I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today on the topic of crime fiction, by crime / mystery novelist Wayne Zurl.
‘A successful crime story’
When you write crime fiction, you must be comfortable with a few self-imposed boundaries. Study the genre. You’re not writing fantasy or a thriller. The average James Bond film attracts millions of viewers, but it’s no longer a story of espionage. Bond has left George Smiley in the dust and embraced the modern world of special effects and the “check your brain at the door” theory, solely to boost someone’s adrenalin level. I doubt they worry too much about storyline.
I once listened to a session where four writers who collaborated on a critically acclaimed and moderately successful TV show discussed good writing. The most important piece of advice given by Carlton Cuse was in essence: The best thing to do is stop just short of going over the top. I see that as a key element in credible crime fiction.
Before continuing, I’ll admit I’m a real pain in the posterior when it comes to police procedurals and the necessary and accurate details. I’m talking about little things. It’s essential to get the small stuff correct and then you can, with good conscience, ask your readers to, when necessary, suspend their disbelief and go where the story takes them.
But don’t insult your reader’s intelligence. I find it unrealistic to infer that your protagonist, a five-foot-three-inch 110 pound (7.8 stone) former female cop turned private eye could successfully duke it out with a 220 pound (15.7 stone) framing carpenter, because years ago she spent an hour a day at the police academy practicing slow motion defensive tactics moves. Unless she has established herself as a highly competent martial artist in the intervening years, it just ain’t gonna happen.
Plausible, possible, and reasonable are all words with great meaning to police officers. They should be equally important when writing crime fiction. Guys like Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker and James Lee Burke have successfully written books encompassing these principles for many years.
Thank you Wayne. I absolutely agree about detail because if it’s not correct someone will pick you up on it.
Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Wayne left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Ten of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards. A new novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, is on the ‘coming soon’ list at Iconic Publishing and will be available in print for early 2012.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).
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