“Peace on Earth” is a frequent holiday blessing. However, readers don’t want “peace on earth” until the end of a novel. This is another way of saying that novels depend on tension.
In essence, the plot of a novel is a series of events during which a characters or characters resolve a problem or overcome adversity. A mystery at its simplest level is the discovery or a crime (usually a murder) and the determination of who did it and how.
Many authors accordingly believe their books need a victim, a protagonist, one villain, one investigator (sometimes the protagonist), and a few colorful sidekicks. They argue that books which include a number of additional characters are confusing. Perhaps these authors are correct. Their books are fast reads and often sell well.
But I think formualistic mysteries (or really any type of novel) are not satisfying for several reasons.
· The end is too predictable. I like mysteries in which I’m not sure of the finale until the end. I also don’t like books with only one clear-cut villain. The “red herrings” need to be well developed and plausible.
· The formualistic stories are not realistic. Life isn’t that straight-forward. We all face continual distractions. Although we respect the beauty of linear thinking, most of us make numerous missteps daily because of misleading or ultimately unrelated information.
· Most problems aren’t solved by a single person in virtual isolation. Detectives work in teams and consult with crime labs, lawyers, and experts in various fields.
In other words, confusion is a part of most of our lives and should be part of novels. That’s one reason for subplots in novels.
I think the best books can be read at several levels. Teachers in high school and college literature classes drilled most of us on symbolism in novels, especially Moby Dick. Although many of those discussions seemed overblown, I think at least one character in a novel should have inner emotional turmoil. The swirls of confusion (self-doubt, anger, or regret) which swirls about this character at the start of the story should crescendo during the tale but be calmed by the end of the story. However, logical character development makes it unlikely the psychological profile of a character will change totally and the character’s issues will dissipate totally.
Finally, although we all wish each other “peace on earth,” most of us don’t want it in our novels until the last page. Some of us even like one unsettling note at the end of a tale to make us think. Think about that the next time you wish someone “peace on earth.”
You can win a free copy of my latest mystery—She Didn’t Know Her Place. GoodReads is doing a free giveaway of three signed copies. Enter before December 23
Blurb: In She Didn’t Know Her Place, Dana Richardson faces a dilemma in her new job. The Natural Resource Center, which reports to her, is alleged to be "doctoring" data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards. Her boss Guy Beloit, the president of State U, doesn’t care. Really no one, but Dana, cares. That's not true. Sally Stein cared and she died under mysterious circumstances.
The paperback and Kindle versions are available at: http://www.amzn.com/1979733112
Bio: J. L. Greger is a former professor in the biological sciences and research administrator. She likes to include tidbits of science in her thriller/mystery novels: Riddled with Clues (finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona book award) and Murder…A New Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Association [PSWA] contest). Her collections of short stories focus on families: The Good Old Days? and Other People’s Mothers (finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona Book Award). To learn more, see her website: http://www.jlgreger.com