Can anyone think of examples where the expected crime does not take place and yet the story is still satisfying and you don't feel cheated? I've written myself into that situation. This is why I like short stories. You don't spend enough time with the protagonist to fall in love with him/her and want to save them from the original ending. Thanks.

P.S. I should add that the story takes place from the POV of the expected criminal.

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I can't think of any right now. But maybe you have to unwrite yourself from that situation. What do you mean "expected" criminal?
Well... Some people might consider this a bit of spoiler (so stop reading now)...

Did you get that? If you don't like potential spoilers it's time to go away.

Go away, I said. Dammit, stop reading, go to another thread, whatever...
But you could possibly say this is true of African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou. It's a translated work published in the US by Soft Skull Press and I'll have a review of it next Spinetingler.

Now, thing is, there are crimes that happen, but if you read it I think you'll understand. Or we should discuss privately so nobody flips out on spoilers.
I'll also begin with a SPOILER alert, just in case.

Then follow it up with another SPOILER to prove I'm serious ...

And finally suggest Land of the Blind, by Jess Walter. It's a marvelous book, for one thing. And one in which ultimately no crimes are committed but everyone is guilty.
I know I've read some, and generally tossed them aside in frustration at some point. I'm particularly un-fond of murder mysteries sans murder.

On the other hand, perhaps I should be more open-minded, since evidently there are some well-written ones that have escaped my notice.
I think, in general, I'd agree with you. There are exceptions to everything. Doesn't bother me if the killer doesn't get caught in the end, for example, but there has to be something of substance to the book. If you pick up a book expecting a crime and some level of pursuit of the guilty, then you're more likely to be annoyed if you don't get it.

That said, there are the exceptions, where it's wonderfully appropriate.
i like the idea, but editors might feel it doesn't have broad appeal. i don't know. not the same thing, but when i read your post i immediately thought of one of my favorite movies, picnic at hanging rock. i'm sure you've probably seen it. maybe more than once. i love the way the entire movie has that floaty feeling of dread and ambiguity where so much is left unanswered.

i think it depends on what kind of writer you are. vince mentioned jess walter, who i think can do that sort of thing because his writing is so powerful and rich. (yes, literary.) i'm guessing you could do it too, patti.
Love Picnic at Hanging Rock. The dread is everyting and powerful enough to make the "not knowing" okay. Great example. But I do see the problem for most readers. It would take the story out of the crime fiction genre--at least into suspense. Maybe that's okay though. Thanks for the help. I'll see if I can harden him/her up and get the dirty dead done.
Two key questions: Is it a comedy, and why doesn't the crime take place? Comedies with bumbling criminals who try to steal, for example, and aren't clever enough to pull it off are fairly common, though I'm guessing that's not what you mean. Then, the real question is, why doesn't the crime take place? If you have a good/compelling answer and the book is well written (personally, I'm assuming it's brilliant), you should be fine. Swimming upstream, perhaps, but we all know that's where the action is. If you're a salmon, anyway.
Coddling your characters is hardly a rare phenomenon, especially among beginning novelists. It's how you end up with protagonists with no flaws, for example. In general, the urge should be fought. But in a particular case, it's hard to say. It could be made to work.
Let's say the crime doesn't take place because it's no longer necessary. And the protagonist is extremely flawed. I think what I'm writing is a psychological study of a character who has criminal tendencies. I haven't learned how to gain control of my material now that I'm past my usual 15-20 pages. Thanks for the help, guys. Obviously the writing will tell.
"Darkly Dreaming Dexter" comes to mind. A deeply flawed protagonist
(a serial murderer) who exposes other murderers, to keep his own vicious
instincts at bay. (He does commit a crime by murdering the bad guys, however). You might consider writing in a subplot where there
is a crime, perhaps that your character solves, and maybe the solving of
the crime can lead to a psychological turning point (and change) for him or her.
I think that could work well, to be honest, and depending on how the reader is meant to feel about the protagonist it might even work better. It takes the book into different territory though, obviously.

I can think of a few books where the crime doesn't turn out to be what the reader expected. SLIGHT SPOILER, perhaps, but I'm thinking of The Oxford Murders and Breakheart Hill.

The film that comes most to mind from your description is The Woodsman with Kevin Bacon. Didn't get a huge release because of the subject matter, so if you've not seen it, it's a psychological study of a flawed individual, in this case a recently-released paedophile. SPOILER AGAIN. The film has a mounting sense of dread that he'll reoffend - but then has a much more complicated and interesting ending because he does something different instead. From memory, it's an excellent movie, and might be worth checking out if you're treading similar ground.

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