Mystery Readers Only

Guest: Michele Drier-Do You Want to Know Everything?

READER, PLEASE NOTE-This post includes a give-away of one of Michele’s books! See the bottom of post for how to enter!

By Michele Drier

Like a lot of things in life, mystery readers are divided into two camps—those who love description and those who don’t.

It’s not that those readers who don’t like a description don’t want ANY. After all, it’s nice to understand that the setting for the new cozy takes place on a seacoast when the protagonist spends most of her time on the sand.

 It could be the desert. Towns east of Palm Springs are called the cove communities, not because there’s any water in sight but because the mountains form “coves,” dips or valleys between the rocky spines that merge into the desert floor. These are alluvial fans, formed of soil washed down the steep mountains over the centuries and they’re relatively flat and easy to build on.

Description helps us “see” the places, the characters, the action, but there are some readers who prefer to “see” these things in their mind. How many of us “saw” Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum books as someone not like Debbie Reynolds? Or pictured 6’5” Jack Reacher as someone taller than Tom Cruise (5’7”)?

As a mystery reader who cut her teeth on Nancy Drew (ahhh, The Secret of the Old Clock!), I’ve always painted pictures of the characters and the settings in my head. I knew what Nancy and Ned and her father the judge and her car looked like, but I don’t remember if Carolyn Keene offered much description in the books.

In my own books, I don’t write much description. Amy Hobbes of the Newspaper Mysteries series, wears her shoulder-length hair in a ponytail and dresses in skirts and over-blouses. Roz Duke of the Stained Glass Mysteries series twists her hair into a topknot and skewers it with a pencil—so she’ll have one handy when she needs to sketch something.

And then there are the Kandesky vampires. Both the men and women are rich, beautiful, shop for clothes in Paris and Milan. The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles is currently ten books long, so each book I’ve added a bit more description, both for the characters and the settings, which are primarily in Eastern Europe.

My aim in writing description is to include information that moves the plot along, but occasionally this runs afoul of some of my critique partners. Just like all readers, the critique group is pretty evenly divided between those who want a lot of description and those who want the bare minimum. I synthesize the comments, adding some description here, tweaking some there, shooting to reach a spot where both types of readers feel comfortable.

How about you? Do you prefer knowing all the details of your favorite character and the milieu he/she moves in? Or do you prefer more of an outline—how tall, hair color and cut to the action?

Michele Drier is a fifth generation Californian. During her career in journalism she won awards for investigative series. She is the past president of Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime and co-chair for Bouchercon 2020.

Michele Drier

Her Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries, set in the California Delta area, are Edited for Death, (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review), Labeled for Death and Delta for Death. A stand-alone, Ashes of Memories was published May 2017.

Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, named the best paranormal vampire series of 2014 by PRG, continues with book ten, SNAP: Red Bear Rising released 2018.

The first book of her new series, Stained Glass Mysteries, Stain on the Soul, was released in 2019 and she is currently working on the second book in the series, Tapestry of Tears.

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One commenter on this blog will be selected to receive a Kindle copy of Stain on the Soul!