Kate White, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and the best-selling author of the Bailey Weggins mystery series, said she frequently reminds herself to write big and bold—to find the best way of expressing exactly what it is she wants to say to knock her readers’ socks off.
“I have a tendency to hold back with my writing,” she wrote, “be a little tentative about going big and bold.” She added that she doubted she was the only one.
I think that´s true and I think it relates to trying to please all the people all the time. Can´t be done, of course, but that doesn´t stop many of us from trying.
The idea of writing big and bold appeals to me in every way. I like the words themselves—big and bold—and I like the image those words conjure up for me. If I write big and bold, it’s possible that my words will impact people, make them think, encourage them to do their best, or inspire them to take courageous action.
But it´s far easier said than done because what speaks to one reader’s heart and mind doesn’t necessarily touch another at all. You know that old adage, One man’s meat is another man´s poison. Certainly that´s true in mysteries. To paraphrase, One reader´s “big and bold” isn´t another reader´s “big and bold.” The trick, I think, is knowing what´s big and bold to your target readers.
Julia Spencer-Fleming, who won the 2007 Nero Award, told me that in her new novel, I Shall Not Want (St. Martin’s Minotaur), she has an ungrammatical line that the copy editor tried to “clean up.” The line, which refers to an illicit kiss between the preacher and a congregant, reads: “In the church.”
Think about that! When readers of her Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries read one of the series, they know what they’re getting. Julia describes them as “novels of faith and murder for readers of literary suspense.” Big and bold in this context is: “In the church.”
As I write, I ask myself what´s big and what´s bold to my readers. I know that big and bold statements relate to large, often literary, themes that transcend a mystery and frequently reoccur in my series. Those themes include defining the boundaries in romantic relationships and the contrast between the isolation inherent in a rugged coastline, with its unrelenting ocean tides and deserted beaches and dunes, and Josie’s ongoing efforts to fit in.
As a writer, I know that there´s never only one way to say something, but for me, there´s one guiding principle—to write big and bold.