I will attend the 5th annual Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave (Manhattan, KS) at the end of this month. My first conference, yay :-) I was even offered a spot on one of the panels. Then I realized yesterday that a) the end of the month is nearer than I thought and b) I need to prepare. If my information is still correct I’m sharing the panel with a few other writers new to the mystery genre. Subject of our panel: Why I Write Mysteries.
In all truthfulness and for the sake of accuracy: I don’t write mysteries. I write suspense.
The difference can be difficult to explain. I like to think of a mystery as a story in which some significant crime, usually a murder, has occurred. It is the protagonist’s job to find out who did the murdering and why and then catch the perp. It’s very reactive, in a way.
When I think suspense I think of the protagonist having to keep something from happening. It’s less about solving a puzzle from the past and more about preventing a future crime and saving the day in the process.
You can see how that can get complicated :-) The lines that separate the genres are fluid and often crossed.
I can’t say I sat down one day and decided to write in the mystery/suspense field. Rather I wrote and wrote and tried out different genres and eventually realized that all my half-finished efforts had something in common: villains and the need to foil their plans or escape their clutches. For me, it was never about catching the bad guy, it was always about staying ahead of him. My hero’s main goal is to stay alive not to solve the how and why of things (that’s what his friends do off stage). And that’s why I write suspense, not traditional mysteries.