Writing Crime Fiction
“Good cops do the job to catch the bad guys, and to protect and serve justice…”
I love writing Crime Fiction for the escapism into a darker world where awful, devastating things happen, tragedies occur, and there’s no false promise of a happy ending. Villains can be as depraved or deviant as I need them to be. Heroes can be as flawed or morally ambiguous as I like. But we’re free to explore them cathartically.
Diving into a bloody good yarn – pun most definitely intended – allows the reader a way to explore their darker thoughts within the safety of the world of story. No one actually gets hurt – besides the occasional paper cut, I suppose.
The process of writing is a very personal thing. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but I believe the reader’s experience should be always the focus. I don’t agree with writers who say they “write for themselves” or “write what I like” and pay no heed nor appreciation to the reader’s experience. Perhaps it is my experience in theatre that makes me adamant in this, having sat and watched audiences respond to my writing. I’ve seen it work, and when it didn’t. I’ve taught it for over twenty years. After all, how can we expect our readers to care about what we’ve written if we don’t care enough about how they read and experience it, and what they think?
I focus on how the reader is going to unpick the mystery. How am I going to lead them down a path, have them caught in webs and tangly undergrowth along the way? Extending the metaphor, woodlands and trees seem to feature in a lot of my writing.
My readers wake up on page one already lost in the woods. A loosely carved path is fraught with danger and many turns. They must follow the clues of human activity. Broken twigs, dead bodies, blood trails, and the endless paraphernalia of crime.
Their heart must beat faster. It will get dark, and they will trip. I will provide a tour guide, but he will probably get killed an hour or so later – especially the likeable ones. The creepy guy with one-eyed dog, carrying blood-encrusted cleaver, usually turns out to be nothing more but the local butcher.
There’s always a fine line between the procedurally accurate, and what can be allowed as dramatic licence to keep readers engaged. Stray too far either side of that line and the pendulum stretches from ludicrous to documentary boredom.
The voice of the narrator should be clear in the over-arching message the story is trying to communicate.
I am currently finishing off my second novel of a trilogy. It’s taken a long time for many reasons, and the plan is to throw as much of an emotional journey at the reader than just another police procedural killing fest.
“…but the best of us do it to protect and serve innocence.”
(From Innocent Lies, coming soon.)
To Die For is available as Ebook or Paperback from Amazon
Great insight from Colin Ward about writing Crime Fiction. Innocent Lies will hopefully arrive later this year and a little bird told me that Colin is already working on Book 3 the final instalment in this crime fiction trilogy.
About Colin Ward
Colin is an author and self-publisher with lots of experience writing in many different forms, including novels, short stories, poetry, theatre, and even composing musicals. He originally read Theatre at Warwick University and then trained to be a Secondary Drama teacher. Unlike most of his colleagues, he had neither the taste nor the budget to stage large school productions of well-known shows, so he just wrote his own – scripts, lyrics, music and all. After doing this for years, he left secondary teaching, dabbled in Primary for a bit, and finally closed that book. That’s when he first got the chance to pen his debut crime fiction novel and begin a new wordsmithing journey.
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Great to read about Colin’s journey.
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Thank you for reading and commenting, Jayne.