Puzzle Pieces and Possibilities
I am a reader, one of those most-sought-after creatures for you writers. I love reading everything, especially this blog. I am better known to you all as “3 no 7.” This nom de plume comes from my everyday life. 3 no 7 is the answer to the question “How many times have I asked you to (fill in blank)? “ and its companion “My answer is still the same as the last 3 no 7 times you asked that question.” I am sure you understand.
As I stated, I am a reader. A reader is not just one who decodes letters and words. A reader is one who becomes immersed in the content of the page. I read everything, but I especially love reading in the mystery/crime/thriller realm. I was trained to be a reader by my mother. My mom read to me–all kinds of books. I think she bought every Little Golden Book that was ever published, and I still have a lot of them today. They were wonderful books; small, just right for little hands with heavy cardboard covers, brightly colored illustrations, and that wonderful gold binding down the edge. They were stories of the ordinary and of the fantastic and exotic.
My father trained me to appreciate mysteries. He sent me on a quest for answers. He started early by giving me simple puzzles; you know the ones, a big shape that does not fit into one hole but fits nicely into a different one. A puzzle really is a mystery without a story. He made me puzzles out of wood. In fact he still makes wood puzzles today, trees that stand, piggy banks that fit together then come apart to get the money, and boxes that seem to have no possible way to come apart until all at once they are in a dozen pieces. All these are just visual mysteries, one little step down the road to crime fiction and edge-of-the-seat thrillers.
My father trained me to expect the unexpected when I read, because he created the unexpected when he read to me. Even those “safe” Little Golden Books were transformed into mysteries as he read them. Unlike my mother who read the printed page with feeling and expression, he did not read the printed page; he created a story about the pictures. The story was almost the printed-page story, but it was different, unexpected, surprising. (He still does this with his grandkids, by the way.) I learned to start with the familiar but to expect the unexpected, to anticipate the surprising, to look beyond the obvious, to never take the ending for granted, and to love mysteries.
As an (adult) reader, I look at every story as a pile of puzzle pieces dumped into a book, which I assemble as I read. Each page is a part of a greater story and yet is a story itself. I turn over each piece of the puzzle as it tumbles off the pages and into my mind. I anticipate where a piece might fit, based on what I have read. I try it this way and that way. I assemble it with the other pieces that I have collected. I accept that these pieces might be just what they seem or they may fit together in an entirely different way. If one piece does not quite fit, I might try to smash it together with another piece. But I know that, in the end, all the pieces will fit nicely, if it is a well-written book.
And now, dear writers, I have come to your part–the writing. I know you are writing for me. You want me; you need me. After all, I am the one who will shell out my hard earned cash (or credit card) to buy what you have created. So, now what do I want? I want you to craft a story, just like my dad did, that will be unexpected. I want your tale to have many puzzle pieces with character and substance, pieces that will hint at the whole picture without giving away too many secrets, pieces that will look beyond the obvious. I anticipate a complex storyline that, like my dad’s wooden box, will seem to have no solution, but then suddenly, like the box, will send all the answers tumbling out.
You, as writers, have a much more daunting task than I have as a reader. I want to assure you that I (and all readers) appreciate your toils, your labor to create just for me, a novel, a mystery, a puzzle, to be questioned, to be examined, to be enjoyed. You write on and I’ll read on, together, just from different sides of the puzzle box.
Now, dear writers, it’s your turn. What made you pick mysteries to write instead some other genre?
Hi, my name is Barbara Howe, and I am a reader, so writing is not my usual avocation.
I read what others, you all, have written. I read every day, starting with the newspaper. (Oh, and you do not want to be on the receiving end of the phone call if my paper is missing, wet, or late; trust me.) I read the little “back page” stories in the paper, not just the front page. Those little stories really show the character, both good and bad, of the people who live around me. I sometimes look at a story and try to imagine how some of you would incorporate that event into a mystery book. Do you writers do that?
I make time for reading when many people just give reading lip service. I attended a community meeting and happened to be sitting at the table with city officials (Next time I will change tables.) One official asked me what I was going to do with some time off that I had coming up. I, of course replied that I would be reading. He replied, “People always say that and no one does it.” “Ha,” I answered. “I have books all picked out to read.” He added “People always say that, but never do it. I have a shelf full of books, but I never read them.” Needless to say, I DID read my books, and the next time I happened to see this official at (yet another) meeting, I reminded him that SOME people are passionate about reading and do make reading a priority.
You all write; I read. We go well together. We are different faces of the same coin.