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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Plot Thickens

Historically, I haven’t one for reading mysteries. I don’t like to be scared—remember, I’m a conflict avoider. Until this week, in my mind the word “mystery” equated with terror. (I’ve mentioned throwing Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot across the room previously in Middle Passages.) So two summers ago, when my sister, visiting from Australia, suggested I read Elizabeth George, a British mystery writer, I dutifully wrote the author’s name down on my reading list—and did nothing about it.

Fast forward to last week’s writing workshop and the discussion of creating stakes for our characters. When the workshop leader recommended reading suspense and horror because they teach you about stakes, I squirmed. If sleep is on the agenda, horror has to remain on the bookshelf. But I’m a dedicated student, so I checked out Careless in Red, by Elizabeth George from the library on Saturday.

The book is a psychological mystery and though I’m more than two-thirds through, there hasn’t been a scary piece. I’m not going to spoil the story, other than to say a crime has been committed and so far, every character in the book has a motive. The story unpeels itself layer by layer, revealing opportunity and yes, stakes, and folks I can’t put the thing down.  Um, you know that missing Middle Passages post Monday? Well after chores, I read all day Sunday, which led to a great big blog post blank the next day.

So many times, I find it easy to predict the outcome of a novel even when the author includes a “twist.” This time, I catch myself looking for the least likely candidate because that’s who is usually guilty, and no one comes to mind. I’m over 500 pages into it, and still more possibilities present themselves. Talk about a compelling read.

I’m still trying to get myself around the idea of stakes and how to write about them. But if the net result of this workshop is that I’ve learned to take the recommendation of my big sister (Thank you Sarah.), and been introduced to a new genre, I end up far ahead.

The bad news is that I might miss a lot more blog posts.


Bish Denham said...

Sounds like you're having fun and learning something. Always a good thing!

glnroz said...

gonna write it down and drop by the library at lunch. i need a new book to begin.

Jan Morrison said...

I love every Elizabeth George book. She also wrote a wonderful book on writing called 'Write Away' - it is fantastic. Her characters are so fully formed!
Jan Morrison

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh, now I'll have to check out Elizabeth George. This sounds fascinating. I, too, avoid thrillers/horror but read Dean Koontz's Mr. Murder on the suggestion of a friend and really gained some knowledge on how to write suspense and a compelling antagonist.

VR Barkowski said...

Yes! A convert. :) Psychological mystery is my all-time favorite genre. Elizabeth George is wonderful as is Barbara Vine.

Talei said...

Sounds like my kind of book! I like alot of fiction and Psychological thrillers always keep me interested to the very end. Thanks for sharing. ;-)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I love a good mystery. But I think they must get harder and harder to pull off. Can you imagine trying to make a thriller mystery movie after Sixth Sense? Audiences are just getting more savvy. So hard to trick them! So if a mystery can grab you like that and keep you guessing, must be really good!