Friday, December 09, 2011

When Reality Intrudes

Sorry I’m late today. I had intended to write about another topic, but I’ve been preoccupied since yesterday with the ambivalence that I – and I suspect other crime writers – sometimes feel about what we write about. VA Tech is my undergrad alma mater. I still go there twice a year to serve on a board. Yesterday – as back in 2007 – I felt shocked and sad and angry that something awful had happened in a place that I and so many other Hokies love.

And then I felt – as before – a twinge of guilt because I write crime fiction in which murder and other bad things happen and people read my books for entertainment. I enjoy attending conferences where I and other writers talk with amusement about how we kill people in our books.

But I know that humans have been telling each other stories since we learned to communicate with language. Many of those stories have been about violence and death.

In fact, blaming crime writers for violence would be rather like blaming romance writers for women whose lives are on hold while they wait for the man of their dreams to appear.

We are drawn to certain types of stories and perhaps those stories reinforce myths and fantasies. But, at its best, fiction challenges us. Well-written romances are stories about relationships, about the personal growth that the characters must achieve in order to find happiness together. Good crime fiction not only examines conflicts within relationships that lead to violence but calls on the reader to think about the roots of greed and selfishness, and, yes, the nature of evil.

Still, when reality intrudes, I find myself stopping to ponder – to think about my choice to be a mystery writer. The truth is that even if I wrote romance novels, my books would always have a touch of mystery and probably a dead body or two. Perhaps – in the same way romances have happy endings – I want to present endings where justice triumphs even if the characters are left bruised by the events.

But I do wish for a world in which bad things happened only in the stories we tell.


Hannah Dancin said...
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Charlotte Hinger said...

Frankie, I think one of the reasons we read crime fiction is because we crave justice in this imperfect world. It's comforting to know that good triumphs over evil in most of our books--even if it is too often fiction in real life.