In the short history of this blog, I've tended to stick with recommending what I think is the best of the best in short crime fiction with a focus on the web. Today I'm going to stray from that formula and talk a little shop.
Specifically, what The Most Important Thing is for me. Many writers go for character or plot. Joe Konrath, over at a Newbie's Guide to Publishing, says story comes before all. A lot of other writers (specifically creative writing teachers) claim character is king.
And I can't argue with either of those positions. Clearly a good plot and interesting characters are required for readable fiction.
But I will add to it. There's something else that I think almost every good story has: mood. Yeah, it's a pretty nebulous term. Sort of slips through the fingers. But I'll take a go at explaining what I mean.
Mood can be expressed through setting. Take Ray Bradbury's clinic in suspense, The Whole Town Is Sleeping. It's no coincidence that the climax of the piece is when Lavinia runs across a bridge over a ravine in the middle of the night. Eerie setting, eerie mood.
But it's often more than setting. I guess it's the ability for the author to create a world for the reader to climb into. So there needs to be consistency within that world in order for the reader to become lost in it. Whether you're reading for escape, to feel less alone, or to understand other people better, creating another world is essential.
What got me thinking about this subject was Gary Lovisi's two brilliant short stories posted over at ATON, both oozing with mood and depraved, cool worlds for the reader to jump into. These are perfect examples of noir--even by Otto Penzler's rather narrow definition of the genre.
So, what's The Most Important Thing for you?