The Saturday Writing Quote – on the whodunnit

“It’s one thing reading about detectives, quite another trying to be one. I’ve always loved whodunnits. I’ve not just edited them. I’ve read them for pleasure throughout my life, gorging on them actually. You must know that feeling when it’s raining outside and the heating’s on and you lose yourself, utterly, in a book. You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover. That is the particular power of the whodunnit which has, I think, a special place within the general panoply of literary fiction because, of all characters, the detective enjoys a particular, indeed a unique relationship with the reader.

Whodunnits are all about truth: nothing more, nothing less. In a world full of uncertainties, is it not inherently satisfying to come to the last page with every I dotted and every t crossed? The stories mimic our experience in the world. We are surrounded by tensions and ambiguities, which we spend half our life trying to resolve, and we’ll probably be on our own deathbed when we reach that moment when everything makes sense. Just about every whodunnit provides that pleasure. It is the reason for their existence. It’s why Magpie Murders was so bloody irritating.”

— from Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (2017)

The Saturday Writing Quote

Here at the Yellow House in the Hundred Acre Wood, we’re all a-flutter over the new book, As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles, which releases officially on June 8. Read more about it, including an excerpt, on my website. Check my tour schedule there, too—in June, I’ll be in Seattle, Bigfork, Augusta, Billings, and Bozeman, and in July, I’ll be in Polson and Missoula. I would love to see you.

So for June, my quotes all touch on the role of books and stories in our lives. Writing—storytelling—is the only way I know to explore the world. Thank you for taking the journey with me.

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”

– Muriel Rukeyser, American poet and activist, 1913-1980

The Saturday Writing Quote — characterization, again

“It is the genius of great fiction to reveal the way it feels to be another person. Empathically connecting to experiences of love, hate, despair or joy is one of the major reasons people will pick up your book. But it is important to remember that our feelings are intimately tied to what we think. Anger arises not only because we don’t get what we want, but also because we don’t get what we deserve. Grief comes because we lose something we love, something we think is worth loving. Our most intense feelings are connected to our most deeply held philosophical visions of justice and value. As you develop your characters, show us what they are thinking that contributes to their intense emotions. What makes something valuable ir hateful to them? What do they think they and others deserve in life? Also, what do you think about what they think?”

— Roger S. Gottlieb, The Writer, July 2014

The Saturday Writing Quote — characterization

Writers are often told their characters need to be “likeable,” but I think the better term is identifiable. Not that we want to be them — Olive Kitteredge, anyone? —  but that we trust such people can exist.

Or as novelist Claire Messud Publisher’s Weekly, “If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t ‘is this a potential friend for me?’ but ‘is this character alive?’”