Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Most writing books tell us that the writer must answer all of the questions before the end of the novel, otherwise we are 'cheating' the reader who has worked so hard in following the clues. I totally disagree with this. Some of the best mysteries do not answer every question the reader might have. An example is Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. We know very little about Reacher and this is a lot of the appeal of this particular character. There are many mystery books where all of the events aren't explained. A devil unseen might be a lot more frightening than one we come to know too well by the last chapter, only to discover he, she, or it is a large bear, a grasshopper, or an old lady with a sharp-pointed umbrella. As for peculiarities a character might have, I think Aunt Edna is a lot more appealing if we don't know why she hates young children, screams at cops, but stops and hugs every small animal she passes. I think fiction is best if it imitates real life. You can know someone for forty years and continually get surprised. Why should fiction be any different?

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