Monday 13 August 2018

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Awkward Conversations


This has been a piece sitting on my to-do list for a while, but it's really only been recently that I've had a chance to think about firstly what it means, and secondly, how to transfer that into text. It feels like something best left to talking, but I am a writer, and therefore I've decided to keep trying to transfer what I mean to the written word. As a crime writer, I've had a lot of awkward conversations, and I'm betting that you can probably guess the majority of them. Writing life is a whole hashtag on Twitter and along with Writer Problems, you can find some good snippets of what it means to be a writer and what it means to have people ask what you do for a living.

I'm sure you've all been there, while dinner parties aren't really something my generation does, we do have the formal and informal get togethers where you start talking to strangers and they ask what exactly it is you do for a living. Now I have the added bonus of having to avoid answering the question that usually precedes that and I'll leave that for a whole different blog piece. For now I'll focus on the conversation that comes along when you say you're a writer. I'm sure you've all been there. It usually goes something like this.

THEM: So what do you write about?
YOU: Generally I stick in the crime genre
THEM: Oh, so like serial killers and the macabre. Things like that?
YOU: Yeah, the darker side of humanity and all of that jazz.
THEM: *makes a face* doesn't that get rather depressing?
YOU: No, I actually enjoy thinking up new ways to commit crimes and get away with it. It's quite fun actually.
THEM: *nervous laughter*
YOU: Plus, it's all about putting the pieces together. I'm not actually committing the crimes after all. I'm picking up the pieces afterwards.
THEM: *stares at you*
YOU: But anyway, do you read crime?
THEM: Yes, but I could never enjoy it! *backs away slowly*.

I'm sure you can work out just how many different ways this conversation can go. I've done it multiple times. People either get really interested and actually look at you like you're interesting, or they look at you like you just suggested cannibalism and acting out various crimes right there and then. That's the thing when you're a crime writer, you think about crime. Whether that's about, as I said above, how to carry it out and get away with it, but also how to catch someone. Where the mistakes can be made, how to weave in plot points and bring around the ending that you want. You have to think not just about the crime itself, but the pathology that goes into it. It's a dark subject yes, but as I've said before, it's something that needs to be written about.

So, if you're like me, you'll find that the majority of your friends and family avoid talking about work. That's for those who them who don't want to know about the weird and wonderful ways your brain makes the connections, and then there's those who just don't want to be thinking about the dark sides of fiction. Now I personally love a good crime novel. I've grown up reading them from a young age and they always appealed to me. These days if I'm not thinking about crime, I'm reading it. But I guess what I'm trying to get across here is that it's normal to have those awkward conversations. It's part of being a writer.

There are, of course, the other group of friends and family who actually completely get why you love the genre and you can often be found huddled together at these kinds of gatherings discussing the many different ways to commit a crime and get away with it. It's great when you find these people. I often find myself drawn to those who also love a good mystery because we're like-minded and we completely understand that while crime itself isn't always a good thing, there's something to be said for telling a good story. Even when that story involves death, destruction and all those dark features. It's part of the human condition and I'm happy to admit that I'm a bit of a crime-addict. Not ashamed of it either. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

What about you? Do you have any awkward conversations to share? Let me know in the comments below!
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