Some time ago Carolyn Hart, an author whose mystery novels I have long enjoyed reading, said something that has stuck in my head. She compared her novels and others in the same genre to medieval morality plays. There is a problem (in the plays, most often a sin). The problem is presented as part of an entertaining story. There is a clear path to redemption, and by the end of the novel or play the sinner (villain) is either punished or redeemed, and justice is served.
I understood that. It made sense, and explained how I think of and form my own novels.
They were about redemption.
Though many people think of redemption only in relation to theology or commerce, that's not all it can apply to. The five dictionaries I consulted, including Noah Webster's from the early nineteenth century, allow for deliverance from some type of evil or threat, for rescue, for the improvement in condition of any thing or any one. To my way of thinking, that can refer to many types of writing, and certainly does in the field of mysteries.
Actually, though the theme of redemption has always been present in my writing, I didn't see it as a strong factor until I was part way through my latest "To Die For" novel, A Portrait to Die For, (to appear in print and e-book by early 2016). In this story, eighth in the series, redemption touches almost every character, beginning with an Iraq veteran suffering horrors as a result of his war experience. Others in the process of being subtly redeemed include his bitter and confused twin sister, and even my protagonists, Carrie McCrite and Henry King.
A satisfactory resolution is guaranteed in most novels like this, whether romance, mystery, western, history, slice of life, or one of many more types. Satisfactory endings yes, but not emotion free. Recently my husband and a former editor at St Kitts Press, publisher of my first five novels, worked to bring Music to Die For, number two in the series, back into print. During the process I needed to re-read the manuscript twice. And even for me, the happy ending (created out of my own ideas, mind you) ended up being a three-hanky one, because, I realized, of redemption.
As a reader or writer, have you ever thought of redeeming features in at least some of what you read or write? For me, the word--the topic--has really opened up new ideas that I can apply to my writing--and to myself.
Excellent. I like strong conflict as characters struggle with choices--sometimes select the worst one--then receive redemption (earned or given freely). Good workshop topic.
I hadn't thought of the workshop topic angle, but that's brilliant, Marilyn. Thank you.
As usual, Radine, you have ertainly brought up a thoughtful subject.
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What a surprise to see my August,2015 blog post for Make Mine Mystery re-published. Still and always an important topic to me which always informs my writing. Thanks to all (once more) for comments.
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