As part of my doctoral studies, I was a  researcher encoding aspects of mysteries.  My contribution was to identify and define the absurd aspects of a story arc.  I found this to be far more important than the simple red-herring function that is usually ascribed to the aspect. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to go over this little appreciated sub-theme.

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Yes, by all means. At the moment, it isn't clear what "absurd aspects of the story arc" might entail.
Within the development of the plot, from introduction to climax, the absurd aspects are those devices normally thought of as non-sequiturs to the plot. Most people tend to treat them as Lagnaippe. I re-defined these in terms of the type. (A taxonomic exercise: comedy, sex, ugly.) Later I became interested is why they exist. What do they do for plot? I feel they do far more than provide a false scent for those who are trying to unravel the puzzle of plot. I believe they are an integral and vital part of a developing story. And so, I termed them as absurd aspects of arc.
I'm still a little fuzzy. When I think of absurdity in plot--assuming the plot itself is not intended to be humorous--I think of a scene from PULP FICTION, when Bruce Willis is chooses the sword from a variety of options before rescuing Marcellus Wallace from Zed.

Based on the description you provided to IJ's comment, it sounds as though what you're looking more are what I'd consider to be character development, or a sub-plot, possibly even comic relief. Can you provide an example from a book or movie we'd know that fits your description of "absurd?"

I think maybe this is fuzzy to you because of the traditional role these vignettes have had. They are often, but not exclusively, humorous interludes and are often called sub-plots. What I saw during this content analysis was these serve a greater function than sub-plot although in structure and execution they have long had a place as just that. They do seem peculiar to mystery, but with what I understand of them, I think they might be around in other genre'. Just haven't looked, yet.
I can't think of an example as I am unsure what our shared storehouse of information includes. Mystery Theater on PBS has many examples, but I am at a loss to cite one right now. Bob Heinlein used them (sex) extensively in many of his novels. They are often thought of as resting places where the reader's intense scrutiny of the plot is given a moment to relax. They are often thought of as jokes. Most often these are diversions for the reader.
I think they have a deeper function. I think they serve to provide a richer experience for the reader of the world they have entered in reading this book. As such, they become important to the overall development of the plot.
It's fuzzy to me because your terminology is unnecessarily confusing. "Absurd" already means something pretty particular in a literary context, as in literary absurdism (Godot, etc.), but that's not what you're talking about. You used the word lagniappe earlier--as in, a little free gift with your purchase. That makes a lot more sense to me as a descriptor for sex scenes, comedic moments, or other apparent diversions in a mystery novel. In my view, good lagniappes are often more interesting than the plot, which in mysteries can be pretty rote. That's why I write them--because plot alone isn't enough to sustain my interest in a novel. The diversions or lagniappes are really the story, if the story is what the characters are doing while they find their way through the little maze of the plot. They exist in literary fiction, too, although we don't notice them as much, maybe, because the plot spine of most literary novels isn't as rigid as it is in crime-writing.
Okay, I can work with subplots (very different from red herrings). They are very important to me and always either serve to reinforce the character of the protagonist or the theme of the book.
I work better with examples, so here goes: I'm tentatively thinking about the plot of the novel after the next two (which are written). I have the setting: a town of brothels. I have a subplot: some 15 years ago a young girl disappeared in the area. Her father still grieves and begs the protagonist to find her. My protagonist knows the girl must be dead but complies out of pity. He has just become the father of a little girl himself. There's nothing funny about this, and I don't think subplots need to be funny. I hope to tie it in with a theme once I have the main plot. :)
But the OP isn't really talking about subplots, either--typically in a mystery a sub-plot would be something going on in a main character's life that's mostly separate from the main mystery plot, but may connect at certain points: the apparently unconnected love interest that ends up being involved in the crime story somehow, or other more series-related plot threads like the detective's struggle to deal with his/her aging father/mother, or whatever. He's conflating those things with incidental stuff like sex scenes, food scenes, or comedic scenes. It's the kind of unnecessary confusion that happens when academics decide they're going to make sense of art or pop culture without actually talking to the people who create it: you end up with a lot of scrambled jargon that doesn't mean what they think it means and a lot of reductive theory that usually misses the point. The comedy begins when they show up on writers' forums to tell us what we already know: that in a good novel of any genre, plot is just one element of story--there's other stuff going on (like, you know, characters! With imaginary lives!) and it's all important to a full understanding of the mechanics of story-writing. That great revelation is pretty much the first thing we teach freshmen and sophomores in our intro-level fiction-writing classes. I suppose it's possible that an enterprising PhD candidate might be able to wring a dissertation out of that very old news, and more power to him. If I were sitting on his dissertation committee, though, I'd laugh him out of my office.
I think I have one of those in my book. Has nothing to do with plot, just there to enrich my, otherwise serious character's personality and give him a sense of humor. It doesn't really move the story forward, but it's humorous. Is that what it is?
Exactly! I found it odd that no one had codified the things. I saw one in the Name of the Rose (Connery) that I thought was particularly well done. While these can and most often are tiny blips, they can also be important part of the plot. This character fell into the ugly or grotesque; a monk with a hunchback. His purpose was to add to the audiences appreciation for the time period. This was the best use of this technique that has become an expected convention in mystery I can think of.
I've heard writing teachers talk about "action" scenes and then "reaction" scenes in which the story calms down and the main character goes over what's just happened and perhaps plots a new action. Could be an element of your theory.
Raymond Chandler addresses this at some length in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder," in which he acknowledges that most detective fiction - especially the Golden Age British sort - is full of plot absurdities and implausibilities that even Dorothy L finally recognized in her work, forcing her to abandon it for good.
Thanks for this. I'll find that essay today, and I look forward to reading it.


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