Monday, November 11, 2013

Death is the ultimate drama

by Meredith Cole

Why crime? Why do I write about violence and murder? Great question. And it's definitely one I've heard before from people (although it's mostly people who don't read mysteries).

I write about crime for the same reason I read about crime. It's compelling. And death is the ultimate drama. It's worth reading 300 pages to find out why or who or what happened.

We are all fascinated by death. We feel compelled to watch shows that feature serial killers and mysterious murders. We are probably both searching for answers and also trying to protect ourselves in the future. We can walk away from a story about someone killed while hitchhiking, for instance, and tell ourselves that we would never do that so we're somehow safe.

I don't really focus my fiction on the kinds of people for whom a life of crime is a daily affair. I like to write about people who perhaps have never seen a dead body or have never had their life threatened before. Murder is still shocking for them, and hopefully also for the reader.

And speaking of murder... If you like mysteries (and crime fiction) as much as I do, check out the latest short story anthology I'm in, Virginia is for Mysteries! The book has just gone to print and it's available now for pre-order. The book was put together by two Sisters in Crime chapters in Virginia, and has stories set around the state.


Susan C Shea said...

Why we read and watch so much crime still puzzles me, except that I recall learning that Oedipus was so popular in Greek theater of its day because the audience could think, "thank the gods that could never happen to me!" I think writers like to serve out justice, since that doesn't always happen in life. But I notice lots more stories today in which there is no justice at the end - the killer may even be glorified. so what's THAT about?!

Meredith Cole said...

I don't know, Susan! I think we have a lot of unsolved mysteries (and people who go unpunished) in life, and really don't need to write more of them in our mystery novels...

Barry Knister said...

The conventional wisdom about why we like crime fiction is that most of it plunges us into a chaotic world (one in which people are murdered), but by the end restores order and sanity by catching and punishing those who created the chaos. The new noir emphasis on order not really being restored must reflect changing times.
But I'm with you, Meredith, as to why I read and write crime stories: they offer a more focused search for answers than do mainstream or "literary" novels.