Monday 9 May 2022

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Ideas Fun


Over the years, I have thought up a lot of different crimes, and the execution, clues and ways that the bad guys will get caught. I've also read a whole ton of crime novels and generally find some that surprise me with the way they do things. It's something I've loved about writing in that anything is possible, you can pretty much choose any kind of plot and if you can pull it off, it'll work and the readers will eat it up.

That said, I do want to enjoy my work. Someone, many years ago now, told me that because I wrote young adult, and because, at the time, one of my main genres was crime/mystery, I shouldn't have the 'bad' crimes included because that would be detrimental to my readers. I laughed it off because as a teen, nothing interested me more than a mystery or a crime novel. I wanted to devour them all and learn all the different ways things could be done, and yet I've grow up to be a, somewhat, respectable human being. I've certainly never committed any crime!

So when it comes to being a crime writer, I've always wanted to make things fun. Yes, I write mostly dark fiction, but that comes with the territory of dealing with the genres that I do. I've found that over the years I'll think up a new twist here and there and find myself having a lovely time doing so. Now, before you close the browser and back away thinking that I'm some kind of weirdo, I am only talking about fictional crime here. I don't condone anything bad that happens in my books. Sometimes the characters go places that I never would, but that's the beauty of fiction. You can see how things work, and never actually feel the need to experience it first hand yourself.

I know it sounds like I'm some deranged individual, locked up in my office and thinking of new and interesting ways to kill people, but I promise that's not the case. Having fun with your work isn't something everyone gets to do, but when I became a writer, all those years ago, it was one thing that always helped me look forward to getting up in the morning and doing my own thing. I enjoyed getting to put pen to paper and actually write out the scenes that were clambering up in my mind. I still do enjoy that.

But how do you keep that spark to your work? When you've drafted as many books as I have (almost forty to date), and while all of them haven't been crime related, you start to wonder if the ones you do write will be stale and uninteresting by the time you're done and they make it to the bookshelf. I've always been very strict with myself when it comes to plot and such. I don't want to be predictable, I don't want my readers to see the killer or villain a mile off. I want to give them that spark of astonishment when it comes to the big reveal. If I can't do that with the majority of my readers, then I kinda consider that I've failed at my job, and that's not something that I can ever aspire to do.

So I make sure that when I'm plotting (if you can call what I do plotting, but that's a piece for another time, if you're interested, here's one here) I have a clear idea of three things. The crime, the victim, and the bad guy. If I don't know all of that, then I can't be sure to be able to leave in those clues along the way. While yes, I have changed course mid-story, those are always a pain to revise, and I like to avoid doing so when possible. It has happened, and I have managed to achieve my objective that way, but I'd rather not have to go through all the drafts to do so.

If I have a clear idea of the victim and the crime, then I have my starting point. I know what to do to lead up to that crime happening, and I know who it is that I'm going to be writing about. I will also, generally speaking, have some idea of who will be investigating since the majority of my books are written in first person. Since I'm a planster - a mixture of a planner and a pantser - I know that along the way I will discover new bits and pieces that strengthen the case against the bad guy. Sometimes I find other things that will help me build a stronger argument for someone else being guilty and other times I just find little snippets as to the real motive of the crime. Either way, I'm having a whole lot of fun doing it, and it's one thing I do love about diving into a new project, especially when it happens to have an integral mystery to it.

That said, I do, sometimes, find out along the way that the initial bad guy was actually a red herring, and that someone else makes more sense. If that happens, then yeah, it's a lot of work with revision, but it gives me that same spark of astonishment that I'm looking for in my readers. I adore my job, I love getting to tell stories for a living and I love getting to explore and create new worlds and all of that. But at the end of it all, I am just someone who loves crafting a good mystery and getting to discover all the ins and outs of it as I write.

After all, if you can't have fun while literally making something up, when can you?

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments below!

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