If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


July Interviews













7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets


Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson

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Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!


Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.


KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.


Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."


Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.


Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


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Thursday, April 4, 2013

ONCE UPON A TIME






Once upon a time long, long ago, someone told a story while sitting around a fire. Of course, we have no idea exactly when story telling began or who that first story teller was. It doesn’t matter who the storyteller was, or who all the forgotten storytellers who followed were, it was an attempt to make sense of the world.

The beginning stories - myths, folktales and fairy tales - usually had elements of magic like dragons, wizards, witches, talking animals or magic objects like magic mirrors, a magic ring and even beans as in Jack and the Beanstalk. The number three was often important in these stories, too, like in The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Wishes and The Three Billygoats Gruff to name a few. The number three carries on with three main characters; victim, villain and the hero who goes on a quest to save the victim or thwart the bad guy and often has to fulfill three challenges to reach his goal. The only heroine I can think of offhand in those early tales was Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, who killed the evil witch and saved Hansel.  

Over the years, the stories have been altered and changed, but many still followed the same motif of good conquering evil with a happy ending, as in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Harry Potter series. This is not as true with more modern literary works, but it still holds true with most mysteries, albeit with an absence of magic except in some paranormal mysteries.

Some authors have picked up on the fairy tale theme and altered them like Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and others written from the point of view of one of the characters from a fairy tale. The same was done even earlier with children’s books like The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! By A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka. One of my favorite children’s picture books was An Undone Fairy Tale by Ian Lendler in which the princess locked in the tower by her wicked step-father in the end rescues Sir Wilbur, who comes to rescue her. It’s a delightfully funny tale immensely enjoyed by all the classes I’ve read it to both in my own classes and in the many classes I substituted for later.

Because we live in a world often filled with violence, dishonesty and unfairness, we still hope for the happy ever after ending portrayed in many fairy tales even though deep in our minds, we know it can’t always be that way. Of course, some fairy tales are cautionary tales like The Fisherman and His Wife or The Emperor’s New Clothes, but most mysteries, other than noir, and especially in cozies, do follow the fairy tale motif ending of: “and they lived happily ever after.” Although it’s rarely the same joyful tripping down the path of happiness we envisioned when Cinderella was romanced by the handsome Prince Charming, and they went off to live in his castle where her life then became perfect; no quarrels, no problems, no dirty diapers, no sickness, and all was love and laughter. Sigh.

No, mysteries are more realistic than that. However, we do have the same motif; victim, villain and hero/heroine. The heroes or heroines may be flawed.  In fact, that makes them more interesting if they are. The reader may or may not know who the villain of the story is in advance, but will follow along with the hero/heroines’ quest to bring the villain to justice, trying to figure out as they read along, either who the villain is or how the villain is going to be uncloaked. Usually, the hero/heroine has a friend or sidekick – maybe not seven dwarfs, but someone to bounce ideas off and help them when necessary. And there may not be quite the Cinderella ending, but almost always it brings satisfaction to the reader because justice, at least in mysteries, seems to have been served. And that’s what makes mysteries so popular. It brings a sense of justice to the world of the reader. At least it does until they pick up a newspaper or watch the news on TV.

Do you like happy endings to your mysteries?

23 comments:

Alyx Morgan said...

Yes, I do. I prefer happy endings to the stories I read, or the movies I watch. Yes, I understand that real life doesn't always offer happy "endings," but that's why I look for my escape in stories. Why would I want to pay $12 (for a movie) or $25 (for a book) to be hit in the face with the harsh reality that heroes sometimes die, or become villains themselves?

Jim Jackson said...

One reason I like writing mysteries is that I can provide provision for justice at the end of the story – although not necessarily perfect justice. The good guys win more than they lose and the bad guys lose more than they win. I notice I have not bought into the happily ever after scenario, however.

~ Jim

Jessica Ferguson said...

Enjoyed the post. I find the type of ending I want depends on the characters and their story. And probably my mood while reading. In my romantic suspense coming out later this year, the ending might be considered sad. It is, but I hope it's satisfying too. I guess overall, I prefer realistic endings.

Gloria Alden said...

Alyx, I prefer happy endings, too, especially since life doesn't guarantee them.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, that's why I like writing mysteries, too. Although I prefer happy endings, I'm content with endings that aren't quite happy and even ambiguous to some extent that make me think or let me make the ending in my own mind. I recently finished WOMEN OF THE SILK by Gail Tsukiyama which had characters I liked dying, but the main protagonist did end up on a boat heading for Hong Kong during the time when the Japanese were invading China and for the moment she was safe.

