I’ve been addicted to murder mysteries since the age of six when I discovered the Nancy Drew series was far more intriguing than the adventures of Dick and Jane. My first manuscript, “Cindy Parker and the Haunted Mansion,” was written when I turned my third-grade spelling words into a sixteen-page novella. If my mother hadn’t made me go to bed at 8:30, who knows what kind of masterpiece I could have created. The teacher gave me an A plus and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be a mystery author.
My personal anti-depressant has always been to read a mystery by one of my favorite authors, a group of writers who not only devised a puzzle for me to solve, but also kept me laughing. They could turn the gloomiest day into pure sunshine. When I sat down to write my first novel, I had one goal in mind. To write an intriguing murder mystery that also provided plenty of giggles. Seems simple, right? NOT!
I discovered that it wasn’t that easy to mesh the suspense of a murder investigation with laugh-out-loud moments. The heroine can’t be blithely tripping over dead bodies right and left. While the premise of mid-life dating itself can provide laughs (ah, the true stories I could share) there is still a definite fear factor involved.
What if you don’t meet Mr. Right and instead meet Mr. Wrong?
How do authors keep their audience glued to their chairs and pages, wondering how the protagonist will elude the killer’s clutches? After ramping up the drama, will a funny remark give them an opportunity to smile and relax, or stop them cold?
It’s critical that readers identify with and root for the protagonist as she searches for the killer. She may be forced to do so to save her reputation or stay out of jail. It definitely helps if your protagonist is relatable to her readers. In Dying for a Date, when Laurel McKay is faced with a gun, she states, “I didn’t want to flee, I just wanted to pee.” I know I’m not the only member of the “hot flash” set who can relate to that.
There’s also the romance factor. How do you maintain conflict and tension between your protagonist and the investigating detective? Especially when he can’t decide if he should arrest the adorable soccer mom, or kiss her? The author needs to keep the audience engaged in the mystery yet still provide those moments that sizzle and sparkle with laughter.
My favorite use of situational humor are my chase scenes. Anyone can write a fast-paced chase, but I guarantee I’m the first author to write a scene with dueling backhoes. In Dying for a Dude, I crafted what one author termed as the funniest chase scene she’d ever read. You can’t go wrong with a scenario that includes a stagecoach, a runaway carriage, a motorcycle, and a horse that can jump over Mini-Coopers.
In my new release, Dying for a Diamond, Laurel embarks on a kayak trip that offers a few comic moments. Most detectives attempt to turn over clues. Only Laurel could turn over a suspect!
I would love to hear from both mystery readers and authors. Does anyone else enjoy a dose of humor with their homicide?