I've been reading quite a lot of crime books for a book award and I've have to say I've come across some ridiculous plotlines.  It's made me wonder how some books get published.  Does a ridiculous plotline matter if the writing is amazing or will the plot still be silly regardless?  Should writers have a good think before turning that strange fact they've discovered into a plot or should everything be grist for the mill?

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Have you ever read Janet Evanovitch? Her plots are ridiculous to the point of fantastical
but they are very funny - humour overrides most anything:)
Sillier than vampires and werewolves? Crime-solving cats? Seems like the public loves fantasy.

The silliest plot I ever read was the one about the guy who so loved a woman, he traded places with the condemned man she loved. I mean, come on!
Hmm - wasn't that what Sidney Carton did at the end of A Tale of Two Cities?
You know: "Tis a far far better thing I do" etc.
Does a ridiculous plotline matter if the writing is amazing or will the plot still be silly regardless?
Should writers have a good think before turning that strange fact they've discovered into a plot or should everything be grist for the mill?

Hi Jacqui. Interesting question! (You wouldn't be able to give an example, would you?_) Depends on what you mean by ridiculous. IMO, an improbable murder-- one that would be tricky to pull off, an unlikely or improbable motive, unlikely killer? If it's too far-fetched, I think that dilutes the suspense. Having said that, however....a lot of really good, well-written mysteries employ some "risk," some improbability, some coincidence. Maybe it's a matter of degree.
I read one mystery in which the murder "weapon" was a statue that was made to slide off its base with an application of honey, so that it fell directly upon the victim, who was just standing there. Now, if you calculate your chances of pulling THAT one off---or, if you were the victim, how likely it is you'd be standing in exactly the right spot....
But there are some writers---Ruth Rendell is one--who have used coincidence to great effect.
If the intent of the bok is comic, then a comedic plot would make sense. But that's not necessarily the same thing as a ridiculous plot, as others have said. A plot that lacks versimilitude, that strains credulity, that insults the reader's intelligence--these can be annoying, indeed.
I just finished an old book, THE JAPANESE CORPSE by Jan Willem vn de Wetering. I'm very fond of van de Wetering, but this one really stretches believability, what with Japanese yakusa creating strange happenings to scare two European visitors: like giving a statues a dead man's face to scare the living man and performing a Noh play where the other character gets killed as he watches. They follow up with warnings by leaving a dead cat beside the road he travels, and a small bird resting on his beak with one eye missing. Cat and bird reappear a few hours later on an island where the cat rests on a buddha statue's hands and the same bird dangles from a branch. It's ridiculous, but the atmosphere is rather strange and other-worldly and so you tend to go along with it. Perhaps even more unbelievable is the fact that the yakusa chief becomes fond of the Europeans and invites them to his residence for a magnificent party. And they accept.

My objections are really reserved for books that are intended to be realistic but where inadequate background and research make the situation unbelievable. (As for instance that recent bestseller about a Venetian cook in Renaissance Italy who specializes in potato dishes and NY-style cheese cakes.)
It depends on who you're reading and this is of course true in all genres, not just crime fiction. I haven't come across silly plots in CF but in some other genres. I guess maybe it's because of the books or authors I've read. I'm also like this, I don't mind a silly plot if the author is a good enough writer to entertain me. If it's too silly, then I won't finish reading it. Usually I can tell by the blurb or description of a book whether it's gonna be silly or not. I also like to read authors whose books I'm always pleased with and these authors I like have pretty good plots and story ideas. I like anything interesting. As long as it's not cliche, I'd read it.

Best Wishes!

There's a big difference between realist and escapist fiction--and I think many books in mystery/suspense are a bit of both--on the ridiculous meter.

IMO no plot is too fantastic if the reader willingly suspends disbelief. The tricky part is plotting right up to the edge...
i guess it's ultimately about the writers skill and whether they can persuade you to suspend disbelief. with comic books i think you can swallow anything as long as it's funny. it's the stuff that's meant to be taken seriously that i have problems with. because the serial killer plotline has been done to death, it seems that these types of stories can be ridiculous because the writer can often to be trying find something new and interesting to add to the genre. sometimes i think the simple plotline can be the best. take a simple story and tell it well...or am i being naive ...;)
I was actually trying to say it's all up to the writer whether the reader is willing to suspend disbelief. And that can be done with a very realistic approach, yes. But it takes more skill to keep the reader captivated that way, or so it seems to many authors, particularly those just starting out, or those who aren't starting out but are working on a deadline and another bomb going off feels like just the thing ...
What Eric said.

Suspension of disbelief is one key ... Characterization is another ... style is still one more thing ... for some just setting will do, but it needs some of the other too. Anything that keeps the reader reading works, and makes for success, even though not everyone likes the whole package.



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