Wicked Wednesday: Celebration

by Julie, excited about blueberry season

Today we continue to celebrate Murder At A London Finishing School!

Continuing the theme of castaways, a London finishing school feels like a great place to explore one of the definitions, that of an outcast. The outcast plays many roles in a mystery novel. The feeling of being an outcast is something we all understand. Wickeds, do you use outcasts for characters, or as a theme?

Barb: Congratulations, Jessie! I cannot wait to read Murder at a London Finishing School. When I created my protagonist, Julia Snowden, for the Maine Clambake Mysteries, I deliberately had her returning to her home town after a decade and a half away, an outsider. Certain things about her parents made her always feel like an outsider even when she lived there. I’m not a native Mainer and I knew I couldn’t pull that off. But I also think that outsider perspective, or in Julia’s case, insider/outsider perspective, is very useful in solving crimes.

Edith/Maddie: So many congrats, Jessie! Hmm, Barb. Now you’ve made me think about outcast vs. outsider. I think almost every good amateur sleuth is an outsider, so they can ask questions and not assume they know the villagers’ motivations. Quaker Midwife Rose Carroll is an outsider for lots of reasons – being a Quaker possibly primary among them. But an outcast, someone shunned, seems different (think high school cliches). An outcast might feel they need revenge, on the spot or years later.

Sherry: Yay, Jessie another fabulous book to read–congratulations! Excellent point, Edith. I’ve never thought of any of my characters as being outcasts. Really, when you think about it, it’s such a cruel thing to toss someone aside for how they look or what they believe.

Liz: Congrats, Jessie! I definitely think all my main characters have that outsider perspective, but like you, Edith, I never really thought of them as outcasts. Except maybe Violet a little bit, because certain factions of her new world don’t want her there which also makes for good conflict.

Julie: Outsider v. outcast is a great conversation. Outcasts are interesting characters. They could be motivated protagonists, as victims with many suspects, villains with interesting backstories, or side characters the reader can’t quite get a read on. I agree that being an outcast is painful, but it is also great fodder.

Jessie: Thanks so much everyone! What a thought-provoking question, Julie! I have written about outcasts as secondary characters, as suspects, and even as victims. I think they bring a lot of tension to the page because we all understand how vulnerable being rejected by the group makes a person. For me, it can create an immediate feeling of empathy for the character depending on why they are in that position particularly because, as Sherry mentioned, it is often quite cruel. I think it is fascinating to explore what would make someone an outcast at different times in history and how some of those things no longer apply today.

Readers, outsider v. outcast? The role of each? What do you think?

18 Thoughts

  1. I like both. They see things through different lens and they can see things people take for granted.

  2. Three cheers to you on the new release, Jessie! As for outsider vs. outcast, I need more caffeine in me to process that! 🙂

  3. Congrats again, Jessie! I definitely think “outcast” has a bit of an exclusionary meaning to it, whereas outsider is more someone who isn’t part of the group – yet.

  4. Really in my opinion there isn’t much difference mostly because if you start as an outsider and people continue to exclude you well… pretty simple to figure out you’re not wanted and they always want to exclude you for whatever reason

  5. I like both outsiders and outcasts. I think it always add interesting details to a story.

  6. You can have outsiders who are outcasts. Outsiders aren’t always outcasts, however. And sometimes, an outsider in one group is an insider in another. It’s a complicated question that can be explored a ton of different ways in various books. Now I’m wondering how much this has played out in the books I read.

  7. I have to agree with Crystal. There isn’t always a lot of difference. I’ve been in both roles and they are both very uncomfortable. However, in many cases, overcoming being an outsider can be easier than overcoming being an outcast (which is almost impossible.). They can both be great characters in mysteries.

  8. I always think of a woman I worked with when this discussion comes up. Her family was a member of a fundamentalist religious sect. When she married someone not from the group, she became an outsider to her husband’s family as they learned to navigate their differences and an outcast to her family and members of her prior religion. Her family and prior friends not only refused to speak with her, they actively shunned her to the extent of crossing a street if they noticed her.

  9. Love them both and both can work wonderfully in a story if approached correctly. I think there’s a little bit of each in all of us. It’s when the scale tips that it shows up as one or the other in a person.

    LOVE the Beryl and Edwina stories and can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Murder At A London Finishing School”.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. What an interesting perspective! I like the notion of the scale tipping to reveal what is in a person. And thanks for your kind words about the books!

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