If I’m going to talk about specific genres of writing, then the one I should start with is crime. It’s the one I love to read and watch and, of course, it’s the one I write.
Since the existence of novels, movies and TV, there has been crime fiction. It captures the imagination, as they say, despite the fact – or maybe because – none of what happens in those pages or on that screen, we ever want to happen to ourselves.
And because it is so popular, crime might be the genre with the most demanding readership when it comes to original ideas, surprising stories with multiple twists and turns, nuanced characters and attention to detail.
The first port of call for anyone writing, or thinking of writing, crime is the Crime Writers’ Association. Here, among other invaluable services for us struggling scribes, is a run-down of what we need to write that next great novel.
Bestselling crime writer, Stuart McBride, also has some invaluable advice for anyone starting out. On the HarperCollins Authonomy website, Stuart goes into some of the guidelines he has followed while writing his Detective Logan McRae series.
At the centre of so many crime stores is, of course, the detective. It’s one of the elements of that genre that has evolved so much over the years, from the genteel Sherlock Holmes to the more robust and violent Tom Thorne. Thorne’s creator, Mark Billingham, has some very wise words to impart on the subject of detectives and character and he suggests, among other things, that if a detective does not have a tortured past, an alcohol problem and that case he’ll forever regret, then he’s probably not someone worth writing about.
At a recent writing seminar, crime journalist Eamon Dillon talked about the criminality rife in the cities and towns around Ireland. As an aspiring crime writer, I have to admit that this was kind of encouraging – it suggested there was no shortage of fodder for us to create believable and compelling criminal worlds in our own back yards. But it seems that many Irish writers feel that Ireland isn’t a realistic, sufficiently interesting or ‘sexy’ enough setting for a crime novel.
Over on the Irish Times website, Irish writers like Claire McGowan and Laurence O’Bryan tell us why they chose to head away to find a setting for their story. Laurence also talks about the importance of location in a recent interview here on writing.ie.
Part of the Harrogate International Writing Festival Series is the Theakson Old Peculier Crime-Writing Festival (you gotta love that name), an unmissable weekend dedicated to the world of crime writing. It happens every summer in Harrogate (that’s in Yorkshire, apparently) and features seminars, conferences, and writing workshops attended and hosted by some of the world’s top crime writers. This year it’s on 18-21 July and will feature such luminaries as Val McDermid, Kate Atkinson and Jack Reacher creator Lee Child, who was interviewed for writing.ie by Vanessa O’Loughlin a little while ago.
Right, all this talk of crime, I have to urge to go and write some bad cheques. Maybe I’ll have my character do it instead. Not the hero though, of course.
“When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”- Raymond Chandler
This is how to do it.
The Crime Writers’ Association’s Adrian Magson gives us a run-down of what we need to write that next great crime novel.
“Ask almost any writer for their three best bits of advice for new writers, and they will invariably be ‘read, read and read’.“
…and this is how Stuart does it.
Self proclaimed ‘write-ist’ Stuart McBride tells us how he wrote his best-selling series of crime thrillers.
“When you’re editing, write the following words onto a Post-it note in big red letters and stick it on your monitor: “Who Cares?”. If something has no bearing on the story, leave it out.”
You’re nicked, mate.
Mark Billingham talks about how the trusty crime story hero, the detective, has evolved.
“The adventures of Sherlock Holmes gripped readers to the extent that, when he was killed off, many took to wearing black armbands.”
Is Ireland not sexy enough?
Many crimes writers have felt the need to leave Ireland to find a believable setting for their novels.
“A new generation of Irish crime writers differs from its forerunners in one crucial way: its reluctance to set its novels in Ireland.”
Those three important words (or just the same word said three times).
Laurence O’Bryan on the importance of the right location.
“The stories wouldn’t have worked anywhere else. That’s because real places feature prominently in each novel.”
How Very Peculier.
The annual Theakson Old Peculier Crime-Writing Festival takes place again this summer in Harrogate.
“What tempted me was the prospect of helping to showcase the range and quality of contemporary crime writing.”