Monday, September 19, 2011

Community Spirit by Morgan Mandel

Sunday morning my husband and I went to a pancake breakfast sponsored by the American Legion. He's a member of the Sons of the American Legion, and likes to attend their events, plus who could pass up their great breakfast spreads!

We also enjoy being members of the Festival Committee, which runs a five day event with the Fourth of July as the main fulcrum.

Those are a but a few organizations in our area, which help the community and also give their members a feeling of belonging. There are quite a few others.

How can community organizations relate to writing, especially mysteries?
  • Bestowing a community spirit on your characters can be a way of rounding them out, showing they have values, generosity, and are decent people, as well as giving them a focus or goal.
  • Or, the opposite - A character can be devious and pretend to have the well being of the community at heart, but actually be plotting a vicious crime.
  • Organizational doings can be a great backdrop for something unusual to take place, like a murder.
  • Characters suffering from the results of crime can find a measure of relief by becoming part of a community and getting caught up in the spirit.
Have you included something similar in one of your books, or do you know of an example? What do you think of the idea of including some form of community spirit in a mystery?

Morgan Mandel

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Talli Roland said...

Love the link of community spirit to crime novels!

A big YUM to pancake breakfasts.

Marian Allen said...

The mystery series I'm working on takes place in a small neighborhood with a strong sense of community. The first story of the series, "The Spirit of Spadena Street", appeared in Wolfmont Press' Christmas anthology THE GIFT OF MURDER. As you say, not everybody in the neighborhood honors the community.

Great takes on uses of community in story! Another is part of what inspired my neighborhood setting in the first place: Somebody in Short Mystery asked how many murders could one series character get involved in before people started avoiding her/him. People involved in community projects have an expanded contact pool.

Great post!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Patricia Harrington said...

Liked Morgan's take on "community spirit" and also Marian's comment re: how many murders could one series character get involved in before people started avoiding him/her.

My amateur sleuth's perspective is "community minded" -- but involves different ethnic or organizational communities. Bridget O'Hern, does what I do in my other writing/work life, consult with nonprofits, write grants for them to achieve their missions. Fun stuff, though hard work, to do. Poor old Bridget, is "seeking her bliss" and stumbling over dead bodies along the way.

Pat Harrington

Jean Henry Mead said...

A good angle to consider, Morgan. Murder at the Pancake Breakfast or A Body in the Soup Kitchen. The list is endless. :)

Debra St. John said...

Adding community details is a great way to round out characters, plot, and any genre.

I think if you're following a mystery character, you expect him/her to get involved with various crimes!

Kate Dolan said...

You bring up some great points. I wrote a couple of mysteries with a character who was not involved in anything other than following her kids around, and part of her journey was realizing that she needed to develop her own life and not think of herself only as a mom. If I ever write more in the series (which is just being re-released in ebook next month) I want to have her try out some community groups to find what's right (and more fun - what isn't!)

WS Gager said...

Great post Morgan! I have a series where each of the four main female characters runs a non profit organization and in the first one a body is found dead in the food pantry. Haven't done much with it because I've been working on my Mitch Malone Series but it is a great way to round out a character. Mitch doesn't have much community spirit or so he thinks!
W.S. Gager on Writing

V.R. Leavitt said...

Wonderful post, Morgan. I had never considered that for my books, as my characters tend to be loaners but this can definitely add some more dimension to them and the story.

Regge Ridgway said...

Love the writing and this community. But it does beg the question if one uses real places in scenes. Thinking the business might not like a murder or bad thing happening in their establishment.