Writing Crime Fiction
Two weeks ago, my writing friend, Helen, and I attended a crime writing workshop. It was held in the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and an added attraction was that no previous experience was necessary, just a murderous imagination! Neither of us are writing crime novels per se but crime does play a part in both our stories.
The presenter was Katherine Stansfield, a novelist and poet living in Cardiff. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Aberystwyth University in Wales and an associate member of the Institute of Cornish Studies at Exeter University. Katherine made us feel very welcome and it was clear from our introductions that the writers attending varied widely in experience. However, we were all there to learn more about this very popular genre of crime fiction.
Over the course of the afternoon, through discussion of various examples and linked writing exercises, we explored the characteristics of both detectives and criminals. It was interesting to examine the classic detective as well as non-traditional sleuths. When creating detective characters we looked at the balance between their skills and flaws, their greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses. It was suggested that a great flaw is someone who doesn't think they have any flaws. We were given plot generator envelopes containing possible settings and characters. In pairs, we brainstormed what kind of crime it could be with the character and setting.
As for the criminal in a story, it is worth thinking about incidents in their past which have impacted on who they are in the present when the crimes have been committed. Thank you to Katherine for the following quote in one of her handouts:
"Don't neglect your criminal. Even the villain is the centre of their own story as they see it and believes that what they do is in some way justified. This is especially true of thrillers. A deranged killer with no moral sense, killing at random, may be interesting news, but does not make good fiction because we cannot empathise." Rosemary Rowe, Masterclass: Writing Crime Fiction (London: Hodder, 2014), page 38.
We covered a lot in a short time and it certainly whetted my appetite to enrol on Katherine's ten week course, Writing Crime Fiction, at Cardiff University next Autumn. Thank you to Katherine for an excellent workshop and to Helen for her company.
Katherine's crime novel, Falling Creatures, is based on a murder that took place in Cornwall in 1844. It was published by Allison & Busby in March this year, with a sequel to follow in 2018. You may find details of the book HERE.
Look out for my interview in a few weeks' time with debut crime novelist, Jan Newton. Her book Remember No More was published on March 16th by Honno.
Are you a crime fiction fan? Who is your favourite detective? What flaws does he or she have? Do you write crime fiction?
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