aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

What do you owe your reader?

When you write mysteries and thrillers, it’s so much fun to set up a tantalizing beginning. Like right now I’m working on a book in which the main character, who has lost her memory, discovers that she knows kung fu when she unleashes it as a crucial moment.

Somewhere in the book I’m going to have to explain that. Explain it in a way that is believable.

In Presumed Innocent, a woman is found dead in a locked room. She has been raped and murdered. And when the sperm found in her body is tested, it belongs to her secret lover. There are many other signs pointing to his guilt. Did he do it? No. And Turow does a great job of explaining what happened - and never fudges or cheats the reader.

Tanya French’s first book, In the Woods, is extremely well-written. In it, a detective investigates what seems to be a killing related to a horrific incident in his childhood. When he was a boy, he and two friends went into the woods to play. He alone survived. He was found mute, with no memory of what happened. One intriguing detail: while his shoes don’t have blood on them, his socks are soaking in it. And it’s not even his blood!

Great detail, right? I just kept thinking - what is the answer? How did it happen? How could it have happened?

Never, ever explained. It spoiled how I felt about the whole book.

But I think it’s a tempting trap for an author. Set up a crazy fascinating beginning. And cross your fingers you’ll think of an explanation down the line.

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