1. Andrejs Brivulis

    Andrejs Brivulis New Member

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    Detective story

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Andrejs Brivulis, Jul 14, 2019.

    Hi!

    Do you have any suggestions/tips/don’ts that I should take note of if I want to write a detective story?
     
  2. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    I'm very inexperienced when it comes to 'Thriller/Mystery' stories, and, in a way, I believe this can help me offer you my perspective on stories like this in general.

    What I love in detective stories is twists, first and foremost, but, I like originality, so, potentially, I recommend avoiding too many clichés? Maybe avoid the 'bad guy was the sidekick the whole time!' type thing?

    I also recommend paying close attention to pacing. I find that a proper detective story has fantastic pacing, and, although I know absolutely nothing about this 'genre', I have seen poorly paced stories of this style, and the effect on them in general is often 'make or break'.

    Can't offer much more unfortunately. Maybe pay close attention to each character, and avoid the basic stereotypes as well?

    Good luck!
     
  3. Andrejs Brivulis

    Andrejs Brivulis New Member

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    Thank you!
    I sometimes have had the problem of pacing the stories too quickly and then I run out of the story to tell.
    But I suppose the best way would be to have it moderatly paced, sometimes having slow paced scenes that make the reader relaxed to then hit with an unexpected event that starts a fast paced scene.

    Also - from what I understood and what sometimes annoys me that could be counted as a cliché - betrayals are an overdone thing?
     
  4. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Read a bunches of detective stories to see what works, and to see what has already been done.
     
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  5. Spurs06

    Spurs06 Member

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    I haven’t read a lot of detective novels , but the one I find the most interesting are were the detectives story is as interesting as the investigation.
     
  6. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    I used to read a few but got bored as I found many of them to be repetitive and tropey - which isn't at all to say there aren't great detective novels out there but I wasn't invested enough to find them.

    You're right you need an interesting detective but be careful not to rehash the same 'used to be so optimistic but dropped the ball on a case and gave and up and lost family to alcoholism but is persuaded back for one more case which just happens to lead to the killer they let get away'. I just got so tired of reading that story over and over again. Also if your detective is a woman, her dad doesn't need to have been a policeman who taught her to be tough. Women can choose that career for other reasons.

    I really like some of the Scandi-Noir TV series like the killing and the bridge and trapped, you could watch those for some inspiration? They have really interesting characters.
     
  7. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    I would totally echo the suggestion to read lots of detective stories. Think about what you like in these books, what you don't like, and what you would like to see more of. (That's a tip I'd give for any genre.) I don't know how developed your idea is, but one of the big questions is whether your detective will be a professional called onto the scene or a layman who decides to investigate for their own reasons. I personally prefer the latter, because it has the obstacle of the detective's amateurism (they might miss a clue, or draw completely the wrong conclusion), and also there'll be an emotional aspect with the reason they decided to investigate in the first place. Another question is what kind of case it will be, and what tone you want to strike. Some stories like Agatha Christie's mysteries and Sherlock Holmes, tend to be more light-hearted (that, of course, being a relative term), whereas a lot of more modern detective novels tend to be darker, with more gore and more cynical, damaged protagonists.

    Again, I don't know how much you like to plan, but I found that having a detailed plan is absolutely essential when writing a detective story, because every detail could be important later. I had to abandon so many detective stories because I hadn't planned enough and I didn't know where I was going. Another thing it took me far too long to figure out was that you need to work backwards: plan out exactly how the murder was done, then think about what might become clues - did the murderer get blood on his jacket? Then maybe your detective could find the jacket and have to figure out who it belongs to. And of course, you need lots of suspicious people - this can lead to little sub-mysteries that can make people look guilty, but it turns out they were doing something illegal that had nothing to do with the murder. And, one thing I found, it's perfectly fine to keep checking your favourite detective novels to see how they handled certain things as you plan. (Of course, that doesn't mean you should copy them exactly.)

    I think that's all the advice I have, and I hope it wasn't too obvious.
     
  8. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    1. Your protagonist must be very interesting person.

    Think about Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes, Mma Ramotswe...

    2. Your protagonist must have rare skills or common skills in rare level or rare kind of social position.

    3. Subgenre and type of protagonist are connected. It's a loose connection, but it does exist.

    4. A good sidekick often kind of mirrors the lacks and flaws of a protagonist. (Archie Goodwin, Dr. Watson, Grace Makutsi...)

