What Readers Want

Agatho at Mysterious Matters, one of the more thoughtful yet acerbic mystery publishing blogs, is concerned of the disconnect between Editor and Reader. So (s)he has asked, much like the Beastie Boys, the eternal question:

So whatcha whatcha want?

Here’s my answer:

“I want well-written, character-driven fiction. I want to be hooked from the first line, and I do not want the flavor of the month, or stories so cemented in the genre that the tropes hold up the plot. If a character is well-defined, the plot will flow from the choices they make.

I prefer stories from the perspective of the victim or the victim’s family, or someone in a moral gray area. A criminal, an outsider, someone interesting. Not another amateur P.I. or even a cop unless there is something interesting and new brought to the table.
Procedurals rarely do it for me, with Tana French being the big exception, because her characters are so compelling.
Crime is everywhere. It is part of life. We overlook it every day- the accountant fudging the numbers for the boss, the violent neighbor with the slow-burning fuse, the girl at the strip club who gets picked up at the end of the night by the mobster who “owns” her.
We walk through a veil of human depravity every day, we blinder ourselves to it. I want stories that remove those blinders and make me angry that we tolerate it.”

What’s yours? I’d recommend you cut & paste your reply and post it at the MM blog as well. Make your voice heard.

And now, git down…

6 thoughts on “What Readers Want

  1. Mine is pretty much the same as yours. I don’t want a lot of violence and I never want to read about torture. If there has to be some, do it off stage. I don’t mind unlikable characters but there must be some explanation of it if they are to hold center stage. I am very tired of reading stories that begin with a gun or weapon in someone’s face. I would like to see more humor, but not the cozy sort. More the Charles Willeford variety. I don’t want to read whodunnits no matter what. I can read a PI story if the plot is interesting. Same with police procedurals. But mostly it comes down to great writing, characters, dialog, setting, story. I want it all. And I get it about five or ten times a year.

    • Yes, I’m with you. I try my best to keep the violence brief and brutal. I believe we’ve become desensitized to it, and I try to portray what it actually feels like to endure it, through my limited filter of experience.
      I’ll take any humor I can get, but you said it, I like the absurd, world-weary humor best.

  2. I’m in the same boat as you, Tom. For me, character is paramount. I also agree with Patti. Whodunnits bore the hell out of me. I enjoy humor of the dark variety and like when things are kept morally gray. I’m okay with violence, both brutal and subtle, as long as there are clear consequences and things don’t veer off into exploitation. Twist endings have to be fair, supported by subtext that is present throughout the story. Mostly, I just want to see work that is original and subverts the tired tropes and clichés.

  3. Well, I probably don’t belong here as I don’t read a lot of crime, but seeing as opinions were asked for… :-)

    Definitely character-driven, is what I look for, but without forgetting some kind of interesting bit of plot. Surely they can work together…? And speaking of characters. Make them suffer. But not in an expected way or gratuitously. And give’em romance. But not gratuitously. And good god don’t make them make the same mistakes over and over and over… and those romantic girls could care about what they are wearing without being a doormat! They can be tough without being heartless and unfeeling!! They can have some control without turning into a guy f’godsakes! Sorry, didn’t mean to lose it.

    And weird. There has GOT to be some weirdness! :-) You know, clouds that grow instead of dissipate, rocks that talk instead of fall apart, stuff like that.

    Apologies if I interrupted.

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