Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Makes It a Mystery? by Libby McKinmer

According to About.com a mystery is:

Definition: Mystery is a genre of fiction in which a detective, either an amateur or a professional, solves a crime or a series of crimes. Because detective stories rely on logic, supernatural elements rarely come into play. The detective may be a private investigator, a policeman, an elderly widow, or a young girl, but he or she generally has nothing material to gain from solving the crime. Subgenres include the cozy and the hard-boiled detective story.

That seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn't it? But it sure gives us a lot of latitude. My mystery can be a police procedure with accurate details in the day-to-day work of a police investigation -- kind of a CSI type mystery. Or a Women's Murder Club.

My mystery can be an unsuspecting young woman who has to figure out who killed her boss and why, before she's the next victim, although that does certainly give her a real something to gain, other than material gain! My detective can be a Miss Marple, Harry Bosch, Nancy Drew or Gil Grissom type. My mystery can be a murder, a robbery, a kidnapping or any other crime.

Your mystery can be whatever you like -- the kind of detective and crime you like to try to figure out. It can be whenever and wherever you want it to be. As a writer, you can write the mystery you love to read. As a reader, you can seek out the writers who write what you love to read.

5 comments:

Morgan Mandel said...

I like suspense mysteries the best, ones that are character based.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com

Anne Carter said...

This might be a good time to bring up a thought that continues to plague me: more often than not, I see the term "mystery" become synonymous with "crime" or "murder" - the only mysteries that are not are typically novels for children. Yet I was brought up (for want of a better way to put it) believing that mysteries included all sorts of other interesting plots; still most often having to do with a crime, but not necessarily murder or death.

Does anyone else get this? Does there have to be a corpse in order for the book to be a legit mystery?

I label POINT SURRENDER a romantic mystery because the story centers on an abandoned lighthouse with secrets in its past. What happened to its last keeper? Where is his family? Why is his journal incomplete, with pages missing? To me, these questions definitely set up a mystery for the heroine to work on. But no corpse. No weapon.

Just some thoughts!

Anne
http://beacon-street.blogspot.com

Jean Henry Mead said...

No corpse necessary to make it mystery, but that seems to be what readers want, so I've given them plenty of victims in the course of my Logan & Cafferty series.

Dana Fredsti said...

These days, the expectations seem to be murder and mayhem as soon as possible in a book... but I love mysteries with or without corpses.

Dana Fredsti said...

These days, the expectations seem to be murder and mayhem as soon as possible in a book... but I love mysteries with or without corpses.