    5. Read a lot those books you like and think hard why you like them.
     
  9. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've never written one but I've read my fair share. Mostly American though and my favourite as a teen was a Swedish one called Henning Mankell. My style, at the time, was heavily influenced by him because I wanted to write like him. My style has since evolved to become more elaborate - Mankell is very minimalistic - but he definitely formed the basis of how I wanted my writing to be. Granted, I only read the translations. I can't read Swedish.

    Anyway, detective stories... Let me tell you what makes me put a crime novel down.

    - the loner MC
    - the most gruesome/horrific murder said detective has ever seen
    - aaaaand the killer is on the MC's trail...
    - about to threaten someone MC dearly loves
    - or, of course, about to reveal a long-hidden secret MC desperately wants to hide

    Some form of "the past is coming back to haunt the MC" anyway.

    Almost every single crime novel blurb reads like that. Another trend that's put me off crime novel is the gruesome murders. They always have to be horrific, described in graphic detail, although crime dramas are probably more guilty of this than books. (I also watched my fair share) As if a murder in its own right isn't horrific enough.

    I think what made Mankell unique was a very human detective. Wallander is very human and really nothing special - he is a good detective, and that's all. He's not Sherlock Holmes or some unsuspecting granny with insane problem solving skills. He embodies plenty of detective cliches, but I think it's in the fact that Mankell explores what that means to a human being that makes it not cliche. He's lonely and divorced, but he's also in love with a lady who won't commit back - not because she doesn't love him but because, if memory serves, she doesn't believe it would really work. He has a daughter who features occasionally in the books. He has a difficult father, who ultimately dies and Wallander never finds out why his father didn't want him to be a detective. There are relationships peppered throughout the books, and while they didn't ever take up much space, the space devoted to them were very, very sincere. Perhaps that's it. There's depth in the relationships. He's more than a cliche even though on the surface he's the same lonely old detective who's talented at what he does. He isn't portrayed as particularly cool - if anything, the occasionally glimpses you get of his private life, you find sorrow more than anything else.

    Another detective story I once read was, I think, from Lawrence Block. I've only read one book by him. The ending made me cry and I didn't even know I felt that way about the MC until then. Full of dialogue with a very strong voice, but again, there was a very human element that ran through it. Matthew Scudder was an alcoholic - you could say that's cliche - but again, there's depth. It isn't just some attribute to make him more interesting. I read this book years ago and I still remember this scene where he's at a phone booth and he rings a female friend because he's about to succumb to alcohol again, and he doesn't want to, and she tells him to go to those Alcohol Support Groups and he doesn't want to. All through the book, this support group is present in the background - he should go, he doesn't want to go, he hates those groups, he knows he needs help. And right at the end, the final line was him standing up to introduce himself to the Alcohol Support Group and all he says is, "I'm Matthew Scudder and I'm an alcoholic."

    Seriously, that's all he says. I burst into tears. Like, more than the crime story, I was waiting for him to get help. It isn't that him being an alcoholic was a secret - it was obvious throughout the book and the character himself knew it too - it wasn't denial per se. But that final line of admission - it was like release, like he's come to terms with it, like he's going to be all right.

    So, my advice would basically be: write good characters. Let the crime story be an exploration of your MC's character and make it less about the crime itself. Unless you're writing a very clever whodunnit plot, the crime itself is rarely that interesting because there're only so many ways you can commit a crime and hide in the end.
     
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  10. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    I used to write crime and mystery and they are definitely a genre that has it's "set" ways. The things others call cliche is what most crime readers read them for. Some of those cliches are part of the formula that I suggest you learn and try to stick to in your plot, but keep your ideas as original as possible - which is hard in this genre because there are so many books. If you know nothing about forensic, start getting a clue. Know police procedure. Crime has different genres and a different formula and also how graphic they can be.

    What you can play with is your main character. Avoid making him the handsome, brooding, detective that despite the fact he's always drunk is a world-breaking detective. They are just normal people. But the job is a demanding one, it's time consuming and draining - however they still have family and friends, my cousin did, but that can be a conflict (which also sadly has been focused on many times).

    My advice is to read some of the best crime stories. Read true crime stories, watch documentaries: the story of Diane Downs and Skylar Neese were two of my favorites - very shocking crimes, with shocking culprits especially Skylar Neese's story. Build off reality. Learn the formula and keep to it. Create a different detective character.
     
  11. KiraAnn

    KiraAnn Active Member

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    One thing that always bugs me in some detective stories is when the crimes are investigated by the wrong agency.

    I’m reading a Swedish story right now set in a smaller
    City southwest of Stockholm and local team of detectives are on the case. But, from what I’ve read on the internet, this city does not have a detective squad. And since it involves drug smuggling and related murders, it appears that the National Operations group would be handling that case.

    Just one example.
     

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