Monday, September 26, 2011

Cross-genres : Is everything a mystery?

by C.L. Phillips

After a summer of voracious reading, one question is keeping me awake at night.

"Does a mystery lie at the heart of every novel?"

Or just the novels that  I've read and loved?  Whether it is a fantasy novel like Christian Cantrell's Containment, or  Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, or Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games, they all have a mystery locked inside the science fiction, fantasy, or young adult wrapper.

Isn't it the mystery that keeps the reader turning the page?  Does mystery cut across all genres?  And if it does, why do we limit ourselves to the narrow definition of mysteries, and the sub-genres of cozy, crime fiction, thriller, suspense, and all the others?

Help....what does a mystery mean to you?


Gina said...

C.L. -
I think you are right - there are mystery elements in most good books. Mystery to me just means that there is something the protagonist wants to find or find out.

Speaking of mysterious things, my magic verification word is splupp - would that be a cross between a puddle and a puppy? At least, a splash puppy is a more pleasant image than a splattered one . . .

C.L. Phillips said...


Splupp, the sound a puppy makes while sleeping at your feet in the early morning darkness before sunrise. :)

And I agree with you!

My word is Dimism - what you get when you DIsmiss criticISM....

Jenna said...

I think there's probably a lot of truth to that. There's a mystery at the core of most books, I think. "The Great Gatsby," anyone? Or how about "To Kill a Mockingbird?"

It's important to realize, though, that the genre-classifications we use today are a recent invention, and not something writers did to themselves. It's a sales and marketing decision, based on where to shelve the book in the store. And some of the beauty of the ebook revolution is that suddenly that book isn't limited to just one shelf in the store: with keywords, it can be on every shelf, because you can classify it as a romance, mystery, ghost story, horror novel... and have it show up on all those virtual shelves at the same time!

But that's a discussion for another day.

Since we're talking word verifications: mine's hurinkin. Not sure what that is, but it sounds like something.

Patg said...

I think there are literary novels that do not have an ounce of mystery. They're too busy watching their feet and describing it for 10pages to worry about anything mysterious.
I too, do not seem to enjoy a book unless there is something unknown that needs to be found out. Cross genre are some of my favorites. I lover Mystery/SF the best.
My WV was fogierld--what a heralder does on foggy days.