Thoughts on writing crime fiction
Leigh Russell's Blog
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Sunday, 14 September 2008
What drives the narrative?
A simple question: where to begin? I'll narrow it down. I'm thinking about plot and character. Which leads the writing?
In my own writing, I need a starting point which is generally an action - usually a body, in my case! That leads me to dart (or shamble?) off in different directions: the identity of the corpse, the killer, his/her motive and then the unravelling. How is the murderer discovered? The answers take some thought and planning in order to devise a coherent plot.
But - (always listen out for the "but" - one of the most significant words in the English language) - my characters take on a life of their own and pull my ideas in directions of their own. That can lead to mayhem. The characters don't care if the plot is too obvious or completely obscure, if it's logical or blatantly absurd. They just want to be fleshed out. This is where the whole narrative can degenerate into chaos.
On the other hand, to use a character to carry out an action that he or she would never do blows the whole illusion out of the water. So there's a constant tension between where the story needs to go, and what the characters would credibly do.
When I think about it, the whole thing sounds so complicated, I wonder why I ever embarked on this writing lark at all. Like so much in life. Do we overcomplicate the straightforward? That's a question for another post.
Is crime fiction more restricting than other types of fiction, in the sense that there has to be a crime which must be resolved?
Does character or plot drive our writing? How do fellow writers approach the task? Are readers more interested in what happens or who it is happening to? Or is this an impossible distinction to make? What do you think?
Labels: plot or character?
Sunday, 7 September 2008
I'm going through a crisis of confidence! I've never read other authors for ideas or resorted to scouring the newspapers for incidents. Without wishing to sound pretentious, I find life itself is inspiring enough. Places, chance encounters, unexpected twists in the weather, someone who doesn't answer the phone... I find anything can set off a 'what if' train of thought. For a while I was absorbed in writing. I've taken to reading avidly again and reading successful authors is a humbling experience. I'm at least as skilled as some I've read, but many authors write so well, and their plots are so damn clever, I feel my excitement at being published peeling away. I know my books will never be classed as timeless great literature (I'm not arrogant) but I do want to be really really good, at least. It's so hard to see beyond the veil of satisfaction at producing a story and tell if it's actually any good. Two questions.
1. I've asked this before but make no apology for repeating myself. I'll probably never stop asking this question. Is it possible to judge one's own work?
2. Is this all just about my ego?