Posted by: nancycurteman | June 24, 2010

3 Outstanding Character-Driven Mystery Authors

Mystery novels generally fall into three categories: Character-driven stories, Plot-driven stories, and a combination of the two. In a character-driven mystery, the storyline evolves from and orbits around the emotions and feelings of the characters involved. Motives for the crime relate to things like hate, revenge, jealousy or fear. The sleuth is usually motivated to search out the guilty culprit because she or someone she cares about has been hurt or injured by the criminal act. A good way for a new writer to enhance her skill in writing character-driven novels is to read excellent books by authors who’ve written outstanding character-driven mysteries. Here are three authors and examples of their award-winning novels.

Martha Grimes, an author of cozy mysteries, received the Nero award for best mystery of the year for The Anodyne Necklace.

Libby Fischer Hellmann’s book An Eye For Murder won Best First Readers Choice Award. She’s won the Readers Choice/Lovey Award four times. Easy Innocence and Doubleback are two of her latest novels.

Walter Mosley wrote the Easy Rawlins  mysteries. One of his Rawlins’ mysteries, Devil in a Blue Dress,  was the basis of a 1995 movie starring Denzel Washington.

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Responses

  1. I don’t know these writers. I’ll have to look into their work.

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  2. Nancy ~

    What do you think about The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moonstone

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  3. I haven’t read anything by Wilkie Collins. I’ll check out The Moonstone. It’s a fascinating title.

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  4. I expect you would enjoy it, Nancy ~ for its historical significance alone.

    From Wikipedia:

    The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is a 19th-century British epistolary novel, generally considered the first detective novel in the English language.

    The Moonstone and The Woman in White are considered Wilkie Collins’ best novels.

    Besides creating many of the characteristics of detective novels, The Moonstone also represented Collins’ social opinions by his treatment of the Indians and the servants in the novel.

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  5. I checked out the plot of The Moonstone. It sounds like a great read. I’m putting it on my list.

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  6. I read it many moons (and moonstones) ago ~ I may still have been in HS.

    I remember being WOWED.

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  7. If you recommend it, I know it must be a wow!

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  8. […] Mystery novels generally fall into three categories: Character-driven stories, Plot-driven stories, and a combination of the two. In a character-driven mystery, the storyline evolves from and orbits around the emotions and feelings of the characters involved. Motives for the crime relate to things like hate, revenge, jealousy or fear. The sleuth is usually motivated to search out the guilty culprit because she or someone she cares about has been … Read More […]

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  9. P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Marcia Muller…

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  10. Thanks for adding P.D. James and Marcia Muller, two really terrific writers. I know there are many excellent writers out there. I just presented a few examples.

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  11. Thanks for this discussion, Nancy. Anyone with a strong interest in character-driven mystery/suspense fiction will enjoy my Hector Bellevance series, COLD COMFORT (2001), THE FIFTH SEASON, (2005), and THE ERRAND BOY (2009).

    In general, I think, character-driven fiction takes longer to write, because a writer tends to let the characters’ developing responses to the action suggest to him where the story is headed. That is, he seldom has a clear idea of the plot’s several outcomes until he’s nearly upon them. For that reason, though, they are often quirkier in their plotting and more engaging, too.

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    • I agree with your view that in character-driven fiction the characters tend to guide the direction of the story. I’ve changed the outcome of my novels more than once based on the ideas generated by my characters.

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