not the destination, locked room or otherwise.

3 - Graphic violence is about as popular as the graphic sex and the explicit language. As popular as shows like CSI are, most cozy readers don't enjoy discussion of brain matter and blood spatter. It’s just not…cozy.

4 - Amateur sleuths need to detect with the resources available to them -- just like PIs or police officers. So crimes cannot be solved solely by flashes of intuition, dreams, divine intervention, friendly ghosts -- or blatant coincidences. The sleuth must...sleuth.

Here’s the exception to that rule. In theory the cozy mystery’s protagonist should tie in at least loosely with how the crimes are solved, so if your protagonist is, in fact, an intuitionist, an interpreter of dreams, a nun, or a medium then these methods of revelation will all be…er…relevant.

Except for the blatant coincidence. There’s no excuse for that.

5 - Certain themes are best handled with great delicacy. It’s not true that you can’t address issues such as child abuse, rape, drug addiction, war crimes, and racism in a cozy mystery, but don’t bludgeon your reader over the head with your theme. There’s plenty of hard-hitting crime fiction out there. The cozy reader is looking for something specific in tone and mood. It has to do with the word “cozy.” It’s not just a thing to keep a teapot warm.

6 - A romantic subplot is good. Romance is the best selling genre around, and romantic mystery crossovers are very, very popular.




7 - No explicit sex. I know, I know. I just said romance was a good thing. And I will qualify that. If you’re writing a cozy mystery for the male-male audience or for an ebook publisher, you can enjoy writing a peculiar hybrid of erotic cozy called the “whoazy” (yes, I just totally made that up) but you won’t be selling that bad boy to Berkley Prime Crime. Graphic details, even of a romantic and intimate nature, don't fly with mainstream cozy readers.

8 - Large families and friends offer lots of opportunities for subplots and comedy relief. The cozy mystery is every bit as much about the non-crime-related life of the protagonist as it is about solving a crime. The charm of these books is in the characters and their world. People your stories with lots of entertaining characters who will lead the protagonist to ever more interesting and emotionally satisfying encounters.

9 - Don't forget the cozy trappings. Food, setting, clothes -- this stuff is fun and helps to balance the grimness of violent death. World building is central to the cozy mystery, but unlike in the spec fiction novel, it is not the strangeness of the world you want to focus on, it’s the familiar and recognizable aspects -- and then the effective contrast of violence.

10 - Cozy mysteries sell best as series. Cozy readers like to stick with the characters and worlds they like.

11 - Treat murder with the respect that it deserves. Violent death is not funny. Victims of violent death -- even loathsome victims -- still should not be treated like gag gifts. For one thing, if you treat murder like a big joke, you've just eliminated any tension or suspense from your story.

12 - That said, everything else is fair game. A sense of humor, a playful spirit is good. Cozy readers generally like to leaven the tension of murder and crime with a few chuckles.

13 - The story and the main character must be more than a gimmick. Right before the cozy mystery became persona non grata at so many agent and editorial offices there was a rash of really stupid gimmicky mysteries that were nothing more than desperate attempts to find some new way to dress up the grand dame of crime fiction. At the heart of every cozy mystery is a good story. Readers do not choose these books because they’re desperate to read about stamp collecting, ice fishing, or lace-making. Sure those things can be interesting, but in themselves they are not enough to build a series.

14 - Cozy protagonists are human and fallible. Remember to give your protag a few faults. Sexual addiction and kleptomania...not so good. Addiction to Ding Dongs or a tendency to jump to conclusions, that's fun.

15 - It’s usually best to kill off characters the reader isn’t going to spend the rest of the book actively grieving for. You want the reader focused on the fun of solving the mystery, not angry with you for killing off the most interesting character.

16 - Break up the white, middle class, genteel vibe with interesting supporting characters of other cultures, ethnicities, and orientations. But avoid trotting these characters out like visitors from a freak show.

17 - Bad words are a no-no. Cozy readers take a dim view of potty mouths. The F-word is verboten, and taking the Lord's name in vain will send you straight to publishing Hell. Obviously I’m talking to those of you with an eye on a mainstream publisher. The rest of us can do whatever the fuck we like.


18 - Don’t write a cozy mystery because you think it will sell. Write the cozy because you love the charm and warmth (beneath the murder and mayhem) of these stories.


19 - Respect the reader.

