Friday, March 8, 2013

Christie Power

Friday is International Women's Day. I'm not about to launch into a political discussion, but I will say cheers to the ladies of literature, past, present, and future, and to one in particular who continues to inspire me through the wit and cleverness of her stories.


Dame Agatha Christie doesn't look easy to surprise. That's probably because the Queen of Crime knows all the tricks. How many of these plot devices (sourced from the Christie Mystery website) do you have in your toolbox?

  • Red Herrings. A writer must be fair. Introducing vital information on the last page is just plain mean. But who says you can't mess with a reader's mind a little?

  • The Unlikely Suspect. A murderous child? An unreliable narrator? Agatha Christie was a master of using the values and assumptions of the reader to construct some excellent twists.

  • The Disguise. Does sticking on a fake moustache fool anyone nowadays? Maybe not, but a change of identity - real or metaphorical - is a crafty way of hiding, and eventually revealing secrets.

  • A Closed Setting. The comings and goings of real people in the real world can muddy the character pool, especially in a whodunit. So what do you do? Try sticking the players on a boat, or a train, or in a big house in the country.

  • The Trap. It's not easy to prove guilt. It may not be standard criminal procedure, but contriving a scene is a nifty way to expose a phony.

  • The Illusion. A suspect may fake his or her own death, or employ a distraction, or frame someone else, or discredit a vital witness. Who's telling the truth? And who's telling big, fat porkies?

  • The Alliance. What do we really know about a relationship between two people? Lovers may appear to the world as enemies. Siblings might pretend to be strangers. Two heads can be trickier than one.

  • Final Justice. Obviously, nobody told Agatha Christie that bad people must be caught and sent to prison forever. According to Wikipedia, the murderer escapes in six of Agatha Christie's stories, and dies in several others.

So who's your favourite female author, and what is it about her writing or stories that you admire?




12 comments:

  1. Love this post, Erica and what a wonderful author to highlight. You've motivated me to put one of her books on my to read list.

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    1. Thanks, Julie. I guess I'm a bit old-fashioned, considering the modern talent, but the secret sleuth in me can't resist a good Poirot or Miss Marple story.

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  2. I just love the Poirot series- and loved how you highlighted these plot devises! In most of these I can pick out a particular scene or book (or movie)where she used it so well. Wonderful post!

    I have so many favorite female authors in many different genres, it's so hard to pick! Great question that I'm going to think about. :)

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    1. Sorry about that. I posed a question no one should ever have to answer. Thanks for dropping in, Lexie.

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  3. Unfortunately, I can’t pick just one favorite female author so I will pick four. Julie, Erica, Karlene and Swifty. Love you all!

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    1. That darn blue shirt has a lot to answer for.

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    2. Yes he does!

      I have nominated you for The Liebster Award. I can't wait to get your answers to the questions. I love the way your mind thinks. Thank you for all of the help and your ability to write is amazing. Thank you for everything.

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    3. Did you just include Swifty with female authors? It must be the shirt, Erica.

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    4. That's what I thought, but considering it's Rob, it could be just a cerebral malfunction.

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    5. I take great delight in the mysteries of my brain and its lack of power. However, mentioning Swifty was no mistake.

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  4. Erica,

    Once again, I learn from you. I will be able to use many of these devices, so I'm cutting and pasting to another Word Document titled "More Great Info from Egg, #45."

    My favorite female author is Annie Proulx. I've been thinking a lot lately about The Shipping News, which I read years ago. I love those authors who capture a place and its characters.

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    1. I read The Shipping News not long ago. The style of narrative really threw me at first, but once I got used to it, the skill behind the writing just blew me away. What a talent.

      I can see why her style would appeal to you. You don't exactly stick to traditional composition yourself... thankfully.

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