Can you imagine getting the chance to ACTUALLY hunt a murderer?
Much less meeting a real empath? Someone who can really feel other people’s secret emotions and pain?
I don’t know about you, but I’d feel…
Scared, maybe, sure. Especially if you found them.
But at the start, at least … excited!
I’ve read so many mystery stories, sure (I even write them). But this, THIS would be REAL. It’s really happening! I’m actually chasing a bad guy! Wow!
This reaction may sound obvious. But how often do you see it in stories?
Where’s the Excitement?
In the mysteries I read, the detective tends to fall on a spectrum between “hard-boiled” and “tepid”. Sure, the murder mystery itself holds my attention … sometimes … and they’ll eventually get in some kind of danger, I suppose … but it could all just be so much more fun…
Maybe I’m just missing the good stuff. If you know some good enthusiastic detectives, please leave a comment below!
Not just for me, but all your fellow suffering readers who’ll see this. 😄 Seriously.
For me, enthusiasm is a major secret to a fun story.
Meet Pete, Detective Enthusiast
I’ve been writing this Empath Detective mystery series for two years now, and if I had to pick one element that’s critical for story success, enthusiasm would win. If your characters don’t care, how will the reader?
In Book One, Murder Feels Awful, Pete gets excited right from the start.
He’s a New Age type and he believes in empaths, sure, but he never thought he’d actually run into an empath who was just taking a mountain hike … then collapsing in empathic pain, just before a nearby glider crashed…
Nor did Pete expect that a real-life empath would turn out to be this gruff loner who 1) says there’s no such thing as empathy and 2) tells him to get lost.
Myself, I’d find my own way through the forest at that point. But Pete, being Pete, just chases the empath (Mark Falcon) down the mountain…
He was speed walking now, practically jogging. Pebbles were scattering. Without turning around, he said, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“Like Star Wars!” I said. “You’re super strong with the Force!”
“I don’t believe in that crap.”
“What do you mean you don’t believe it? You just did it! You had this total aura connection with some lady who was dying in a plane!”
“She wasn’t just dying, she was killed!” he snapped.
I gasped. I mean I literally sucked air.
Ahead, still hustling away, he glanced my way and muttered, “Crap.”
“SHE WAS MURDERED??” I yelled, and yes, it was all caps. “How do you know? Do you know who did it? Are you going to help the police? Ceci’s sister is a cop—”
“Look, kid, I’m not some kind of crime-fighting Jedi empath!” he barked over his shoulder. “I’m a broke web developer!”
“You’re broke? Really?” I said. “Perfect!”
At this, he finally stopped. Me, I had a lot of momentum going, and the pebbles complicated my braking system. I would have crashed on my face, but he grabbed my arm with a grip like stone.
He scrutinized my face, then sighed and rolled his eyes. “No way,” he said. “The last thing I need is a housemate.”
I hate to admit it, but I pretty much squealed.
“OH MY GOSH YOU JUST READ MY MIND.”
He looked startled, surprised even. Like even he hadn’t expected to get quite so clear a vibe.
Then he frowned and walked away again. “I didn’t read anything!” he called. “I inferred. You were talking about it all before, you’re trying to move in with that girl!”
“You totally read my mind! And I didn’t even feel it!”
“I don’t read minds,” he snapped, without looking back. “That happens like once a year!”
He froze. And I knew, just from his taut back, that he knew, that I knew, that he knew, that he’d just crossed the Rube Goldberg. I mean, Ruby Canyon. Whatever, the river thing with Caesar.
Slowly he turned back.
I was so excited I was bouncing on my toes, in a totally subtle and imperceptible way.
But Pete’s enthusiasm goes even beyond empathy and catching murderers. He even loves the writing itself.
When they’re deep in another case for Book Two, Murder Feels Bad, he can’t help telling Mark he’s still writing Book One…
“I’m writing the ebook as fast as I can!” I said. (Weird … now it’s all written, Murder Feels Awful, and you’ve already read it. That is so weird.)
Mark grimaced. “I forgot about the ebook.” He said it like it tasted like a rancid umeboshi plum. Not that he’s really into health food.
“You said I could!” I whined. “As long as I saved some of the money for the mortgage!”
Valley Visions is super meaningful, but it’s hourly and it doesn’t always quite cover my share of things. Especially if we get busy on a case, and I start missing a bunch of hours. Like I was right now.
Mark shook his head. “That whole novel thing is going to bite us in the ass.”
“Relax!” I said. “It has a big disclaimer that it’s totally fiction! I even changed a couple names.”
“Genius,” he said. “Never mind, what am I worried about? Someone would actually have to read it.”
“Hey!” I said. “Did you see the cover? It’s going to be awesome! Plus … whoa … this case could be Book Two! Like a series!”
He rubbed his eyebrows. “Can we not go there?”
True, the more Pete enthuses, the more we appreciate Mark’s laconic counterpoint.
It’s a classic dynamic, but I hardly ever see it in mysteries (with awesome exceptions, like Psych). So much fun.
And fun, really, is my author secret for today. Enthusiasm.
If you’re story’s flagging, give it a try. A psyched character just might save your tale.
Of course, there may be a valid reason why so few detectives seem to shimmer with this kind of glow. It’s hard to be a newbie enthusiastic AND be a pro at actually … solving the mysteries.
This suggests a whole other author secret that makes these books so unique … but how about saving that secret for tomorrow? Because it actually connects to a much broader question …
How do you make murder mysteries … funny?
See you tomorrow! Happy reading!
P.S. Did you notice I hardly linked to my book titles? That’s because if you haven’t bought them yet, you might want to wait a few days… a special promotion might be coming your way… (and if you HAVE bought them, you’re amazing, and thank you, and you should DEFINITELY keep an eye out for the special promotion bonus that’ll be yours free…)
P.P.S. Also, I wasn’t kidding earlier — if you know any great enthusiastic detectives please comment! Your fellow readers need you … starting with me… 😄