20 - Never kill a cat. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Do not kill pets. It's the Never Kill a Cat rule -- and from the way some of these readers talk, it actually may not be just a rule, it might be The Lost Commandment. Need I say that killing children is even worse than killing pets. Killing anything small is probably not a good idea.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rejection

Writers constantly have to deal with rejection. My first was non-professional. It took place in High School when our English teacher allowed the class to rate poetry we had written. I wrote about my city-New York-and I sensed I had impressed our teacher. But the class was under-whelmed. Nothing our insrtuctor said could influence my fellow students. There I was stuck with a B-I tore up the poem.

The second rejection came from another teacher. This time our assignment was to write a short story. I wrote what I considered a larger-than-life romance complete with sexy hero and heroine, moonlight, roses, conflict, divorce and reconciliation. The story came back with, "Worst thing I ever read," scrawled in red ink across the first page.

I was still performing when I began to write a play. I realized that ther were many more parts written for men in plays, motion pictures and television then there were for women. I decided to write a play that focused on women. The play wasn't bad but...that's entirel different blog.

On to another play, a playwriting group, a small award, readings and a fictionalized story about my family-the first story to be published. Then-a box filled with letters of rejection-some encouraging-when an editor took the time to write a few words, some discouraging-a form letter. Then the first check-someone would actually pay to read something I wrote-I phot-copied the check and saved the letter.

Next came articles-historical and travel-with time spent on research. This led, in my opinion, to the most interesting part of rejection-the rare letter that was a put-down instead of a turn-down. Days, sometimes weeks of depression-the article thrown in a drawer until I could take it out, calmly examine the letter, mull it over, sleep on it until I could decide whether the rejection was deserved or whether the rejecter had a bad day. Should the piece be rewritten, destroyed or sent to another magazine? Happy to say the nasty rejections were wrong-the two articles that received them sold to bigger, more prestigious publications that paid a good deal more. What did I learn? Never throw anything out including a High School poem.

I would like to learn about your experiences with rejection and how you handled them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I GET THE ODDEST LOOKS SOMETIMES

I've found discussing story lines and plots for my books can get some strange reactions. Since I write romantic suspense, often with a paranormal element or two thrown in, discussions in public places can get me some rather strange looks.

I remember once when I was out to lunch with a fellow multi-published author. Throughout the meal we discussed how our writing was progressing since we'd last talked, and dissecting our current works-in-progress. She's done critiques for me in the past; especially when I was first starting to seriously pursue writing with the goal of getting published.

We talked about my story, a suspense where I had my heroine hiding at a New Orleans hotel, having escaped from the bad guy chasing her the previous night. During the night, the bad guy had discovered which hotel she had taken refuge in, and needed to flush her out of her "safe" environment so he could capture her. I figured on having him call in a bomb threat to the hotel, causing an evacuation of the building.

"Sounds too contrived" was my friend's opinion. "Too easy for her to stay blended in with the crowds."

"But," I blustered along, "she'll have to leave her room, then leave the hotel, just like everybody else. The bad guy will be watching the front door and he can follow her."

"Nope, won't work. Too many police around. Bomb squad, too. No way can he whisk her away without being noticed." Her voice of reason made sense, but didn't mean I had to like it.

"Okay, then, how about we don't use a bomb. Let's have a phony gas leak called in. Still have to evacuate the building, but not all the commotion and way less police presence."

"That might work," she offered. "Still, how is the villain going to separate her from the rest of the hotel guests without her raising a ruckus and drawing all kinds of attention. After all, he's trying to kill her, right?"

"Okay, okay" I muttered. "Let me think. Maybe instead of grabbing her on the street, maybe he calls in the phony gas leak, then positions himself across the street possibly in an adjacent hotel or on the roof? Then when she comes out, blamo, he puts a bullet in her."

An inhaled gasp had both my friend and I turning in our chairs. Our waiter stood close to our table, gaping at us. After a moment of awkward silence, he took a step forward. "I have to ask," he started, "are you ladies . . . writers?"

My friend and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. Assuring him that we were, indeed, writers and were discussing a book. He stated that it sounded exactly likely something his wife would love to read. My friend, who also writes suspense, gave him her card with her books listed on it. I promised him his wife would, indeed, love her books.

To paraphrase Elmer Fudd, "Be vewy, vewy careful, we're hunting weaders . . . I mean readers." You just never know where you might find the next one. Or who might be listening.

Kathy Ivan

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why Mysteries?

