Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Part Four in Big 4 Genres: Christian Suspense/Mystery

This is the last section of the Big Four Genres in Christian fiction by Ron Benrey from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Cristian Fiction." It is also my favorite genre. I hope you've enjoyed reading about these four genres.

Christian Suspense/Mystery

Christians suspense and Christian mystery novels both focus on crime, but in different ways. Sometimes novels keep the reader guessing, wondering if the lead character, usually the heroine, will survive the onslaught of evil deeds directed against her. Mystery novels pose a puzzle, challenging the reader to figure out "who done it?" as the detective -- the heroine or hero -- works to identify the perpetrator. Both kinds of novel ratchet up the tension with each passing chapter.

Suspense and mystery novels typically have highly "internal" voices -- readers experience the heroines fear, uncertainty, in a race against time, and participate in the detectives thought processes as she solves the crime.

Both suspense and mystery of popular genres in their own right, and both have important subgenres:

* romantic suspense

* romantic mystery

* cozy mystery

The romantic suspense and romantic mystery sub genres don't need much explanation. they are novels that have fully developed romances as part of their plots. Cozies are "kinder, gentler" mysteries were clever plot twists are more important than graphic, in-your-face violence, where action takes place in an unusual setting that's fun to read about, where cats, dogs, and other pets are significant characters, and which may involve an elaborate MacGuffin, a bout a detail rich topic such as Bell ringing, fishing, painting, sailing, were museum management.

There seems to be a growing interest in the cozy mysteries, with some Christian publishers actually starting new cozy lines. However, Christian cozies face an interesting challenge: they must compete with mainline cozy mysteries, which are typically gentle radiance that meet most of the rules and conventions of Christian fiction. They don't carry explicit Christian messages, but they can be read without offense by most Christian readers.

As all writers of suspense and mystery novels know, it's often easier to put your characters in hot water than to get them out. Christian novelist are sometimes tempted to resolve plotting difficulties via improbable miracles, astonishing answered prayers, or other last-minute acts of God. This approach is often nothing more than a Christian variation on the ancient Greek dramatic technique of introducing a well-known god into the story at the end to untangle difficult plot problems. a pulley system lowered the gods statue to the stage and into the action. The term deus ex machina -- god from the machine-- is now used to label all artificial or improbable plot devices that miraculously resolve problems and bring a story to a close.

God must play an important role in every Christian novel, but readers of suspense and mystery novels expect the hero and heroines to get out of hot water mostly by their own devices. A bit of Gods help is fine--but God should not do their work for them.

Suspense and mystery novels all for a reasonable chance of success to the first-time novelist. Most Christian publishers have a few in their catalog, and some publishers produce several each year. length depends on publisher and sub genre, and can range from 55,000 words to about 95,000 words.

Among the most popular secular mystery novels are "police procedurals" -- stories that depict the gritty realities of police work-- and hard boiled private eye novels-- stories about knight-like private detectives who walked the main streets alone.a few Christian novels in these categories are published each year, but they appeal mostly to male readers. a first-time novelist won't find it easy to break in. Still, it can be done -- if you have highly polished writing skills.

Christian thrillers are often treated as sub genres of suspense, and like suspense novels, they keep the hero and heroine and continuous peril. The difference is that the stakes in a thriller are usually much higher. The protagonist is driven to do more than save himself -- or herself -- the storyline may involve a threat to the country, to our way of life, to Christianity, or even to the whole world.

Legal thrillers are thrillers set in courtrooms, or involving strong legal themes. They probably should be called legal suspense novels, because many revolve around the legal challenges faced by one character. Similarly, medical thrillers build suspense in a hospital or laboratory setting. Christian intrigue is a fairly small category that is often grouped with suspense. This is the time of the spy novel -- and similar fights of fancy --set in international locations and filled with secret agents and derring-do.

Because there are several successful Christian thriller writers, and because the market is limited, I don't recommend first-time novelist tackle the sub genre -- unless you are confident that you have especially good writing skills and can tell an extra compelling story.

Once again, I hope you've enjoyed reading about the different genres and what makes them the genre they are. I ask for forgiveness if any of the words come out misspelled or crazy sounding as I sometimes use my Dragon Naturally Speaking and it doesn't always understand my Southern accent. LOL


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