Tag Archives: Readers

Why Mysteries?

People have asked me why I like to read and write in the Mystery genre. My answer: mysteries have it all. If I need an intellectual challenge I can select one that has a complicated plot and denouement and slug all the way through to a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps I’ll spend a good deal of time working out a puzzle, deciphering clues and enjoying the challenge of working out the solution on my own, maybe even before the protagonist does. Mystery writers are great at creating suspense and misdirection and keeping us readers on the edge of our seats. They also generally play fair by providing the clues for the reader to utilize along the way, and they usually wrap up loose ends before the story reaches completion.

If I’m in the mood for a lighter touch, I can turn to the cozy or humorous side of the genre. These mysteries can contain romance, fantasy, laugh-out-loud fun, comfort settings and food, and often a beloved pet. In other words, they provide a happier, more positive and relaxed environment where I can escape from daily trials.

Then there’s the kind of story in which the protagonist sets out on an adventure of discovery and suddenly I’m learning about an occupation or foreign country and its customs and mores unfamiliar to me. Or the atmosphere or setting of a place will inspire me to draw or paint the feeling it gives me or recreate it in an original story of my own. How many times have you been reading something that sparked all sorts of creative ideas in you?

Series mysteries are very popular. As readers follow a specific character or characters through different adventures and become emotionally attached to them and their settings, these characters become “family” and readers enjoy following along in their lives. And, luckily, most series authors are good about making each book work as a stand-alone. I really try to read series books in order though, because the protagonist (and sometimes other characters) tends to learn and develop with each case he/she has to deal with and it’s nice to see how and why these developments occur.

Mysteries often contain atmosphere. British mysteries come to mind immediately. The phrase, ‘A castle in Scotland” immediately conjures up an image somewhat similar for most people, but along with that phrase can come, ancient, gray, crumbling stones, thunder and lightning, rain and fog, lonely, dark and dreary landscapes, ramshackle outbuildings, etc. Or perhaps you see in your mind’s eye a palace with all the finery that comes with that image. Plush, royal robes, crown jewels, carriages, a monarch. Words that are full of colorful paint.

Most of my favorite authors are traditionally published and their books have been edited professionally. That is extremely important to me as a reader, because correct grammar and sentence structure make for clear writing and thus, for me―understanding. I must add that I have read some self-published authors who have gone that extra step to have their books professionally edited and I say kudos to them.

I have a TBR pile (To Be Read) and there are many sub-genres of mysteries represented in it where international characters, each vie for my attention in this century and others, depending on my mood. I do have some memoirs, women’s fiction, biographies, fantasy and horror books, too, but most of my TBR pile consists of mysteries. Mysteries all ready to load onto paintbrushes. What’s your palate preference?


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under Art, fiction, musings, Scotland, writing

A Picture = A Thousand Words

It may seem clichéd or elementary, but how many times have we heard, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” Writers often can’t use pictures in our work; we have to create them with words. In order to do that, we must draw forth a mental image for our readers to better understand what we are trying to say. For me, eliciting emotion is one way to accomplish that goal.

Many years ago, I worked for a company that sold bottled water and rented water coolers to deliver that water to their business clients. The coolers were able to provide cold water and hot water for different beverages and soups. We sales personnel were urged to use certain words that would conjure pictures in the customers’ minds to encourage them to want our products for their business customers. Hot water became “piping hot water” and cold water became “ice cold water.” We were even told to emphasize the “p” in piping and the “c” in ice to make it even easier to imagine.

As writers, we can do basically the same thing. In my book SHE HAD TO KNOW, I describe a castle in Scotland. The building is early-seventeenth-century, sits off the main road on the edge of a cliff overlooking a body of water, is on a moor with trees spotted about, and the castle is often surrounded by fog. I wanted to create an atmosphere of quaintness, mystery, a hauntingly gothic feel rather than just describe it literally.

This is how I created the picture of it:

Off the Corniche Road amidst vast desolate moorland and gnarled groves of trees stood the often fog shrouded Wraithmoor Castle, an early-seventeenth-century Scots Baronial manor house. Perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde, it lay dreamlike, as if a product of Morpheus, a few miles south of the village of Ballantrae.

Another example describes a character who is a famous and elegant mystery writer:

With shiny, blue-black chin-length hair and prominent angular nose, she posed a striking but elegant image. One was reminded of a raven seeking sustenance as her black eyes darted from guest to guest while peering over the rim of her brandy snifter.

The third example describes a trip from the Glasgow airport to the castle:

They skirted Ayr and Alloway, the birthplace of the poet Robert Burns, and continued south toward Maybole and Girvan. The road paralleled the Firth of Clyde that flowed to the Atlantic Ocean. High above, sea birds floated on invisible currants like terpsichorean ballerinas, their distant cries—music for the dance.

These examples use emotion to create the mood of the building, person and scenery in my story.

Have you different ways of using words to describe the pictures in your stories? I’d love to hear your methods or examples.


Filed under books, fiction, musings, writing