How Much is too Much?

I’ve fallen in love with the Louis Kincaid mystery series, but I wasn’t as fond of the last book I read as the others. Why? Because it pushed my comfort zones, and I don’t want to read things that make me cringe these days. Maybe because I’m older. Maybe because it’s been a hard year. But I want happy endings these days, And damn, if I haven’t read more downer endings than usual.

I have a theory about downer endings. When writers are unhappy, they write unhappy endings. Understandable, but I don’t want to read them. As a reader, I’ve had enough challenges. I want the good guys to persevere, to come out ahead..

I surprised myself, though, by downloading a book that Mae Clair recommended on her weekly blog reviews, THE BAD SISTER. I remembered that suspense and horror are supposed to RELIEVE fears, worries, etc. And I’ve always liked dark fantasy, as long as it doesn’t gross me out. So I thought this book would be a good catharsis for any lingering worries I wasn’t dealing with. And I really enjoyed it. BUT the reason I enjoyed it is because all of the negative/icky stuff was offscreen–like Agatha Christie or EVERY cozy, except in this book, the ickies were definitely hinted at more to build tension. And there was an escalating body count throughout the entire book until the protagonists (and there was more than one this time) all met their final battle to survive.

I had a few issues with the book, but not because it pushed my boundaries. I’d guessed who the killer was but didn’t want it to be him and even had trouble accepting that it was him. And I’d guessed the twist, too, but it worked for me, so I was okay with it. I even guessed the second surprise, but I was okay with that, too So I’m glad I read it. And it made me think about the book I’m working on now, because it’s not a cozy. It’s a straight mystery that deals with a serial killer. He only chooses women in their forties who have long, beautiful hair.

But it’s been a long time since I wrote a serial killer book, and I had to remind myself that the body count in a book like that needs to be higher. The pace has to be more urgent. And I need to play mind games with the readers. Because they might still be ahead of me:)

I have 25,000 words done that I’m happy with, so for the moment, I feel good about where the book is going. I’ve written long enough that I know that might change. But I also keep reminding myself that I don’t want to push past any comfort level. There’s a line that divides suspense and thrillers from horror, and I don’t want to cross it. Two of my friends write horror, and that’s a whole different feel when you read it. You always think that the evil might win. Mysteries are all about the good guys catching the bad guys. Evil is always punished. Mysteries are about justice.

So for now, women in their forties with long, beautiful hair are prime temptations for a killer who stalks them. The why comes into play. And the good guys–Laurel and Nick–are driven to catch him. I’ve found a story that keeps challenging me to write it. I know where it’s going and what started it–for each of them–but I haven’t plotted it as rigidly as usual. I can’t remember the last time I started a book with so few plot points. I’ll be interested to see how that works . But for now, I’m happily tapping keys.

And I hope you find lots of good books to read, but none that make you cringe:) Unless you WANT to.

2 thoughts on “How Much is too Much?

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the Bad Sister. I think want attracts me to Kevin O’Brien’s books is as you said–most of the violence and nasty stuff is offpage. There’s plenty of hints and usually several bodies but I’m still in my comfort zone. I can’t read a lot of serial killer fiction because much of it plays for graphic content. As I get older I’m getting more squeamish about that.

    But I love the suspense that comes with thriller fiction and straight mysteries. I think it’s wonderful you’re writing one!

    Liked by 1 person

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