Hey, it’s Rey today. To be honest, literary mysteries aren’t quite my, as Lindy-Loo would say, cup of tea. They can be a bit too cerebral (thanks for that word goes to Cousin Jilly). But you know? I enjoy a challenge, so posting about them seemed like a sweet task to take on.
Let’s take a quick look at literary fiction first. It tends to be more character-driven and doesn’t generally have the fast-moving plots of genre fiction. Literary books move at a different pace, a slower one maybe, but can be equally exciting. Events and exploits take place, just maybe not in the form of a hatchet slamming into someone’s head . . . uh . . . a sleuth sprinting after an assassin. Good literary fiction not only has a plot and theme but tends to be deep(er) because it explores ideas, thoughts, and actions. Literary authors are likely to be word whizzes and will paint intricate pictures through powerful prose. Some people might say this makes for a slow(er) book, but I think it’s all part of that perspective thing.
One other thing about literary fiction: it really doesn’t have rules. You don’t have to stick to formulas, like that of mystery and its sub-genres. The sky’s the limit; feel free to write what you wish. Just keep the reader riveted.
So maybe you’re longing to write a literary mystery? Did you know the first literary mysteries date back to the 1840s, courtesy of Edgar Allan Poe and his amateur detective, Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin? By getting into the minds of his villains, Poe offered readers something new and fresh. So did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who featured the ever-skillful Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, er, friend, Dr. Watson in novels and short stories between 1887 and 1927. The innovative “science of psychology” made its successful debut.
Generally, all mysteries: revolve around a crime and the efforts to solve it, investigate how said crime occurred, and attempt to solve it and find out who did it.
The literary mystery is no different, but what distinguishes it from the conventional one?
As in literary fiction, readers will find more character development and complexities; characterization tends to be more thorough and comprehensive. Readers may get into the characters’ heads, which could be dark, scary places. Relationships, dialogue and narration can be intense.
Narration is solid if not sophisticated (food-for-thought-and-not-naught). The plot is more detailed and can incorporate social, philosophical, or abstract concepts, among others. You’re getting more bang for your buck—there’s more than the mystery that’s afoot (OMG, I do believe I’m on a post roll, he-he).
The thrill of a whodunit is important, of course, but so is what happening around that search for truth and resolution.
From my research and what I learned from my P.I. associates, it’s also been suggested that literary mysteries may refer to books and/or that they use elements of literature to add a turn of the screw or three to the viewpoint(s), voice/tone, and setting(s). I won’t argue; I’m just putting this out there. Do with it what you will, my friends.