Writing a Crime Novel Part 2 – Planning

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“There really must be a murder, or at least a major felony — otherwise, what’s the point? Who’s ripping off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly the business of a mystery novel.”
– Howard Haycraft

So far the ‘writing’ phase of writing a crime novel hasn’t even started. Normally I’m not a big planner so I generally start writing rather quickly. But I knew that crime novels took a lot of work. You have to plan everything. Every twist and turn, everything little thing needs to be accounted for. There wasn’t any jumping straight in with this story.

After planning out who my victims were, how they were killed, where they were dumped and why the killer chose them; I was happy. Same with planning my killer. I felt my reasoning and idea for the character were solid so I moved on.

The Main Character

“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic.”
– G. K. Chesterton

Opening up a new word document I knew it was time to decided who was going to be my Sherlock Homes, who was going to be my Olivia Benson. Who was going to be my kick ass lead crime fighting hero who would save the day? And it almost seemed simple.

Most of the time when I come up with a character, at first, they aren’t what you would call three dimensional. In fact they are always two dimensional. And generally I like to have my characters revealed themselves as I write. I like seeing them unfold on the page. So creating a character, from the get-go, and making them three dimensional certainty wasn’t simple. Breaking old habits is hard in any situation, but I find breaking writing habits is even more hard.

I managed to do what I needed to do though. Starting off with the basics: name, age, appearance, desire, and life. The character came to life. Then I went in with the more detailed questions. I find asking even the most unimportant things can reveal your character. Their favourite colour, for instant, could reflect a lot in their life, or even their most hated colour.

Questions

Instead of thinking all the questions to ask about my character, I find looking online for a character profile can be the easiest way. I like to find multiple character profiles and combine them so that my profile is even more detailed.

Likeability

One thing I really think about when it comes to my characters is whether or not they are likeable. Likeability isn’t always important but I think that when it comes to a crime novel there needs to be something that the reader will like about the good guy to keep them reading, or keep them cheering them on. So I tried to think of quirks and unique things about my character that would make readers think their interesting, or funny, or something – anything.

But one big thing is to not make them too likeable. After all you don’t like everything about everyone. There will be one or two things that drive you nuts about that person. So I made sure to add that in too.

Next…

I am hoping to do a little bit of writing next. I’m not ready to write the novel but I need to create my town. While I have chosen a location and it is a real town in the US, I want it to be interesting. I need to know how it feels to live in the town, what are the smells? I want to know what the people are like. I think, for me at least, writing will help me figure this out.


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Writing A Crime Novel Part 1 – Planning

Photo of Police Tape, saying 'Police Line Do Not Cross'.
By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Crime Novels are a whole new type of world to some readers. For a reader who has never picked up or read a crime novel inside they will find a new experience. Most readers will either love it, or hate it. Crime is a very divided genre and many readers will love knuckling down with a good murder mystery, but others have better things to do (or better things to read) in their spare time.

“Murder mysteries are puzzles that are fun to resolve.”
– Kathy Reichs

As an aspiring author, crime has been one of the genres I have wanted to write for; along with fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary. I want to join the ranks of famous crime novelists who are talked about for their fascinating killers and intriguing plot twists. And this is me giving it a go.

I have dipped my toes in a bit of crime writing but never really sat down and planned a whole novel based on a murder mystery. Now I have started. Since beginning my crime novel has started not even two weeks after I have began this blog, I figured it could possibly be an interesting post series that I could update every fortnight on what I do with writing my crime story. I want to chat about planning and characters, and the issues I have along with the successes (or what I think is successful anyway). And I want to do this without giving any sort of spoilers away.

“There are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking about killing people…mystery writers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays better.”
― Richard Castle

Planning

Sitting down to plan my crime novel I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what I wanted to write about. The clear thing to me was it had to be about a ‘crime’, which might sound obvious and a dump thing to say, but I knew if I didn’t think about the ‘crime’ aspect first then I would most likely forget all about it. That gave me the first thing I knew I need to do.

The Crime. The Victims. The Killer.

With every crime comes a victim or multiple victims. So what did I want to do? Did I want a serial killer or person would it be a missing persons case. I was watching an episode of ‘Criminal Minds’ as I was thinking about it and I knew I wanted to do a story about a serial killer, who had killed multiple people and would kill many more until they were stopped.

Before I decided on who my killer was I chose their victims. Creating them one by one, I slowly picked little details here and there and the story wrote itself. I knew how every victim would die and why the killer chose them. The actual crime seemed to write itself, and the more I knew about the victims the more I knew about the killer.

The next step to me was to create my killer. Who was my killer as a person? What was their life like? Their struggles and the successes? What drove them to kill? Love? Family? Friendship? Or was it something mental? As seen with many crime shows; ‘Criminal Minds’, ‘Law and Order: SVU’, and ‘Bones’, there are many different reasons why people kill or commit crimes. In ‘Criminal Minds’ there is generally a mental cause. In ‘Bones’ it normally has to do with money, love, sex, betrayal, etc. With my victims laid out all the questions I asked came flooding out and I had a killer written before me on the page and I was happy.

Next…

When I plan a story I normally begin with my main character. Who this person is? What they do? What is their deep desire that is hiding within? But I found that I couldn’t really think of anyone. Nothing seemed to create a spark or get my creativity flowing. However, having my victims and my killer, I found ideas jumped out at me and told me who my main character would be. But that is for next time.

‘The way to write a thriller is to ask a question at the beginning, and answer it at the end.’

– Lee Child


REFERENCES

The quotes on this blog post were found from these websites