As I was mulling over Meghan’s third mystery recently, a question arose in my mind.
Am I writing mysteries?
I never intended to. My now-shelved first novel wasn’t a mystery. It was … well … heck if I know what genre it was meant to be. One reason I moved ahead with Novel No. 2 was that it was a more straightforward—and therefore more easily pitched—time-travel mystery/adventure. In my mind, future books would have built off those two. Two books, two series. Very straightforward, right?
Except I was blindsided by one Meghan Bode. Oh, she sneaked in innocently enough. “Meghan” became the name of my “poetic archaeologist” in a series of posts about a hypothetical archaeological project. Then I started what was to be a new series of posts based around the discovery of a bone. That’s when she took over. She had Scrivener generate her surname for me—Bode. Then she ended the first post with dialogue. A story was born.
A story nothing like my two novels. Meghan chose present tense and a short format. Her “brush with forensic archaeology” was about 7,500 words. Her style also differs from the two novels—almost minimal. Well, not Hemingway minimal, but it feels spartan to me. Granted, her second story, Buried Deeds, ran longer—more than 18,000 words. Still, that’s novella territory, not a full-fledged novel.
At this point, I don’t know if the third story will be novella or novel length. We’ll see how it develops. But as I sketch out the story line, I wonder if her stories, no matter the length, are “real” mysteries.
After all, the deceased in her stories is always past the “body” stage. A “body” implies flesh on the bones. Meghan’s not a forensic archaeologist and doesn’t deal with those. Her skeletons might be from the 1700s or the 1950s, maybe even as “young” as the early 2000s. But the murders would be cold cases, maybe even frozen. She wouldn’t be in any real danger.
I call her stories mysteries in the sense that there’s a puzzle to be solved. So far, even in Story No. 3, there’s always a skeleton. But what if she gives me an idea for a puzzle that doesn’t include one? Would that be a mystery? Are any of her stories “real” mysteries in the modern market?
If they are, then another question arises.
What kind of mystery am I writing?
A cursory search on “mystery” reveals so many types—murder, suspense, thriller. Thrillers can be of the legal, psychological, medical, spy, and techno varieties. Amazon lumps suspense under thrillers and gives police procedurals their own category. It also breaks down mystery into detectives/sleuths (including cats!?), hardboiled, and historical. Surprisingly, Amazon doesn’t give “cozy” its own category. You get results if you search for “cozy mysteries,” though. Maybe that’s why so many of the titles that appear for such a search include “cozy mystery” in parentheses.
Do Meghan’s stories fit any of these subgenres? I’m not sure. I’d call her stories “archaeological mysteries.” My Amazon search showed stories that might be analogous to Meghan’s. And they’re often categorized as simply “mystery.” Hmm. Is it that difficult to classify them?
A part of me still hopes to publish some day. And so I worry that I’m again writing something that will fail to draw in readers or will confuse them. Or that Meghan is nothing more than a grownup version of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. As her latest story takes shape, I hope the answers become clearer.
Emmie Mears and a Self-Hosting Glitch
If you follow Emmie’s blog and haven’t seen posts from her in a while, she is NOT taking a summer break! She recently switched to self-hosting her website and blog, and those of us who follow her by email were accidentally left behind. For the interim, you can visit her blog and fill out a “follow form” to again receive email notices of new posts. A quick link to a guest post by Kourtney Heintz is here. If only technology would work the way it’s supposed to, right?
If you’ve read either of my Meghan Bode stories, how would you categorize them? Do you think she has the makings of a good main character to anchor a series?