Previously, I'd never put much thought into how important the main character's reaction to a mystery, one that impacted them in some way, could be to a story. It was only when I'd received a phone call from a friend with a mystery of her own, that I stopped to consider it's effect. Does it change how the reader feels about the mystery? Is it relevant? Does it give the reader insight into the protagonist's personality? Does it help the reader care about the mystery?
If you are an author, see if the following mystery compels you to take a closer look at the reaction of your MC to the presenting mystery. As a reader, did the author of the current book you're reading make the emotional impact and connection between the MC, the mystery, and yourself?
* * *
Recently, a friend phoned me, the sound of her normally calm voice shaking over an incident that she couldn't explain. Since I knew her to be a logical person, I could see where the unexplained didn't fit into her world. I asked her to start at the beginning and tell me what had happened. In short, breathless sentences she relayed a benign beginning to her morning.
After other family members had left for work and school, she'd gone outside to shovel a fresh inch of powdery snow from her driveway, sidewalk, porch, and even the welcome matt. Wonderful, I thought, knowing that mine hadn't been cleared yet, but odd that she'd mentioned the matt. I encouraged her to go on.
When she'd finished shoveling, she went inside to take a quick shower before heading out to buy groceries. As she opened the front door, though, an icy blast of wind blew black bird feathers at her and into her home. She fought to brush them out of her face and hair, and off her clothes. They were everywhere. Startled, she tried to see where they'd come from, totally expecting to see a dead bird somewhere. Instead, she saw more dark feathers of different sizes covering her welcome matt, as though frozen to it. Her voice went up a notch as she explained that they hadn't been there when she'd come in from shoveling, so how'd they get there so fast? She'd slammed the door shut before more could fly inside. Gasping, she described to me the sight of the ragged black feathers scattered haphazardly on her light hardwood floor. Never before had she experienced anything like it. She still had goosebumps.
She didn't know why her hands had shook when she picked up the mess inside, but she'd decided whatever the reason, it might help to find an explanation. She'd walked outside through the garage to examine the scene where she then searched the protected porch area and along the front of her home. She couldn't find anything - no bird or animal tracks from a possible fox or coyote. Strangely, there was no blood either. It was creepy. It made no sense. Her voice was even higher as she asked me what I thought could have happened, repeating that she didn't understand how those feathers got there. I'd considered a hawk, but with the porch covering, it seemed unlikely. Her Ring camera hadn't captured any activity either. Finally, after hearing the continued panic from her, I acknowledged that we might never know and changed the subject. Her voice eventually came down to her normal pitch, and her sentences returned to her typical slower cadence.
* * *
I now realize that if my friend had not been so obviously upset about the feathers and how they'd mysteriously appeared, I might not have cared about the mystery as much. Because it upset her enough to be able to detect it over the phone, I cared as well. It made me wonder what else she was thinking. Did she think it was a curse? Did she think someone was messing with her, either as a funny prank or some cruel joke? The possibilities are endless. I can only conclude that, yes, the main character's reaction to the mystery is vitally important, providing numerous possible connections between the MC and reader.
-- M.A. Koontz