Identity crisis

I’ve been pondering for a long time just what my Finnegan stories really are. As well as I can tell, they don’t really match the current conventions of a mystery novel, not even the “ultra cozy” genre I have tried to define for them.

I’ve noted before that I don’t have a murder in my mysteries. That alone will toss them out of the genre according to many current definitions. Further, my stories don’t really have any crime in them. (Well, the first novel deals with serial sexual blackmail and the second with deals inept burglary. I suppose those are crimes, but they haven’t involved the police at the time my stories take place. The third novel does involve drug labs and corruption, but my sleuths don’t even know they are on the trail to solving that and certainly wouldn’t be trying if they did know.) Other Finnegan novels I have plotted are even less criminally focused: one involves uncovering a historical identity and another deals with an unknown legacy that might heal a rift in a community.

I think when I describe these plots in my query letters, I tend to lose the agent’s interest almost immediately because they don’t fit in the mystery conventions. (I have gotten a few requests for partials, so I think my basic query is decent.) But I don’t really have a mystery novel to sell.

So I think I shouldn’t be trying to sell mysteries. I think instead I should be trying to present my novels as commercial fiction in which some sort of problem is resolved. The basic plot involves setting up a protagonist, throwing something in his path, and then seeing how he resolves it. (Or she, of course.)

I suspect there is a much wider market for general commercial fiction than there is for mysteries. Or at least, there are more agents/editors/publishers. And if I’m wrong, then at least I’ll have cast the net wider for a while.

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One Comment on “Identity crisis”

  1. Rick Says:

    Fish or fowl?

    Mystery = Something has happened and we try to find out by whom or why. Suspence = Something is going to happen and we try to find out by whom or why.

    In a mystery, someone has to pay for their crime: jail time, die, be forever in debt to the person who uncovers them, etc. I suspect if you don’t have any of that in your story, then you don’t have a mystery, but a (hopefully) suspenceful story that just might be mainstream (commercial). If so, than there must be a more bottom line motivational issue at hand to pursue the event.

    “The burglary of the doughnut shop goes seriously awry. Nothing is taken and Joe Blow doesn’t even bother to call the cops; however, he intends to get at the bottom of this mystery. He can’t fathom anyone doing this to him. As he pursues leads, he learns more about the life he ISN’T living by examining his life through the eyes of the people he interrogates until he stumbles upon the real reason he’s never moved on beyond his own humdrum world.”

    Of course, someone once said that all good novels are mysteries, and you can leave it at that.


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