We mystery fans love the fascinating detectives or the thrill of the chase or the baffling puzzle or a glimpse inside the mind of the criminal. Sometimes it’s the interesting setting or profession or other new information to learn about that pulls us into the mystery.
Some of us are mystery writers, too, but for now I want to think like a reader. Readers know what they like and dislike, and they are the best judge of story structure.
I’ve been pondering some questions that the writer part of my brain says “No! Don’t go there!” But since these questions are best answered by mystery readers, I’m posing them here to you in the form of a brief yes or no quiz.
Does it bother you if:
1. A subplot isn’t resolved until a later book in the series?
(a) no, as long as the main plot is resolved.
(b) yes, I want to know right now how all subplots resolve.
(c) yes, and furthermore, I’m throwing the book against the wall for such a major violation.
2. The villain gets justice, but not by the hands of the protagonist?
(a) no, I don’t care how it happens, as long as the villain gets justice.
(b) yes, it’s just not right otherwise. After all, it’s the protagonist’s story.
(c) yes, and furthermore, I will never read another book by this author ever again.
3. Characters are introduced who don’t have a big role in this book but are on deck for the next book?
(a) no, because interesting characters can make the book richer.
(b) yes, I don’t want to slog through a cast of extra characters just to make the story feel real.
(c) yes, and furthermore, I’m putting the book down because it’s way too tedious to keep track of everyone.
4. The main character has a lot of baggage and reveals secrets little by little?
(a) no, as long as the secrets are revealed by the end of the book.
(b) yes, I want to know everything as soon as possible.
(c) yes, and furthermore, I no longer care about any stupid secrets.
5. There are occasional passages of narration, where time passes and the events of the story are told rather than dramatized?
(a) no, because otherwise the book would be about three times as long.
(b) yes, because I want to see everything played out in detail.
(c) yes, and furthermore, I am so bored by narration that I’m tossing the book.
Thanks for playing along! It’s helpful for all writers to know readers’ thoughts on these issues, and I look forward to your answers/thoughts in the comments.