Diana Renn: Motive. We mystery writers and readers are alert to it in criminals. Someone commits a crime, in life or in fiction, and we almost immediately wonder: why? Understanding motive puts us on the path to clues, or to catching the culprit, and we begin to solve the puzzle. But it's also important to think about an investigator's motive -- or motivation -- and that's the issue I'm sliding under the microscope today. Why is the sleuth getting involved in the case? If it's an adult mystery and the sleuth is in law enforcement, or a PI, it's probably just in the job description. And even so, there's likely some inner drive to solve the mystery or to serve justice. If it's an adult mystery and the sleuth or stumbles into the mystery, the writer may have to work harder to justify involvement.
And if it's a mystery for young people, and the sleuth is certainly an amateur, this becomes an even trickier issue. A child or teen sleuth may be breaking parental or school rules to get to the bottom of a case, and possibly even breaking the law (for example, driving without a license to flee an attacker; or hacking into a computer to get information on a suspect). The stakes seem higher with kids involved. Adults have to be pretty much clueless or gone to give young sleuths room to operate, and these young sleuths have to be pretty committed to the cause to risk the penalties they might incur. Yet successful kids' mysteries seem to present sleuths who have greater motivation than "I love a good mystery." Some motivations I've come across in recent reading:
- A family member or friend of the sleuth has been framed, is accused of a crime, is in danger, is personally impacted by a crime.
- The sleuth has been framed, accused of a crime, or put in danger.
- The sleuth must prove his or her worth in the face of great skepticism.
- The sleuth has screwed up, and solving the mystery will redeem him or her in some way.
- The sleuth needs to save someone or something (a life, a reputation, a family business, a school, a legacy
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