Thursday, September 3, 2009

About Mysteries

When I'm out and about with my girlfriends, every so often some guy, looking for their "love of the night", will decide that one of us might be a good candidate and sidle up to our table. And to be honest, it can be a little annoying. So I've come up with a way to handle it. The conversation goes something like this:

"So what do you do?" he asks, with a speculative look in his eye.

"I write mysteries," she replies, trying to ignore him and focus her attention on the dance floor.

Not getting the hint, he persists, "What kind of mysteries?"

"Ones involving murder," she answers, with emphasis on the word "murder."

"Really?"

"Yeah," she responds after a slight pause. "I know a hundred ways to kill someone."

It's usually at that point he suddenly remembers the friend that he left standing over at another table and excuses himself.

Now does the guy walk away with the opinion that I'm some kind of psycho? Probably...but even though I'm the most non-violent person that you'd ever want to meet, I do spend a lot of time thinking of ways to do in hapless characters. And I've discovered most mystery authors are no different.

A couple of years ago, I was at a "Sisters in Crime" conference in LA. Part of the conference was getting the opportunity to pitch our books to movie and television producers. While we were waiting our turn to do our pitch, nerves were running high, and the conversation turned to this very subject. "How do your characters meet their end?"

Everyone had different scenarios. Jo Dereske, (the Miss Zukas series) said she had a character stabbed in the heart with one of those long rods from the bottom of the card catalog drawer. (Miss Zukas is a librarian, so this method is very effective given Jo's setting.) But it was Carolyn Hart who had the best response. She said she didn't go in for all that fancy stuff. Nope, she just shoves her characters off a cliff! (btw-Carolyn and Jo are two of the kindest people I know and terrific writers!)

So what would Freud say about all of this? What is it that drives nice, normal people to write mysteries, involving crime and violence, and readers to read them? Again, back to Carolyn...I heard her once say during an interview that mysteries are modern morality plays. That people have a need to see justice done. The more dastardly the crime, the more satisfying it is in the end to see the villain get his. Personally, I like that explanation and I'm sticking to it! Suits me much better than thinking I have a loose screw!!! 8)

That's it for this week-have a fun, safe holiday weekend!!

Best,
Shirley

2 comments:

Pissenlit said...

That is the awesomest way to get rid of unwanted attention that I have ever come across!

Oddly enough, I had a conversation once where we all(while on a sugar-high) decided that a cliff was the most fun way of getting rid of characters whenever you need to kill them off. There was also something about a "poking-stick"(a stick with the sole purpose of jabbing people) but I forget what that was all about... :D

kd easley said...

Hi Shirley,
My cousin was giving me a tour of her new house the other day. We stopped to look down on the living room from the landing above and the first words out of my mouth were, wow, what a great place to kill someone. LOL Lucky for me my family understands me.