Friday, December 05, 2008

The magic of mystery

It’s been a really good two weeks for inspiration for me. I’ve just finished the first season of Mad Men, which deserves all the acclaim. It’s so good, and in a really subtle way.
It introduces several characters in the first show and proceeds to show us them interacting with each other, but aside from the main character, tells us nothing about their back story throughout the entire season.

We know their actions, and can only guess at their motivations, which might annoy some people, but for me I found it fascinating and I cannot wait to learn more about these people. Had the writers told me everything about them in the first few episodes, the show would have lost its appeal for me. Instead they trusted in their plot and dialogue and how they showed the characters to do the work for them.

Same with the last couple of romances I’ve read. Another Marjorie M. Liu, that Molly loaned to me. She does mystery really well. She gives us very little backstory, and explanation, just feeds it into the story in little bits. She lets us see the characters for themselves, good and bad, form our opinions, basically shows us who they are while they are dealing with life and death crises.

Basically she is showing, not telling.

For me, the mystery is why I get pulled through a book. It can be character mystery, my need to know why a character acts the way they do. The mystery of when the hero and heroine get together, and how. Or the more obvious mystery of who is the villain.

The key to this is giving the reader the answer in a way they did not predict. Because if the reader predicts how things are going to happen, then where is the mystery?

The real challenge in writing a romance is not bringing the hero and heroine together, but doing it in a way that surprises and delights the reader.

Sounds so easy… doesn’t it?

3 comments:

Amy Ruttan said...

Well when you put it that way ... LOL.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Hilarious, Sienad I was just thinking about this too. I think the mystery of who are these people is the most compelling in romance and if you can tie it so intricately to plot -- like that Liu Book the wild road - then it is magic.

I apparently am going a differnt route right now with my book and trying to stretch out the mystery as long as I can - and then abruptly ending all possible mystery and in the last 50 or so pages throwing together a plot -- it's going GREAT!

Sinead M said...

It is tough, because the mystery part is somewhat intuitive and tknowing how long and how to keep it from the reader is tough.
That's why I have a critique group and the ability to edit.
Loving that Liu book... she is getting better with each book

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