Writer on a Horse
And a Dog

The world looks better from the back of a horse and the roads of life are easier with a good dog beside you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I now love Mysteries... life is strange

I’ve never been a big fan of mysteries, adult or children. When I started the research for this month’s questions, I dragged my feet (or would that be fingers) not wanting to spend time looking up information about a genre I really don’t like. I started reading about the plot lines, character sketches, and timing of clues. I concluded mysteries are puzzles to work out by the reader and the writer. I love puzzles! I’ve changed my mind about the genre of mystery writing. My hat is off to any writer that can plot and execute a great mystery. Maybe that was why I didn’t like mysteries. Maybe I hadn’t been reading well-written ones.

What are the categories of Mystery Novels?

In children writing there are three distinct subgroups
1. Puzzle
2. Detective/Crime
3. Suspense

Most of your novels middle reader mystery series would fall into one of these categories. Harry Potter-Suspense and maybe a little puzzle
Encyclopedia Brown-Detective
Nate the Great-Detective
Goose Bumps- Suspense
Nancy Drew-Puzzle
The Boxcar Children-Puzzle

I have two questions for the readers.
1. How did the Boxcar Children series get its name?
2. What year was the first book of this series published?

I’ll give you the answer at the end of the column.

Why are middle reader mysteries so popular?

Most of these series have average characters that achieve amazing feats. The reader become involved with the character’s problems and start trying to think of possible solutions. The young reader doesn’t even realize they are learning value skills that will help them in the future like problem solving, using your head in tense situations, difference between good and evil and critical thinking. The young reader only knows the characters of these series become friends and they want to know more about them.

I write Young Adult and at critiquing groups, I’ve heard the terms “cozy” and “hard-boiled” used to describe mystery novels. Can you explain what these terms mean?

The cozy mystery has an amateur sleuth and takes place among regular people. The main character solves the mystery with logic thinking not physical actions. Sex is not something people do in these novels; it’s the secret everyone is hiding.
The hard-boiled mystery has a professional detective/police officer as the main character. There is violence, sex and takes place on the mean streets of a city.

How do you check out facts and details to make your story seem true?
1. Ask an expert is the best way. If your mystery’s setting is a bank, go see a banker and ask questions. Think about the fields where most mysteries take place- insurance, law, medicine, law enforcement. You probably know people who work in these fields and could answer your questions. Hands on information, is always the best.
2. Look it up. Be careful of information you get off the internet. Check and crosscheck to make sure it is correct.
3. Put yourself in the situation. Go sit at a police station, a hospital emergency room, or law office. Take notes and pay attention.

A little research and accurate details will make your novel more believable. A word of caution too many facts and details can slow you novel to a point where the reader gets frustrated and will put the book down. Like any manuscript, blend the information into the plot and show the readers the information rather than just telling them.

If you need tips on how to write mystery novels,
1. Sue Grafton’s Writing Mysteries
2. What Happened When by Gorton Carruth
3. The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide by Martin Roth
4. Any of the Writer’s Digest mystery series: Amateur Detectives, Armed
and Dangerous, Deadly Doses, Missing Persons, Murder One, Private Eyes, just to
name a few titles

I would love to get questions from the Boost membership and subscribers to The Blue Review. Send you questions to dawgprint1@comcast.net

To answer a non-theme question submit this month.

Do you like gummy bears?

Yes I do. The like the red ones best. There is only one problem with eating gummy bears; they get stuck in your teeth.

Here are the answers to the questions I asked earlier. The first Boxcar Children book was
published in 1942. I’m putting the synopsis on the Sixtieth Anniversary publication.

(The 60th Anniversary Edition)
by Gertrude Chandler Warner
illustrated by L. Kate Deal and Linda Fennimore
Albert Whitman and Co

Ages 7-12
169 Pages

Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden are orphans. Determined to stay together after the death of their parents, the children set off on their own. When they discover an old, abandoned railroad car, they take shelter inside and soon make it into a cozy place to live. But eventually the children are discovered by their wealthy grandfather, who takes the kids --- along with their old, red boxcar --- into his heart and his home. Together with Grandfather, the Boxcar Children lead an exciting life, traveling to new places, meeting interesting people, and getting caught up in any number of fascinating adventures. Ghosts, disappearances, and weird spooky happenings are all part of the fun in the Boxcar Children series. Of course, there's always a mystery afoot for the Boxcar Children to solve --- and just in the nick of time, too!


Crystal said...

The Boxcar Children books were fantastic; they were my absolute favorites growing up. I loved the very first one and The Houseboat Mystery.

Sheila said...

I love mysteries but I'm finding writing one very complicated.

Anonymous said...

Growing up, I read every Nancy Drew book our library had at least three times.