Something Bigger

My reading encompasses genres besides mystery, especially literary fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction. Nonfiction educates me, and I’m delighted when the author presents information in a way that makes me want to know more. The same is true of well-researched historical fiction, with the bonus of plot and characters to keep me engaged. After pushing through several highly acclaimed recent literary novels, I had to ask myself why I found them such a struggle to read compared to the classics in the genre or to my other reading. My conclusion: self-absorbed protagonists with no goals beyond their egocentric concerns. In these books, I’ve admired but not enjoyed masterful portraits of unpleasant people and vivid descriptions so alive and detailed I was immersed in the locations with all my senses without ever wanting to be there. Appreciation for writing skill isn’t the same experience as getting wrapped up in a story. When I force my way through one of these frustrating novels, I feel the way I did as a kid eating lima beans. Mom cooked them and they’re supposed to be good for me, but do I have to finish?

The mystery genre appeals to me because the protagonists are involved in something bigger than themselves. The lead characters in mysteries have their personal problems, their relationship challenges, and sometimes their demons, but the pursuit of their goals demands caring and courage, often in spite of those private difficulties.  As a writer, I hope to give my readers the experience of empathy as well as an intriguing setting and the mental exercise of solving the puzzle. After all, that’s what draws me to the series I follow.

6 thoughts on “Something Bigger

  1. You blog reminded me of the movie “La La Land.” Halfway through watching, I thought “I don’t like these people!” The two main characters only cared about their own ambitions and not each other. Why should I care about them? In the end, they got what they wanted career-wise but neither one looked happy. I tried to write about characters that the reader is going to root for.


  2. I would not read a book that I had to slog through. Maybe a chapter and that’s it. Too many engaging books out there. However that said, once you commit to reviewing a book, you are kind of stuck. And TIP TO HISTORICAL WRITERS, especially with the later books in the series – don’t assume your reader has read the other ones. Please – even if in an introduction – give a brief view of what is happening at the time of the book, and maybe even who the characters are. I’m in chapter 7 of a review book and I’m totally confused. (And give the characters only ONE moniker, for heaven’s sake. Several of these have 3-4 names or titles!!) Oops, sorry Amber, didn’t mean to vent on your blog post, which was thoughtful and said it all.


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