Keeping up the tension in a novel ~
Typical crime mysteries
In a murder mystery themes of death, fear, hatred, evil, crime and a multitude of equally negative themes keep up the tension in a novel.
Of course, with a missing person theme, or in the case of my latest novel missing people, all of the above themes could be relevant, but they could also include kidnapping, capture, ransom, abduction and hijacking, to name but a few. The tension could be enhanced by the place which is the ‘prison’ and the dramatic way they are being held. We’ve all seen the movies.
Here’s another good post on themes in mystery novels which traces recent changes in the genre:
Thinking outside the box v Reader Expectations
In a title like ‘MISSING’ all of the above could have been used equally to evoke drama, but that wasn’t how I planned to develop ‘MISSING Past and Present‘. Gerald, Dot’s husband disappeared. He chose to leave, so what causes the tension?
Themes such as betrayal, abandonment, devastation or mental health issues for example a total break-down leading to destitution, poverty and homelessness. All of these things in fact.
Thinking ‘outside the box’ in a mystery is a risk. As one of the police in the novel said at one point in the investigation, ‘We don’t even know if a crime has been committed.’
This is not necessarily what the reader is expecting, but did it pay off?
Here are a couple of reader’s comments on reviews:
Derik Birk’s ***** review ~ An intriguing and addictive tale
“Most books I read are full of violent action but though there is very little such action in this book, I really liked this story of a woman re-inventing herself after a bewildering set of events that almost destroy her.”
Here’s the full review on Derik’s site: Dodging Arrows
H Bane ***** review ~ Really Great Book
“This is such a well written book that really just draws you in. Dorothy leads us on a journey on how she ended up where she’s at. We also have the story she writes of Millie.”
Jackie McAll ***** review ~ Is it just the roll of the dice? Super book
Diana Jackson has a way of writing that easily draws you into the lives of her characters. Although this book handles large themes of destiny and change, love and forgiveness, they are handled in an easily readable way. I loved the story within the story (deserving of a book of its own!). She saves a surprise for the end ! Highly recommended.
Both reviews are great reviews but, I’m sure you’ll agree, they are not typical of reviews in the mystery genre.
Qualities I wished for my protagonist
In order to keep these readers interested how do I think I ‘drew readers in’ or made it ‘addictive?’
Resilience and Fortitude
I believe it was the themes of fortitude and resilience, qualities of my protagonist Dot, which kept the story moving. I didn’t want Dot to be searching, in fact it was her foster son Jamal (a Syrian refugee) who took on that mantel, when his brother also disappeared and he was arrested. I wanted Dot’s strength of character to pull her through the worst of times, only just!
Another theme I could add here was escapism. Dot managed to escape the effects of her tragic circumstances by:
- escaping into the past ~ the back story in the form of her memories
- escaping in the present ~ through mindfulness of the natural world around her
- escaping from even her own thoughts ~ by creating and writing the story of Millie, an aspirant nun who had lived in the place where she squatted a couple of centuries before.
Only time will tell if my gamble with ‘mystery’ worked.