by John Urban
Like many readers across the globe, I have been glued to every report and update on Malaysia Flight 370. My heart goes out to the families who are enduring this unexplained tragedy. At the same time, I cannot help but think of the unfolding events from the perspective of a writer.
At some point, we will likely understand what has taken place, but today the events remain a mystery. Stepping back to look at this story from the perspective of a mystery writer, I see many familiar elements.
First, any good mystery is based on a plausible occurrence leveraged on the question “what if?” Unfortunately, the tale of Flight 370 is not only plausible, it’s factual.
Second, the best mysteries are written with a series of reversals – the technique of turning the plot in a new direction just as a fact pattern suggests a likely outcome. Flight 370 has been all about these types of twists. A crash in shallow waters, high-jacking by passengers with stolen passports, possible pilot suicide, the prospect of the plane landing to be re-used later for some bad deed, the possibility of the plane flying around on autopilot…it’s been one reversal after another.
Third, any good book requires a level of empathy for the characters. There is no shortage of empathy in the case of Flight 370, in no small part because it is so easy to imagine ourselves as the helpless victims of this type of tragedy.
Fourth, the element of suspense is a key to any strong mystery. As we know, we are seeing plenty of suspense taking place every day as we wait to hear more.
A mystery has two other key elements: a protagonist and an antagonist. In the case of Flight 370, we still don’t know who the villain is or who the hero is/heroes are. We have heard news accounts that provide details of some of those aboard the aircraft, but we have no conclusions. Mystery books, on the other hand, are much clearer when it comes to identifying the good guys and bad guys.
If only Flight 370 were a great tale, as opposed to a real event. If only it were a new release by a thriller writer. Unfortunately, the underlying fact is that this mystery is real, not fiction. So too is the loss. Despite the unknown ending that awaits, we hope for the best and say a prayer for the passengers of Malaysia Flight 370 and their families.
This one would have been better left to fiction.Share on Facebook