Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why do I write mysteries

This is a question that bugs me off and on--why do I write mysteries? At 76, I've lived a full life, learned a lot, and look back on my 30s and 40s and wonder how naïve I was in those days. I can almost measure the wisdom (well, I think that's what it is) that I've gathered and learned over the last thirty years, and I truly feel I'm a better, more caring, more thoughtful--yeah, even wiser--person than I was. So why don't I write memoir or philosophical treatises to impart that wisdom to my fellow sisters who are following in my footsteps. I truly believe the tenet that is one of the justifications of an academic press: to contribute to the existing body of knowledge. Surely, in my own way, I could do that. Instead, I write mysteries.
I've often pondered the question of what mysteries contribute to the general body of existing knowledge--or whether or not they need to make that contribution. Maybe they are written for diversion, entertainment, an escape for the reader from the daily grind. Is that a good enough reason or should they still be contributing to that amorphous existing body of knowledge?
I find that my main characters are usually in their thirties, an age when I was particularly blind to the world and wrapped up in my own marriage and young children. So do I impart wisdom to my characters that I didn't have at that time? I hope so, but I can't be sure. Sometimes, almost against my wishes, they do the most foolish things. It's an old saw among authors--your characters tell the story, you don't. And sometimes mine, like those of a lot of other authors, get out of hand.
So how am I helping the world? I don't know, besides perhaps providing a bit of distraction and enjoyment. And maybe that's all they're meant to do. Maybe I don't have to worry so much about making the world a better place with every mystery I write. Did Nancy Drew improve the world or did she just enjoy grand adventures? Maybe helping readers--I'm sure most of mine are women--escape their daily lives for a few minutes is my contribution.
I have a lot of things on my mind and on my plate this week, so I treasure those few minutes late at night when I read the novel I'm on now. So perhaps that's what I do for others. And maybe it isn't all bad.

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