October 8, 2017

The Scooby-Doo Problem: Expectations and Rewards in the World of Murder Mystery | The 16th Academy Blog Tour

I'm pleased to be welcoming Spencer Yacos, author of The 16th Academy, to the blog today! He's written a really interesting guest post about murder mysteries with nods to Scooby-Doo and I am here for it. Plus, The 16th Academy sounds really good. You can find out a little more about The 16th Academy & Spencer after you read his post! Without further ado, I'm going to let Spencer take it away.

The cartoon Scooby-Doo really messed with my expectations as a kid. For one thing, it made me think masked criminals lurking in banks and abandoned gold mines were going to be a much bigger problem than they turned out being. The big issue, though, was that the old show was so offensively predictable that even eight year old me – a kid who thought chocolate came from brown cows and the Easter bunny gave me less candy every year because he didn’t like me – could figure it out. It was always the first guy Scoobs and the gang ran into. That kindly old sheriff who warned them about the old haunted theme park? Yeah, turns out he was the cackling clown phantom the entire time. This predictability quickly wised me up to other overused tropes in the mystery genre. Is one character being suspicious and ominous in the background? Yeah he’s not actually the culprit. Some random object mentioned by a character at the beginning of the story for no reason? Yeah, it’s going to be the key to the whole mystery. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with picking up on these trends, but if you solve the mystery too early or figure out who the bad guy is through process of elimination, you’re not getting the full experience a mystery should give you.

The 16th Academy book cover
This is all a shame since one of my favorite things to do once I finish a mystery is go back and reread parts with the “bad guy” or “killer” in them before the reveal. Picking up on those little hints or bits of foreshadowing is one of my favorite experiences with mystery. It can’t happen, of course, if you figure everything out before you should. This thought process was going through my head as I wrote The 16th Academy. Although the book is more of an action thriller than straight mystery, the quest to find the traitor and saboteur amongst the team members is the major source of intrigue in the novel. When writing for the traitor I made sure to give them not only a strong motive, but tried my best to keep the reader guessing about their identity until the very end. In fact, the chapter where the reveal happens may very well be my favorite in the entire book. With layers of distrust and paranoia radiating from each of the characters, my goal was to take everything the reader thought they knew about mystery and throw it right back in their face, violently and repeatedly. Is this one character a red herring because their motives are so obvious? Or is that just what I want you to think?

With this added layer of intrigue I also tried my best to smarten up the characters investigating the mystery to begin with. One of those old adages for writing mystery is to always make your characters dumber than the reader, so the reader can feel smart when they figure things out. In The 16th Academy I tried my best to make the characters just as smart as the reader when it came to deciphering clues – I think it makes them better and more easily relatable characters as a whole. After all, if your main character can’t figure out some obvious clue, it doesn’t make the reader automatically smart for knowing the answer – it just makes the guy they’re reading about look really dumb. In The 16th Academy there’s constant banter back and forth with the students about key plot points and what they mean. The reader is always in the thick of it – putting together clues to solve the latest murder,and listening to all the survivors speak as they try to unravel the many conspiracies surrounding Eastway Academy. From the characters to the plot to the killer themselves, The 16th Academy defies all expectations with more twists, turns, and swerves than you can shake a Scooby Snack at.

The 16th Academy by Spencer Yacos
Publisher: Cedar Fort Inc.
Publication Date: December 13, 2016

Davy Prince is a lot like other 16-year-olds: he plays video games, talks to his friends about girls, and is looking forward to graduation. But one thing makes him very different: he’s attending Eastway Academy, a shadowy organization that sends teenage special agents on dangerous missions around the world. Davy, a master pretender, already struggles with the ethics of his team’s missions, and their next assignment will make everything even more complicated.


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