Life of a Writer. #16. Reading mysteries!

Well, yes, you'd think to read mysteries would make sense in that I'm writing one. Or for many writers, it would be the time to stop reading the work of others so that one could concentrate and focus on their own book. I go back and forth between the two, either immersing myself in the work of a specific writer and trying to figure out not the solution to the particular mystery, but the techniques the writer has used to write it. Or I am writing and suddenly something flows because I think I have picked up a clue in the latest read, perhaps about structure. Or about character. Or perhaps something about police protocol.

In any case, the two writers I am reading at the moment are Donna Leon with her series set in Venice with Commissario Guido  Brunetti as the police investigator. One comes to like Guido and his family, to appreciate his perceptions of Venetian society, the Mafia, art. To enjoy his relationships with the various members of his family. I am also getting to know Charlie Salter in the mystery series of Eric Wright, an English born Toronto author. I confess I thought writing a mystery would be simpler than it is, knowing I had written other types of novels. But although one needs to develop a plot in any novel (or in most other than totally experimental ones), that aspect in a mystery is paramount. And certain aspects have to present themselves fairly quickly, almost as if a convention demands it. There must be a crime, usually a murder. Or more than one crime. There must be a victim or victims. Potential suspects. And a central character, likely the detective.

All of this probably appears fairly obvious, but although I might be able to analyze a mystery, I have not been able yet to create enough suspense at the beginning to sustain interest. Nor to find that I focus soon enough (whatever that is!) on a central character who will carry the weight of most of the plot. Only gradually have I recognized the need to make my detective, Alistair Cosser, the central character. So I have introduced him in the first chapter in my latest revision. I no longer have a prologue. And I am trying to figure out how to include the characters I was developing and not lose their unique perspectives while Alistair's point of view (pov) predominates. An ongoing challenge.

For now, I will only say...stay tuned! More to follow.
Posted on April 7, 2013 .