1. Precipice
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    Precipice New Member

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    Criminal Minds

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Precipice, Jul 21, 2011.

    I’ve been contemplating writing a crime-based story for some time now, I find crime enthralling and I love the drama, tension and suspense that the novels bring with them. However, I cannot shake the fact that I simply have no idea where to begin- how does one go about writing a crime novel? As I am neither a criminal or police officer, I am left with absolutely no experience in the field- thus I feel that if I were to attempt a plot, it would lack substance.

    Now of course, in a crime novel the 'crime' is nearly always the foundation of the story; although sometimes we see plots designed to plague the mind of the reader with the sadistic criminal’s thoughts, most are build around a water tight crime. Seemingly impossible to solve at first, with numerous red-herrings thrown into the mix, we are all left bemused until our wily detective unravels this mystery to unveil the true nature of the criminal. Granted, this is not the structure of all great crime novels.

    Of course we could turn to some of the great crime fiction writers for inspiration, such as James Ellroy, Agatha Christie and Steig Larsson. All of the above authors have written some incredible crime novels, with plots twisted more than a *insert Ysavvryl metaphor*. Yet I fear that we could study these novels to our hearts content, and they would still not open us to the minds of the author and how they constructed their brilliant crimes, and since asking them is clearly out of the question- especially with regards to Christie and Larsson. I thought I would turn this question to the forums…


    How do you construct a brilliant crime? In a novel of course, I don’t want to promote crime here…

    I’m, talking about working back through the plot here, where do you start? The plot has to be watertight, how do you work out the kinks? Where should you lead your readers? How much should they know, how much is too much? How confused can you make the reader whilst still keeping them baited. All of this is pretty damn difficult to do, so how would you go about it?


    In my opinion, for a crime novel to be successful it must have:

    . A brilliant crime, something original- recreating The Da Vinci Code isn’t going to win you any awards.

    . A brilliant criminal, amidst other intriguing characters

    . Red-Herrings, unseen twist and turns and surprise events

    . Mystery, something even the great detective is unable to answer.

    Please feel free to add to this list as you see fit, I am somewhat running out of time and have had to get it down rather hastily- meaning much has probably gone amiss or escaped my mind. If you have any opinions on the topic please feel free to answer, but no one-liners please.
     
  2. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    Well you seem to have the elements you need right there, so as far as an idea that's totally up to you. Anything can be original as long as you don't write a story with very cliche and predictable outcomes. How I mentally prepare myself for a big story is I get a note book and start creating and planning. Where do you want it to take place at? What sort of crime? Robbery, murder? Involve police, CIA, or overseas officers? Start creating some characters and usually the story is either a hit or miss. If it's not a good idea scrap it and recreate something else.
     
  3. Precipice
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    Precipice New Member

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    Thank you for your comment, I do try to use note books but I'm hampered by the fact that i can't seem to keep anything organised! I don't know If I'd need to throw more information into the mix for you to understand further, as you seem to only have half-grasped the point I am trying to make- no offense intended. I also think that when writing crime fiction it is a lot harder to be original than you are making it out to be 'as long as you don't write a story with very cliche and predictable outcomes' since crime is such a large genre, I don't think I'd be the first person to write a story entailing the FBI on the hunt for a master criminal who has just murdered 'X' number of civilians.

    'Start creating some characters and usually the story is either a hit or miss.'- This is genuinely a very helpful piece of advice, thanks! Although I'm not too much of a fan when writing to aim for 'hit and miss'!

    I suppsoe I could try creating a biography of my characters, and then trying to devise a plot from how I would expect them to act in certain circumstances i am planning to throw into the story, but this still isn't my main point. How are you supposed to keep a crime original and watertight?
     
  4. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Ask questions. What is the crime? Murder. How did it happen? A fight. How did the murderer cover up the evidence? Burn the house down. So then it must be an empty house. Why would the victim go to an empty house? Lured. How was he lured? Promise of money. Why would he trust this promise? Greed.

    And so on and so on. When you've got whodunnit, whydunnit, howdunnit, wheredunnit and whendunnit, you're finished.
     
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  5. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    I have the same problem with organizing my thoughts and ideas. My biggest downfall was not fully understanding how a character in the police/detective profession would act or what they would say. (Never having worked as a cop, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage.)
    I also had issues when I tried to place my mystery in a political campaign setting. Since I had never been in a political campaign, I didn't know how they were set up and who interacted with whom and who was responsible for certain decisions in the campaign. I didn't really "get" how it all came together. So, even though I rather liked what I wrote, and I pushed forward with it despite feeling stuck in places, there was a major flaw in that area that I just couldn't solve.

    I would say that, now, before attempting some kind of police crime fiction, that trying to learn as much about how police operate and what exactly they do forensically and otherwise is top priority before putting pen to paper.
     
  6. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    I personally tend to opt for the amateur detective, but I still get "begs the question" whether she is actually helping the murder mystery along or just being an obstacle to police...?
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How about you forget all the little details, and ask yourself - what sorta mystery makes you tick? Why?

    I'd start with thinking of the mystery - is it a murder without a suspect/motive? Is it a murder without a cause of death? Is it a missing person? Or is it the hunt you wanna write about? Closed room mystery? Terrorism? What is it?

    I'd work backwards, in other words. Perhaps try playing a game of Cluedo (or in the US, Clue) - it's a murder mystery game, with a locked room mystery. You have several guests who play a role each, and they all have a motive and they all have something to hide, but only 1 of them is the murderer. And you gotta have dialogue to find out :D Some people actually host murder mystery dinner parties. Could make for good inspiration.
     
  8. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    I think it doesn't pay to get too hung up on the actual crime. Crime fiction isn't (usually) about a watertight crime, it just seems watertight because of the way information is revealed to the reader.

    I suggest to just come up with a story, as you would any other story. Great characters, lots of obstacles, etc. Come up with clues and red herrings and whatnot, but don't be bound by them. Then write your first draft--don't worry if it seems really obvious now, you just want to get everything out there.

    It goes without saying this that studying good crime fiction is paramount to being a good crime writer. You don't have to use the same formula as Dan Brown (or whoever) but work out what each writer does that works. Work out how these things can be integrated into your story.

    For instance, one thing that I've found interesting is the way that in some mystery books crucial clues are given away at moments when they are totally overshadowed (even sometimes seemingly related to) a bigger event.
     

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