1. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2016
    Messages:
    252
    Likes Received:
    109

    Mystery Setting-Driven Detective Fiction in an Unconventional Setting?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by isaac223, Oct 31, 2017.

    In attempting to outline a fictional, Victorian-esque setting for a murder mystery series thematically reminiscent of "Golden Age" detective fiction, I found that creating a legitimate murder mystery series in a setting that isn't conventional for the genre and/or an already established real-world setting is quite hard. For one, there's the nagging feeling that every mystery needs to somehow tie into the relevant-to-the-overarching-narrative lore and history of the setting.

    In case the specifics of the genre are needed to help me to the best of your abilities, I provided a rough outline of what I do have decided upon in the setting.

    The setting, inspired by the Victorian era of Europe, is ruled under an oligarchical regime. The governing members of this oligarchy are the heads of each of four ruling families. While each family has immediate, territorial reign over their respective "states", transterritorial, interterritorial, international and intranational affairs are addressed by the oligarchy as a whole.

    The currently reigning families' names are Suthmeer, Angrove, Belefontaire and Higharch. The Higharch family is still, so to speak, in its infancy as their rule was only recently enstated to compensate for the stripping of the Nix family of their rights to reign after the house was indicted of the crime of associating with an international crime syndicate. As all families disgraced in such a way are, the "Nix" family name was banished from polite usage and they were rebranded "Lazarus", in hopes that the name will bring them God's blessing and return their shame and pride.

    Our sleuth is an enigma in that he doesn't rightly exist; his existence isn't recorded in any official file until his appeal to the Higharch family to instate a new branch of peacekeepers. While the concept of forensic sciences was developing in strides, it was still in its infancy, and many police officers weren't trained to interpret the raw information forensics provided them so much as they were simply trained to just know, apprehend and attack if necessary. Our "sleuth" is the founding member of a branch of police specializing in the collection and interpretation of such evidence, with the blessing of the newly established head of the Higharch family against quite almost everyone else's better judgement against it.

    His name, publicly, is Ezra Hawkins. However, in reality, "Ezra" is the pseudonym adopted by Reginald Lazarus, formerly Reginald Nix.

    Follow-up question for anyone willing to help, while I'd like for the series to be thematically derivative of "Golden Age" Murder Mysteries, I'd like to not spend so much time attempting to impress people with how intelligent my sleuth is, and as such the structure of the mystery solving will be wholly different. Rather than the sleuth picking up on abstract and admittedly broad, occasionally circumstantial and often inconclusive evidence to come to a miraculously insane yet totally correct conclusion, I'd very much like for him to have to extrapolate from information provided from other people more; having to share, talk out and even debate points with his assistant or statements from suspects and witnesses and often be totally wrong and only be able to reach the proper conclusion with such sequences. Of course, this structure is somewhat based on the structure of the Miles Edgeworth Investigation spin-off series of the Ace Attorney murder mystery visual novel series. Thematically and contextually however, how would something like this be translated to novel/novella/short story form?
     
  2. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    5,115
    Likes Received:
    3,192
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    If I understand you correctly, you have created a Victorian-like setting that's...someplace else. And I think that may be a conceptual problem if you are attempting to align with typical mysteries. Historical mysteries - that is, mysteries set in a historical period - are a vibrant subgenre. I think your statement above, "every mystery needs to somehow tie into the relevant-to-the-overarching-narrative lore and history of the setting", is very true, and that could be a problem for you, as your setting is not historical, but rather is a fantasy setting that resembles a historical setting. Instead of picking a time and place and conforming your setting to it, you have to concoct one of your own. And even if you are duplicating, say, Victorian London, you still have to describe it as one would describe Trantor or Middle Earth. The aspiring commercial author in me sees this as a major complicating factor that could, in fact, detract from the impact of your story.

    I'm attracted to the concept of your sleuth as you've described him, and you will need to spend some time developing the character of his assistant. Your description almost sounds like police procedurals, which are my thing. If it were me, I'd be focusing on the dynamics of the interactions your sleuth has, rather than the somewhat intriguing backstory you've invented for him.

    If it were me.
     
  3. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2016
    Messages:
    252
    Likes Received:
    109
    So what I gather is that I should focus more on detaching my setting from the description "Victorian-era", and focus more on developing it as its own, independent, individual setting? That sounds like very helpful advice, thank you!

    Unfortunately, no, it isn't a police procedural, really... I could never enjoy the structure of police procedurals over "Golden Age" Detective Fiction. But I love the structure of the Ace Attorney series, which is the progeny of the focus on forensic science of police procedurals and the wild lines of logic and deduction from "Golden Age" Detective Fiction. It's a shame the first two games were admittedly underwhelming and somewhat bad respectively, because it really picked up from the third game and it turned people off of the semester before they could get there.

    Anyway, I digress. I love that structure and wanted to emulate it with the same level of complexity but also the same fairness that a lot of Golden Age Detective Fiction omitted in favor of impressing you with the sleuth's intelligence. But, ultimately, it takes a lot of liberties with forensic science and is much more like Detective Fiction structurally than procedurals. But it's a bizarre mix of both in some ways...



    Also, I'm flattered you like the idea of the sleuth. Of course, I want his relation to the banished "Lazarus" / "Nix" family to play into the overarching narrative. My idea is for the assistant to be a member of the newly instated Higharchs, as a matter of fact.

    But my issue is I don't know when or how to develop the setting through the mysteries and I don't know when or how to include an overarching narrative unless I separate the series into a number of short series of closely related mysteries that tie together into one conclusion like the arcs of a bloody shounen/seinen manga.
     
  4. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    5,115
    Likes Received:
    3,192
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Doing that would definitely allow you more leeway and would require less precise description.

    I think before you can decide how to develop the setting, you need to decide what (and where) that setting is. Name it and describe it to yourself. Then you can develop it normally in the context of your story.
     
  5. Lankle

    Lankle Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2017
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    27
    It might be worth checking out Lucy Worsley's documentary called 'A Very British Murder'. It outlines the history of the detective with very interesting facts about how the first sleuth stories came into being. You might find much to inform and inspire you.
    She is a legit historian but the programme is easy to watch.
     
  6. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2016
    Messages:
    252
    Likes Received:
    109
    A more passive approach to world building would be nice, but what about the overarching narrative? Surely, I can't make a whole series of related murder mysteries?
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice