Well, today I got hate mail.
Not exactly HATE mail; more like, STRONGLY DISLIKE mail, as in "Your serial story, Charades, stinks." It's par for the course, and I've, sniff, dried my tears and will, sob, carry on with my life as best as I, hiccup, possibly can under the circumstances. Okay, seriously, though, it's fine; everyone's entitled to their opinion and this is what writers contend with all the time. The reason I raise this is not to complain about negative feedback; it's to point out a really fascinating observation I've made lately.
There's a psychology to everything--to the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the things we say and think. It's nifty being married to a psychologist because my husband often shares with me the psychological side to things, but my mind tends to gravitate to psychology as well.
When I set out to write Charades, I wanted to explore a new genre: mystery. I've never written a mystery before and I thought it would be really neat. Aside from the fact that I needed to have my main character disappear in order to deflect attention away from a very sensitive topic, abuse, I thought it would be fun and intriguing for people to be kept wondering, as the story developed, Where is Mottie Schneider?
Yet the mystery was a very side-plot to the story; the real bricks-and-mortar of Charades is the exploration of a family looking perfect on the outside but struggling on the inside; of a therapist who can save the world but cannot save herself and her children; of turning to food to stuff down emotion; of the balance in female friendships. All these threads are woven into Charades in what I feel is a fascinating, very authentic way. And yet, today's letter-writer and some others have complained about the story saying it is dragging out, it has no action, it's "disappointing."
Well, I think I've pin-pointed why. I think I've discovered that mysteries don't work well in serialized stories the way they work in a contiguous book. Why? Because a certain type of reader will be unable to focus on the rest of the plot, honing in ONLY on the mystery. She will flip to the end of every chapter without even reading the whole story, intent only on knowing, Where is Mottie Schneider? She loses the forest for the one, suspenseful tree! And that's truly unfortunate, considering the fact that it's a wonderful, complex, interesting forest!
Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it. What say you?
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.