I remember vividly several years ago, before my first mystery novel was published, having lunch with a couple of coworkers. The subject turned to reading and we started talking about our favorite books and authors. But before I had a chance to speak up, one of my coworkers said, “I already know what kind of books Angie likes. She's into murder and death.” That really shocked and bothered me. Everyone knew I loved mysteries. But did that mean I was into death? What was it about murder mysteries that I loved so much? And what did my love of the genre say about me as a person? It didn't take long for me to realize that my coworker had completely missed the point. 

The act of murder in and of itself is not what fascinates me about mysteries. In fact, I tend to shy away from graphic descriptions of violence and death. No, what fascinates me about mysteries are the lives of the people behind such an extreme act. What causes people to kill? What was the motive? Was it an accident? Was it plotted and planned for? Was it a crime of passion? These are the questions that fascinate me. I guess you could call me a back-story junkie...or maybe I'm just nosy The reason why one of my favorite shows is Law & Order: Criminal Intent is because it explores the reasons why, the victims, and the perpetrators. The act of murder itself plays a very small part of the plot. Then there are the clues, puzzle pieces left behind by the murderer. Where do they lead? What did the killer do to cover their tracks? And most importantly of all, will they get away with it.

During that long ago lunchtime conversation I remember being at loss for words and laughing off my coworker’s comments. But had the conversation taken place today I’d have told her. “No, honey, I’m not into death and murder. I’m into life.”
 

So what is about the mystery genre that fascinates you?


Angela : ) 








Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's A Mystery...


How anything gets done around here. (Like writing.)
WHO in their right mind can write when there are festivals, bands, trips to Las Vegas,
...uh...critiquing others, winter baking frenzies, company coming,
not to mention visitors, Taco Tuesday with The Girls,
and...oooh, yeah. UNSOLVED CRIMES that have your imagination spinning all sorts of
WHAT IF THIS HAPPENED? - or...Maybe he had a sex change to avoid being captured!

Remember Jessica Fletcher? Organized, thoughtful, kind, considerate, always willing to help, not bad at baking, quite good at bicycle riding, and amazing at poking her nose where it isn't wanted?

That is so not me. The only thing I have in common with that character is that I don't go looking for the mystery - it usually finds me. Case in point...

A best girlfriend's husband tied her up with the toaster cord and kidnapped their children. In revenge, she wanted to poison his meatloaf (his favorite dish) once they'd "reconciled" (yeah, only in his mind). The sap was allergic to peanuts...anaphylactic shock, etc...and he was a sucker for make-up sex, so she had the perfect opportunity. So she phones her BFF and says: Talk me out of it or help me decide how I can get away with this.

Some friend I am. I took that story and RAN with it, only Lethal Meatloaf just didn't cut it, so ole ABF, as she calls him (a**hole biological father) has to be allergic to the lasagna.

And that's how that story was conceived. How about the rest of you? Anything zany happen to spark your imagination, or did you just pop out of the writing toaster already buttered and knowing what you wanted to write?


(Yes, that is a leaf fight between two middle-aged women.)
Life is too freakin' short to spend it looking for trouble. I say let it find you. = )

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to the New Year!

And a lovely one it is, too. Don't you just love a brand spanking new year? It's all shiny and clean, and you haven't had time to blow your resolutions yet...

I spent most of New Year's Eve day finishing the first draft of my latest mystery. On New Year's Day, while recovering from my excesses (of writing!), I found myself wondering why I like the genre so much. I write fantasy, as well, and even the odd science fiction short story. But I do *love* a good mystery.

The fabulous Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who writes the Smokey Dalton mysteries under the pen name Kris Nelscott, has given a lot of thought to why mystery novels appeal to so many readers. She believes it's because a mystery brings order to chaos. And she's right, of course. By the end of the mystery, the bad guy has been caught (or at least identified) and it's safe to resume our normal lives.

Rusch taught a course on the mystery genre last year that broke down all the sub-genres of mystery and looked at the factors within each sub-genre (character, setting, tone, voice, etc.), and I realized what was important to me.
Character, character, character.

Now, I'm partial to setting, too, but setting isn't enough to keep me reading. However, if the protagonist is interesting, I will follow her or him to the end of the book to find out how they restore order to chaos. Years later, I may not remember the storyline, but I WILL remember the character, and I WILL be interested in reading more about said character.
Some of my favourite recent fictional characters are Kris Nelscott's Smokey Dalton, Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache and Christy Evans' Georgiana Neverall.

Now, how about you? Who are some of your favourite fictional mystery protagonists?

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