A writing mystery

(This was one of my non-blogging blogs I had posted on my website which I’ve reposted here.)

In the past several years I have read – in magazines and anthologies – numerous short, scifi stories. I have been disappointed by a lot of them. Over the years I’ve tried working out why that is so, and I recently had an idea. It happened when I read this ninety page novella. The first eighty-five pages dealt with the main character trying to solve a mystery, and discovering some things about himself along the way. The last five pages were: the mystery is solved, he has an epiphany, the end. The solution to the mystery was okay, but not all that exciting and I felt it ended just as the main character was becoming interesting. I wanted to see how he dealt with this new understanding of himself. Was it a real epiphany, or one of those that wears off after a few days?

After I finished the story I kept asking myself, Why did the author end it just when it was getting good? Were they trying to go out on a high note? The author would probably say they had made their point, but I think that could have been done in twenty pages. So I kept thinking about it and I came to the realization that the story was built around the mystery. Once the mystery was solved, that was the signal to the author to end the story. Looking back, I think this explains a lot of the stories I didn’t like. Their authors think that as long as there is a mystery, there is a story. Once the mystery is solved, they feel compelled to wrap everything up as quickly as possible. What about the plot? What about character development?

I admit, I have written stories that involve a “mystery” that end right when it is solved. But, in my defense, those are three or four page stories. Basically, they are just set ups for a punch line. I think that is okay – and works – for flash fiction stories, but is a let down for longer stories. True, there is a mystery genre, but I want to read good scifi stories. Ones that when I finish them I go, “I’m glad I read that,” not, “What was the author thinking ending it there?”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: