Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Mysterious Element

I am a fan of the mysterious element in a novel.

A big fan! HUGE!!!

I think there's something to be said for having something in your story that isn't known to the reader, something your reader might WANT to know, so he/she keeps turning the pages.

Yes, we need to have a likable main character, yes we need to have an interesting plot that makes sense, and yes we must have all of those other important things that make a story good.

BUT, why not have a mysterious something-something too? It adds to the tension, which is a good thing. A very good thing, in my opinion.

Here's what I've done in my own books:

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME - How did Jackson die? Why does Ava feel guilty about it?

FAR FROM YOU - Is Victoria dead or alive?

CHASING BROOKLYN - Why is Gabe haunting Brooklyn?

THE DAY BEFORE - What is going on with Cade?

But we can look at other books too:

13 REASONS WHY by Jay Asher - Why is Clay one of the reasons Hannah decided to end her life?

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson - What exactly happened to Melinda?

LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green - What's going on with Alaska? And later, did she really ????? (in case you haven't read it, I won't be specific, but if you haven't read it, why the heck not!?)

My WIP has a few different mysterious elements. I don't know if I'm trying to do too much, but I'm hoping at the end, when it all comes together, it will be satisfying to the reader. Before that point, I realize I risk frustrating my reader. It's a fine line, I suppose.

What do you think? Do you think a mysterious element can add something special to a book? Do you think it's hard to pull off successfully?


  1. I agree with you - absolutely. Great characters, good plot are needed, but "the mysterious element".....THAT is what keeps readers turning the pages. That is what grips them. I am a huge fan of the mysterious element, myself!

  2. Isn't that why we read a story - to find out that something-something that has us hooked? Frustration is only when the conclusion comes along and the answer doesn't.

  3. Totally agree, it is why I love to read. I love mysteries but I have to say that mysterious element in all stories just seals the 'wow' deal for me.

    I thought the element in Far From You was great but my all time favourite is I heart you, you haunt me.

  4. I love mysterious elements! But yes, it is a fine line between confusing readers and making them flip pages. I've confused a few critique partners in my time, for sure. :D