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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If the writing is good, a strange, even ridiculous plot should be workable. But the writer has a lot of work to do to make it believable. I imagine new writers are more apt to try something fantastic simply to stand out in a crowded field. Judging from your reaction, it isn't helping to make your decision any easier.

In the end, the plot must be believable. Otherwise, the book fails.
If the writing is good, a strange, even ridiculous plot should be workable.

Although it's my feeling that the most successful mysteries work from the ordinary rather than the fantastic. What's really interesting to me is not the convoluted or "ridiculous" plot, or any of the other known devices, but the psychological aspect of murder. Nothing chills me more---as I've said in another post---than the way in which the very attractive yet "ordinary," "sweet." "soft-spoken" Ann Miller (later Ann Miller Kuntz) murdered her husband Eric with arsenic, and ALMOST got away with it. (She wasn't quite as clever as she thought). What a cool customer she was--devoted wife and mother (seemingly). She & Eric even did counselling, through their church, for other young couples who were about to be married. Imagine being counseled on marriage by a murderess. (Well, she wasn't a murderess yet, but apparently she'd been plannng it for a long time--giving Eric small doses of the poison to make him sick so that it would establish a precedent for his being ill). Then, when the fatal dose was given, it would look as though it was something else---food poisoning or flu. Base your mysteries on real life, and you won't go wrong.
"Good writting" and "Ridiculous plot" are two things that cannot coexist.
Good writting = Good plot.

If in "Good writting" you mean good grammar and good use of the good knowledge of parts of speach etc, then anyone with a decent handle on the English language can be an author.

Good writting = Good mastery of the craft of story telling.

A big part of the craft of writting is the ability to plot. Without this ability, the writting is flat out poor.
I think you described it better than I did...mastery of the craft of story telling. That's closer to what I meant, not good use of speech, sentence structure or grammer.

As an example of what I see as a ridiculous plot that works in the end, I saw an episode of Monk in which a dog killed it's owner by opening the fireplace gas valve while she slept. Sounds ridiculous on the face of it...an animal can't form the intent to commit murder. But of course, it turned out the husband trained the dog to open the gas valve that suffocated her. Whoever wrote that episode (Lee Goldberg, I assume) knew how to create a story.
If in "Good writting" you mean good grammar and good use of the good knowledge of parts of speach etc, then anyone with a decent handle on the English language can be an author.

Good writting = Good mastery of the craft of story telling.


I was looking back through this thread, recalling this remark, and I just have to comment. A good mystery (or any work of fiction) does require mastery of the craft of STORYTELLING. But a mastery of WRITING also involves not only a knowledge of grammar, but the ability to make sentences and paragraphs flow, choice of exact words, avoidance of clumsy construction, etc.

Nothing is more irritating to me, even in a story that is otherwise engrossing, than certain mannerisms that some author uses to enhance action or character, or using the "wrong" word.
It brings me to a halt in my reading, slows me down while I wonder why in heck THAT same phrase was used yet again, or why a particular word was chosen. I could easily give examples, but I'm not here trying to critique a particular author---that's supposed to be an editor's job.

If you've got a good story and you know how to tell it, why not take the trouble to hone it. to search for the best word? (Get a copy of Sisson's Synonyms---invaluable reference book for anyone who writes anything!) Why do writers keep having to say things like "he furrowed his brow," or "she chewed a morsel and swallowed it, then said...." or insert physical descriptions where they just get in the way?

I believe it was Elmore Leonard who said he avoided describing any of his characters because it slowed down the progress of the story.

I just happen to like mysteries that are not ony well plotted but written with economy and precision, and I dont care how many times the detective or anyone else squints or scratches his head. I know what those devices are supposed to do, but they can be distracting! I can't help it---it's ingrained.
You are looking at writing from a totally different angle than the publisher. Remember that publishers are business people and if they have to choose between several manuscripts, most publishers will go with the one whose author is more marketable regardless of the plot. saleability, marketability, availability, glamour, trendy, pedigree, newsworthiness or the ability to be newsworthy, these things trump plot line and sometimes writing quality (that’s why they have editors right?)
Therefore, if you are a “good” author, you must perfect these qualities so you too can compete with those folks with ridiculous plot lines getting published.
I think that's pretty much accurate for bestsellers. Readers fall into two groups, a very large one that responds to trends and glamour, and a smaller one that reads books for entertainment and not because they have been hyped.
Correct. In today's publishing industry we've seen poor books made into best sellers because the publisher had the means to hire a professional marketing team and brand makers. People who know all about subliminal stuff to influences the masses.

They take a marginal or even poor concept novel idea, invest 2 million + into it and generally get a Return on Investement) ROI in the 100 percentiles. They pretty much muscle the works to the top of the best seller list.

Take for example the movie AVATAR - - Good, but marginal if that compared to other works done at the same time. But their Marketing power in cash was a stick long enough to tip the world with a pinky finger. This helped it sore to the top the most watched movie of all times list (debatable but thats what they say)

Another good example is Dan Brown's Davinci Code, woah! Definately a marginal plot, an over beat plot, unlike Indiana Jones, Tumb Raider or National Treasure. But they had the means to hire a team of merketers and a good one too.
Can't agree with the implication that it's all marketing. There are plenty of heavily marketed books that bomb anyway.

And for all of Brown's faults, his high concept idea for the Da Vinci Code was brilliant and hit a cultural nerve.
I understand some folks have come to venerate Dan Brown. Truth be told, it was an old idea that many had written about long before he did. He happened to market it more and better. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying there is something wrong with good business. After all, authoring a novel is a business and the best at it are winning.

Authoring a book used to be a romantic idea. It was OK to be a writter and poor. It was expected of you to be poor if you are a writter. No more. Its no longer personal, its business.
Brown from what I can tell was original in wedding the thriller format with those old ideas about Jesus' descendants and ancient secret codes and the rest. Am I wrong? Can you point to an earlier work?
Yes, there are earlier books. There are also lawsuits. It's beside the point. The whole concept is wet.

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