The Seven Wonders of Being a Mystery Writer

by Julie, staying put in Somerville, adding to my mask collection

This month the theme of the blog is celebrating our seventh anniversary of the blog. Today, I thought I’d talk about seven wonderful things about being a mystery writer.

Stress reduction. Crime writers are usually very nice people, and there’s a good reason for this. Killing people on the page is a fabulous way to reduce stress. As a writer it becomes habit to step back and observe human behavior. Particularly awful behavior is fodder to the imagination. Personal affronts become motives. Nasty people become victims. It’s really very helpful.

Research. Research is a wonderful way to while away hours and hours. I sometimes refer to it as the rabbit hole of research, because you can get stuck following different paths. What is really interesting is how little of the work ends up in the book. Most of it goes into the writer’s brain and gets churned around so that authenticity showsn on the page without being technical. I loved learning about clock making for my clock shop series, but I didn’t explain things in the book. Instead the research made Ruth look like she knew what she was doing, and loved it.

Creating new worlds. This is one of the great things about writing any sort of fiction. Making up a new world is a blast. I get to decide who lives where, what the businesses are, how the local government works, and who does what when. Writing a series is a particular joy, because the world keeps expanding. There’s a lot to keep track of, but it’s so much fun.

Heightened reality. I love theater for the same reason that I like mystery writing, at least the kind of writing I do. My books have enough to do with real life that it connects with people, but reality is much bigger than real life. The houses, the hobbies, the characters, the coincidences. They are all extra.

Puzzling plots. I love this part of writing mysteries, probably because the Golden Age of detective fiction is how I fell in love with the genre, and puzzles were so important to Agatha, Dorothy L, Ngaio and the rest. This part isn’t easy, because it involves tricking the reader until the end, but providing a solution that makes sense. In my current work in progress, the story is great but I’m having trouble with the puzzle, so it’s taking me a bit longer to get the book moving. I’ll fix it, but this is the hardest part. In my opinion, Agatha was particularly good at this, so rereading her books as a writer has been wonderful.

Justice prevails. Writing a book where justice prevails and order is restored is a tonic for my soul. I am a relentlessly optimistic person, and that can be challenging. Real life is isn’t always fair, or just. I like that my books help folks escape that for a bit of time. Writing them affords me the same escape.

The community–readers and writers both. This may sound pandering, but I mean it. One of the best parts of being a mystery writer is the crowd I run with. The Wickeds, and all of you who read and follow the blog. The people I meet at conferences and events. The writers who I look forward to seeing a few times a year, or online more often. This is a wonderful community, and I am so blessed to be part of it.

So, these are seven of the reasons I love being a mystery writer. Fellow writers, what would you add? Readers, why do you love this genre?

28 Thoughts

  1. As an avid reader of mystery fiction, I also started with the Golden Age of mystery writers (Allingham, Christie, Sayers, Tey and Marsh). I loved the puzzles and the idyllic English settings of those books. My reading tastes have broadened since then, and I enjoy the wide diversity of crime fiction to choose from.

    Depending on my mood, I can read a culinary cozy, then switch to a domestic thriller, followed by a modern-day PI story etc. I prefer to read series since I can revisit the same cast of interesting characters and setting. The puzzle and (usual) closure in the story is also satisfying.

    And the mystery community is so welcoming and fun to hang out with, both within the page, online and in person.

  2. What I love about mysteries is they make me think and generally tie up most of the loose ends at the finish of the book, leaving the world in as good a place as possiblee after whatever event triggered the mystery.

  3. A great set of seven, Julie! I so agree about stress reduction. Is there anything more satisfying that putting the traits of a nasty person (particularly if they were nasty to you personally) into a character and making bad things happen to them?

    For me, one of the most wondrous parts is when I feel like I’m simply channeling my character. When they decide what’s going to happen and I am the mere scribe. That feels like magic. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does it makes me happy and excited about my job.

  4. Love this genre because:
    1) It’s entertaining.
    2) The stories have characters that we can relate to and many who become friends that we love she what adventures they will take us on next.
    3) It’s like getting to explore places we might never get to visit.
    4) It’s a chance to work the old brain trying to see if we can figure out the whodunit before the reveal.
    5) Along the way, I’ve learned more about the authors who have extended the hand of friendship so different than some other genre.
    6) Love the way the author research for their books making them accurate – both historically and present time.
    7) And lastly but surely not the least, they are just downright fun to read.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. I love reading cozies for the same reasons you love writing them, Julie. The imaginary worlds, the resolution at the end, learning new things through your research, the wondering if this time I can figure it out before the end (seldom happens), and the friendships I feel I have established among the Wickeds.

    Thank you, Julie, and to all the Wickeds for expanding my world(s)

  6. Great list! I think you nailed it. I can’t think of anything to add. Wait… the thrill of realizing you’ve come up with a great twist or plot point. How’s that?

  7. I don’t know why the mystery genre appeals to me so much. It might be some of what was listed in the original posts. The world building, the potential to learn at least at little something about the subject matter like clock making or other such stuff, the stress relief.

    Nothing like coming home from a day that makes you want to kill someone for real and reading about the murder of some deserving (or even undeserving depending on how bad the day was) SOB to get that stress relief of not ending up in prison yourself.

    But from Encyclopedia Brown, The Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes and The Three Investigators to Spenser, Robbie Jordan, Joe Pickett, Lucas Davenport, Fina Ludlow, V.I. Warshawski, and Kinsey Millhone and more the crime and justice eventually prevailing has always just drawn me in.

    And since I started doing reviews and going to book signings the welcoming nature of the community has been a real blast for someone who usually prefers to be alone and not socialize.

  8. Much of these capture why I love the mystery community as a writer as well. It’s wonderful to escape into another world, a world where justice prevails and the hobbies and characters are wonderful. Well, except for the killer, of course.

    1. Hit submit too soon. The writers are wonderful people. The other readers are enthusiastic. It’s always fun to connect with such great people.

  9. I like to learn things and try to solve the puzzle but still have fun reading. I think I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, then on to Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and other Golden Age writers. Now that I read this blog and others, I enjoy the fellowship of the writers and other readers.

  10. I can’t stop laughing about writing helping us with “Stress Reduction.” A particularly ‘unkind’ incident happened in the neighborhood recently and immediately afterward I worked on how to ‘off’ one and/or both of the alleged perpetrators. There had to be an easy way to deliver the deadly end, without implicating anyone in particular. A Kerrian plot is developing. LOLOL Yup, real stress reducer!

  11. The writing, the characters, the mystery puzzle to solve…all of it is such fun for me. As soon as I open a new mystery I feel myself saying, “The game is afoot!”

  12. And never underestimate the feeling of whacking a golf ball really hard! It gives you a target to name, a place to use aggressive behavior, and some fresh air to see things differently. It is also a great stress reliever and a good time to think!

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