But how dark? And how stormy?
Are you writing a happy little murder mystery with no connection to the murderee and a sweet little lady detective who drops her knitting continuously as she bumbles through the trail? Or are you doing a gritty noir with a dark atmosphere and a sultry suspect?
I find I tend to write what I read. I don’t read a lot of happy mysteries. But I don’t like gritty either, there is a tendency to try to hard to impress upon the reader how “dark and real” it is. I remember one particular writer who decided her female detective, on her way up the stairs to talk to a suspect, should notice how the Great Dane in the yard had a “penis resembling a hot dog in a fuzzy bun.” I never read that author again–and I didn’t finish that book. There are different ways to create the proper atmosphere for the story you are writing. Personally, I am going to avoid any reference to animal genitalia.
I read a lot of dystopian futures, alternate reality, and paranormal books. While I don’t plan on writing paranormal or alternate reality (although, who knows!); I do absorb the atmosphere of these books. And it is reflected in my writing. When given a prompt, I do tend to think of a dark twist before anything else.
One thing to remember, however, is that not every story with dark actions need be done in the dark. Some of Stephen King’s most awful stories happen in bright daylight (Cujo comes to mind). While I love Poe’s atmospheres, sometimes the contrast of the bright with the dark action can be more powerful. Every one expects horrible things to happen at night. The surprise of terror on a bright sunny day can certainly grab your reader. And be more horrifying.
My favorite authors for mystery and atmosphere:
Edgar Allen Poe
Of course, I always enjoy a comic twist.
Just because the world is falling apart and people are falling dead, there is no reason to lose your sense of humor
And on the lighter side:
Who are your favorite mystery writers? Do you find that you reflect their style in your own writing?