Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not so hidden agenda

The setting for "Mayhem in Miniature," due August 5, is a senior residence facility … what my parents called an Old Age Home. The plot revolves around a senior who's a murder suspect, and all her friends in the home who offer the police information about the night of the murder.

What they claim to have seen seems incoherent and unlikely, so it's immediately discounted, but—and this is not a spoiler at all—they all turn out to be right.

One "message" I'm sending is that we shouldn't tune out old people! [Did I feel this way before I was old? I don't remember.]

For the periodic table mysteries, I wanted to present some basic science for the general reader, without being heavy handed. I hope it worked.

So my real question here is, do you as writers have "hidden agenda" in your books? Do you as readers want that? Resent that?

I've heard observations like "I write (or read) just for entertainment, not to learn anything."

But are they mutually exclusive? Don't we learn best while we're enjoying ourselves?


Sheila Connolly said...

I think you've pinpointed one of the major challenges cozy writers face. Of course we want to entertain (or the readers won't come back), and our plots have to be logical and resolved, and our characters have to be appealing and sympathetic.

But does this mean that we can't sneak a "message" in there somewhere? I certainly hope it's possible, since I keep slipping in little comments about, for example, feminism (since my heroines are single women, and independent).

But I also try to incorporate broader themes, like community--how do you find a place for yourself in a new town? How do you decide where you belong? Or relationships (not always romantic)--how do you connect with other people?

So I do hope there's room for a message in our books, as long as we don't hit people over the head with it.

Anonymous said...

Hidden or not, keep them coming. It's great to pick up a tidbit or two (even more)and I feel smarter for it. I also like that insight into the author.....xoxoxo

Kathryn Lilley said...

My protagonist develops a concern and an awareness of issues as the story progresses, which are related to, but not the same as, her agenda of busting the bad guy. I admit to spiking a couple of those issues with ones I care about!

Terri Thayer said...

I think books are sad things without some kind of agenda. It's more of a point of view or theme than a lecture. We've all got beliefs that underpin our stories.

Camille Minichino said...

I like the idea that it's a point of view ... the world view of the protagonist.

Ellen said...

Sometimes I have a hidden agenda. Sometimes, I'm just having fun. And sometimes I have fun with my hidden agenda.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I had several "hidden agendas" or "hidden agendae?" when I wrote Paper, Scissors, Death. I wanted to show how a woman can lose her self-esteem only to regain it when her back is against the wall. I wanted to illustrate how important our women friends are...how they nurture, help and teach us. I wanted to talk about how having money can help you stay safe in ways you can't imagine unless you've been without and scared. I hope I managed all that. I know I tried.

Camille Minichino said...

I can't wait, Joanna! I'm glad it's not TOO much longer.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Oh, golly, me too. If I weren't so emotional about my son going to college, I'd be even more excited/stressed/thrilled/panicked.
I feel like when I was in the high school marching band the night before a big performance!