Every Book Is A Mystery By Kami Kinard
I think I was in third grade when I discovered Nancy Drew on a bookshelf at my grandmother’s house. The book, Secret of the Old Clock, had been my mother’s, and it had a solid blue cover beneath a colorful dust jacket. As soon as I read it, I was hooked.
It was a thrilling moment, a week or so later, when my mother took me to the library and pointed out an entire bookcase FULL of Nancy Drew mysteries… a bookcase FULL of cheerful yellow spines… spines holding pages that would occupy me for hundreds of hours to come. I loved how smart Nancy was, and I loved turning the pages to find out the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW of each mystery.
Before too long, I had finished every book in the series. But at that same library, right next to the shelf of yellow spines, was a shelf of blue spines… the Hardy Boys books. So what if the main characters were boys instead of a girl? I’d realized that I loved reading mysteries. I didn’t care who the main characters were. I read every Hardy Boy mystery, then every Bobbsey Twin mystery. And when I lamented the completion of those, I found more old mystery books on my grandmother’s bookshelves, mysteries that were no longer in print, like the Beverly Gray series and the Cherry Ames mysteries. (Beverly was a newspaper reporter and Cherry was a nurse!)
By middle school I had read every mystery I could get my hands on. So then what?
Well, thankfully, I soon discovered that every book is a mystery! I fell into many, many well written books that kept me turning pages just as fast as those mystery books had. Because of course I wanted to know WHO Jo March would marry at the end of LITTLE WOMEN! And I needed to find out WHAT would happen to Julie when she ran away from her husband in JULIE OF THE WOLVES. I kept reading THE BLACK CAULDRON because I wanted to know WHEN Taran would find the escaped pig Hen Wen! I was curious about WHERE Bilbo Baggins’ quest would lead him in THE HOBBIT. And I wondered HOW the children in CHRONICLES OF NARNIA would defeat the White Witch. Later, when I read CATCHER IN THE RYE… I wanted to know WHY. WHY, WHY, WHY, WHY, WHY?
Now, as an author, I often find myself sitting at my keyboard asking myself “The Five Ws and One H” questions. If my main character feels like she needs to prove herself, then there has to be a reason for it. There has to be a WHY. If she is upset about a friendship, I need to know WHAT happened to her to make her upset. If she is going to overcome an obstacle, I need to know HOW she is going to do it. Everything that happens in a book has to happen for a reason. And If we authors get it right, then these reasons add up to characters who are believable – characters our readers care about enough to keep turning pages because they want to know WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW- just like in a mystery.
Every book is a mystery. But every character is too! Nancy Drew, Jo March, Holden Caulfield, and Bilbo Baggins taught me that. Today there are more characters than ever waiting to do the same for you – to draw you into their stores, to make you care about them enough to keep reading.
Open a book. Meet a character. Enjoy the mystery!
Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Project (Scholastic). Other than being a writer, she has been a camp counselor, a bookseller. a preschool teacher, and a high school teacher. You can learn more about Kami and her book at www.kamikinard.com. You can find her on Twitter as @kamikinard.