Mystery Author: Strong Women, Great Stories

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I write three series: The Loser Mysteries, The Dead Detective Mysteries & the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries as well as stand-alones that offer readers "Strong Women, Great Stories."
These days I also answer to Maggie Pill, who writes a cozy sleuth series. Maggie is a lot like Peg, just younger, cooler, and funnier.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Bitter End

Not me. My hero, Dorothy Parker
I posted on Facebook the other day that each book I write comes to the point where I'd like to tell the reader, "I've brought you this far, now you finish it!"
I was surprised to read in the responses I got that it's been done. Can't imagine reading a whole book and being left in the lurch like that. As one respondent pointed out, "As the author, you know the characters better than anyone else. You have to tell us what happens to them."
Yes, it's the author's responsibility to sort out the mess she's created. Still:
1) I'm tired of them at that point. Like one's children, an author loves her characters, but there are times when she'd like to love them from a galaxy far, far away.
2) Some readers won't be satisfied. I've heard from some who wanted more romance (okay, sex) between the characters to end the book. One reader complained that a certain character would never have given in and obeyed the bad guy who stuck a gun to her head. (Maybe I should have said, "He pointed the gun at her and she said, "Stop that," so he dropped the gun, gave himself up to the police, and admitted everything.) In another instance, a woman at a book group expressed vexation that I never told what happened to a certain very minor character at the end of the book. (She lived her life--I guess.)
3)  The biggest reason I don't look forward to writing the end is that it's hard, especially in a mystery, where a writer can't just fade out, as some literary novelists do. There has to be an accounting of some sort, and though I've had in mind all the way along who's guilty, making the ending logical, exciting, and summary of all previous events takes concentration. Every strand should pull together and make a nice whole. There shouldn't be a point where the reader thinks, "That wasn't fair."
 I've read books where the killer came out of the woodwork, like an ant when dinner's over, and it irritates me. The clues should be there, and the ending should make it clear it couldn't have been anyone else. One of my favorite comments ever from a reader of my work was, "I didn't figure out the ending, but I should have been able to."
If you haven't guessed by now, my task this week is to end a book I've been working on. I know how it ends. I know where each character needs to step in and do his part.
I just haven't written it down yet.

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