I kid you not, even as I type this, a tiny human is sitting on my lap trying to trace her finger along the mousepad as I gently push it away. Kids, amirite? And I have three of them.
I’ve been struggling lately to write consistently. No, scratch that. Not lately. All the time. I even bought dictation software hoping that speaking my book aloud would somehow be easier to do that typing it. The verdict is still out on that. Sure, I can say my book aloud, but I still need children to be outside the 20-foot radius, and preferably not yelling, for the microphone to pick up only my voice. And for me not to dictate, “Paloma, out of there. Benny, what are you doing? Don’t touch that!” into my mystery plot.
Right this minute, my middle child is asking for fruit snacks. Such a simple request but it derails my train of thought and then I’m up getting snacks, and not writing, and oh, look Facebook — what did my mom post today? Why, hello Instagram.
Having kids is a trip, isn’t it? Every since I became a parent, I can’t read mysteries, of any kind, where there is even the slightest hint of violence to children. Or children go missing. Or children witness a horrific event. I certainly can’t write them either. I can’t watch television shows, here’s looking at Law and Order: SVU, and Criminal Minds, where children may be harmed. My husband has to watch them alone.
But, children can be interesting stakeholders in mysteries. In Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (the TV series), Miss Fisher takes on a young ward, Jane, who later becomes an important catalyst for the season finale, bringing Miss Fisher and her antagonist to a fatal conclusion (I don’t want to spoil the show for anyone). In Bloodline (on Amazon Prime), a show about a dysfunctional family in the Florida Keys, protecting children is a big theme and crimes are committed in order to preserve the family unit. [Watch it, it’s so good.] The protection of children can also provide a great discussion of morality. A reader may think lowly of a woman who kills her husband in cold blood, but that judgement quickly changes when it’s discovered the woman killed her spouse to protect her child. Now, not only is the reader sympathetic, but the quest for justice has also changed. The love a parent has for a child is like no other. Therefore, children present interesting challenges and conflicts for characters in mysteries.
What do you think about the role of children in mysteries? Do your characters have kids? Do you prefer to leave them out? My mysteries are all young adult, therefore I write about kids. It’s presents its own set of challenges, but I’ll leave that for another post.