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.

Here's What I Don't Get

I've been seeing ads on my Facebook feed lately that claim to help you generate plots for your novels. I guess my question would be "If you haven't got a plot, why do you want to write a novel?"

A novel needs a plot, a reason to exist. As a reader I get tired of  some "literary" novels that tell a lot about how a person feels and how he got that way without the person ever doing anything interesting. Many books that are hailed by critics as "stunning" and "evocative" fail to hold my attention because nothing happens.

Even a plot where things happen will disappoint me if those things are unbelievable or disappointing. A main character who kills had better have a reaaaaaalllly good reason for it. And both the murder and the resulting events must be logical.

Here are some examples that disappointed me, despite the author's skill with words. I fully admit I'm in the minority here, because all of these were successful books; some even got awards.

I recently read a book (well, I skipped to the end after a while) in which the murder of a woman was investigated by her husband (a cop) and her brother (an ex-cop). No person in authority in the police department had a problem with that. Yeah, right.

A book that got all kinds of praise from critics (because of that "evocative" writing) had as the murder scenario a situation where the killer could not have been certain his intended victim would be the one to approach the booby-trapped item. There were dozens of people present and any one of them was every bit as likely to be killed. Of course he was lucky and got the right person!

Another book touted as a "wonderful debut novel" had a plot that was great. I was on the edge of my seat all the way through--until the defeat of the villain depended on her decision, deep in the jungle and after days of chasing the protagonist and finally capturing her in a remote village, to put on some makeup. Almost as bad as the North Pole villain who, with the authorities closing in, decided to rape the protag on the open surface of a glacier at twenty degrees F, because "I've got you now, my pretty, and I intend to have my way with you!" (Can you say "Junior high boy's midnight fantasy"?)

Do these people have beta readers? Do the beta readers not say, "Um, you lost me when the guy hung his pants on the icicle"?

Conclusion: I'm pretty much against buying a plot, but then again, there are times when an author might be better off with a purchased plot than that crazy one he spun in his/her head.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely agree! No plot, no novel. I bought my first computer (word processor, DOS based) with the idea of writing "the Great American Novel". It hasn't happened yet. But, meantime I thoroughly enjoy reading your books. I always know I will have to think about the characters and mysteries involved. I have a plot in mind based on my own life, but I don't think I can make it believable to anyone else. Maybe someday. Meantime, I seek out authors who stimulate my imagination and hold my interest.

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