Gloria Alden said...

Jessie sometimes the books with endings that aren't tra la la la happy have more meaning and stay with us longer for their realism and depth of story telling.

Sandy Cody said...

Nice post. I prefer happy endings, but have to admit stories that don't end happily stick with me longer.

Did you read LANGUAGE OF THREADS? It's a followup to WOMEN OF THE SILK and we see what happened to the protagonist in Hong Kong. Both are wonderful books. Neither ends exactly "happily every after" but are satisfying because they give the reader a sense that the characters have a life that continues after THE END.

Pauline Alldred said...

I can only accept happy endings if they emerge naturally from the story. I still like justice to triumph mainly because we have the law and not justice in real life. Villains who seem all evil make the hero or heroine look better but villains with a cause of their own are more interesting.

E. B. Davis said...

I like HEA endings, but I'm satisfied with resolution. If an author hasn't tied up all the loose ends then I'm not happy. As far as backstory is concerned, I'd like resolution or at least a prompt showing that there has been a change or the MC has made some decision, especially in a series.

Gloria Alden said...

Sandy, I haven't read the followup to Women of the Silk. I just wrote it down. Like you, the ending doesn't exactly have to be happy, but I do want to get a sense that the character will be okay and get on with his or her life.

I agree with you, Pauline. Some happy endings seem to be unreal and forced. I always write a biography of my villain so I can see why he/she acts the way they do, and they have good characteristics,too. They're not totally evil.

E.B. I don't like it, either, when the writer doesn't tie up the loose ends. Sometimes, though, they are leaving something that makes you want to read the next book like Louise Penny's A BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. I was unhappy with much of the ending, but I know she'll make things right in the next book although it will be too long coming for me. Sigh.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I like happy endings. I also like "interesting" endings, where a protagonist gets away with a good action that might be considered criminal according to the law of the land. I like books to end on an upbeat note. I like to see good triumph over evil. After all, this is fiction. We don't get it often enough in real life, so we yearn for it in novels.

Warren Bull said...

Mysteries generally bring balance to situations where the villain has upset the balance by his (usually not her) deeds. In an unbalanced world that is comforting.

Gloria Alden said...

Yes, Marilyn, I hear you on that. Even if there is a happy ending, it doesn't last forever, but in fiction we can believe it does.

Warren, I totally agree. I think that may be one of the reasons I like mysteries so well. It's also because I like to try to solve the puzzle before the protagonist does.

Kara Cerise said...

I usually like a happy ending where the villain gets what he deserves and all loose ends are tied up. However, there are times I prefer a satisfying (not necessarily happy) ending with a few loose ends to make me think. When I’m in the mood for a really happy ending, I read a romance.

carla said...

I don't necessarily write happy endings--depends on the tone. I do want the reader to be satsified. there is always closure.

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, I like to see the villain get what he/she deserves, too. A little romance is nice, but not necessary for me to enjoy a book.

Closure is important for me, too, Carla. I hate thinking . . .but wait what about?

Patg said...

I don't know about happy, but I do prefer satisfying endings. I do not read romance simply because they expect everything to end happily.
And I agree with Jim, finding some justice, even if it is fictional, is satisfying at the end of a mystery.

Gloria Alden said...

Pat, I prefer satisfying endings even if they're not a happy ever after type. I think justice is why people like to read mysteries because most of the time justice is served at the end of a mystery.

Marilynn Larew said...

I'm wrestling with just this problem now. I invented this guy for the purpose of killing him off, and now I can't bear to part with him.

I think the plot maybe works better if he dies, but ways to save him keep creeping into my mind.

What would you think of the heroine thinking the guy is dead for a third of the book and acting upon the thought. (This is not a romance. It's terrorists who have "killed" him.) And then after all the shooting id over and all of the blood is wiped up, the heroine finds shim in the hospital recovering?

Would you feel cheated?

Marilynn Larew said...

My preference for bad proofreading is well known, but I'm trying to break the habit.

Anonymous said...

I like unreliable narrators. As long as she acts on her beliefs and then reacts to the realization he is deuad, I am okay.

Of course you might consider the advice to kill your love ones might fit here.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

I would be okay with that, Marilyn. Of course, it depends on how it worked out. Will it be leading on to the 2nd book.

As far as killing off a character, you've become fond of, I'm not sure I could do that, but maybe you can.

Anonymous said...

I like satisfying endings to my mysteries. Sometimes they're happy, but I do like them to have a sense of justice and closure whether everyone (except the victim) lives happily ever after or not.