Despite the fact that I've always wanted to be a writer and that I always knew that someday I would realize that dream, I've always been amazed at the fact that I became a writer. Not just a writer but, of all things, a writer of mysteries.
I never imagined myself to be organized enough to write a mystery.
One look at my desk--indeed, a look at my personal effects and life in general--organization seems to be the last thing I consider important. I'm often the writer who has to ask to borrow a pen in order to sign a book (yes, I have.)Yet, if you read a lot of mysteries, you'll find that one has to have some organizational skills in order to plan a perfect murder (on paper, of course!)
Mysteries always seemed so daunting to write, perhaps because some of the first few mysteries I ever read (back in my early teens) were Agatha Christie novels. Hercule Poirot, her fictional detective, was the epitome of organization, "order and method", as he was fond of saying. Only he could tie together such obscure clues as bottles of tanning lotion, a book on voodoo, the sound of a tub being emptied, and use split-second timing (and a tampered-with watch) to pull off a murder and almost unbreakable alibi ("Evil Under the Sun", in case you're wondering.) And to be able to line up the clues in such a way that they made perfect sense--well, to Poirot anyway--seemed to me a task suited only to a ultra-organized, super-intelligent writer. Not to me.
Of course, I realize now that writing mystery does take some thought and preparation and it really isn't any harder to write than, say, a romance. In reality, almost every story, every novel, is a mystery.
The mystery may be as simple as "Who murdered the victim and why?" or "Will the lovers find each other and live happily ever after?" It may be as complex as "Will the evil genius's plan for taking over the world work and why does he want to do so?" or "Why does the main character have so many issues with her mother/daughter/ex-husband and will they make peace and live reasonably happily ever after?" Even children's books have an element of mystery... "What DOES happen when you give a mouse a cookie?"
What it all boils down to is that the writer--whether mystery, romance, western, chick-lit, or whatever--has to make sure that the reader is satisfied (even if they're not particularly happy with the way the story turned out.) The story has to make sense, the characters' motivations have to be real (at least to the characters themselves), and the questions, the "why"s, have to be answered. We read to discover the solution to the mystery behind the story.
And we write because, at least in one facet of our lives, we like to know where everything is. Including a pen.