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.