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

 

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Character Profile

Character profiles can be one of the most important elements when writing. They can help characters seem vivid, real, and alive. The purpose of a character profile is: to assist the writer in creating a character that is as lifelike as possible and to help with continuity issues in the story. It is a simple tool that can help organise your thoughts and ideas about a certain character, and it can help keep track of a character’s idiosyncrasies and relationships. It can also help you think about certain traits or details that you would never have consider about your character.

If, however, you want to write a character from the ground up, a character who is as real as any person living, yet wholly your own creation, then there are three aspects you need to know in depth: the physical, sociological and psychological.
— mooderino, quote from The Three Dimensions of Character

Character profiles are something that I personally don’t always like to use. When I first begin writing a story I like to discover the character as I write. The more I get into the story, the deeper I dig, the more I learn who my character is.

Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you’re writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.
— K.M. Weiland, quote from Maybe Your Bad Guy Is RIGHT!

In some situations though, you can find yourself struggling to move through the story. This can be for a number of reason, but one common reason is because you don’t know your character well enough. An easy way to do this is to answer some questions and you can begin to see your character in a new way. You understand them, and new twists and turns in your story can become clear.

Usually, we combine internal and external conflicts for a richer story. That means we have to understand how our characters approach and resolve conflict.
— Jami Gold, quote from Using Conflict to Understand Our Characters

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