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Kim Hornsby discusses Women and the Mystery Novel - Plus, grab the first book in her bestselling Dream Jumper series!
Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and all the other International Bestselling Novels recently made into movies that have a mystery at the heart of the story, all have one thing in common: They offer a scavenger hunt, a game the reader plays on the journey to guess the ending.
And women LOVE piecing together clues and snippets of information to solve a mystery. I’m not sure where the information is to prove this, but men love Thrillers (customarily…where the killer is revealed early) and women love mysteries (guessing the ending.) The prize at the end can be as simple as why did the couple divorce or how will she get out of this conundrum, or a theme as dark as who is killing women and leaving them in fields.
The game is always the same…
You begin the book with information about the playing pieces--the characters, and as the story line deepens, a good writer will offer clues hidden inside the story and dialogue for the reader to file as part of the big picture that will eventually include the solved mystery. The reader will start guessing early-on based on the clues given. As more clues are added and red herrings are detected, the readers' guess can change several times before the big reveal.
As an author of suspense, I used to be disappointed when reviewers would write that they guessed the ending back in chapter three, but lately I've learned to take their bragging as a compliment. It shows they were playing the game and were tickled they won the game early. When that happens, it's exciting, even if you won't know you're correct until the verification at the end.
Guessing early might be the fault of the author to not fool absolutely everyone all the time, or it could simply be a lucky guess. But I can't fault a few people for coming to an early conclusion. Especially if they continue reading to see if they are right! I love reviews that state “I did NOT see that coming!” That’s like getting a large tip, for a writer.
Women enjoy this brain-teasing process, this mental game of elimination and puzzle-solving. And whether they are surprised by the ending or guess it early on, the journey along the way must be satisfying enough to keep the reader engaged to turn pages until the end.
Writing a mystery adds an extra layer to a story, an additional process of planning that isn't needed for other types of fiction. A mystery needs more plotting, careful leakage of clues, deeper character reveals, and much more thought given to the final product to prevent the reader from being dissatisfied with the ending. Of course, the ending is everything in a mystery and all loose ends must be tied up sufficiently to give the reader a sense of supreme satisfaction, even if a part of that satisfaction is guessing the ending.
Women have always been fascinated by this guessing game. I think it's because as a gender, we are problem-solvers, wired to sort out the trouble and make sense of it all. While the men go out hunting to bring home dinner, we do all the mental-sorting and planning and organization. And that involves being a good guesser.
As a reader and a writer, I love the game and am thrilled to see that the trend toward this Mystery/Thriller Whodunits and Suspense/Mysteries are on a steep curve upward. And that these novels with women protagonists are getting movie deals.
Long live the Mystery Novel!
Wanna see how Kim ties together the mystery, suspense, and romance in her novels? Please check out her line-up of books on Amazon.com or wherever you find great books!
We suggest the first book in Kim's bestselling Dream Jumper series!