The Role of Mystery in Fiction An editor's take on the value of mystery in all genres of fiction

by Peter Gelfan

Unlike nonfiction, fiction’s motor doesn’t run on information, but on its opposite: mystery.

I’m not talking about mystery as a genre, but as the essential quality in all fiction that cultivates curiosity, stimulates the imagination, invites participation, and generally keeps readers reading. Every step of the reader’s journey should be fraught with questions, not only about how the story turns out, but about character, motive, backstory, and—perhaps most importantly—what he or she would do in the hero’s or villain’s […]