I am within the 7th week of this 14 and a half week course, and things are getting harder. I usually write at least 1,000 words every weekday and have the weekend off, except for Saturday morning when I spend about 4 hours Saturday morning critiquing 3 to 4 people’s submissions that they had updated on Fridays.
We have to submit every Friday somewhere in the region of 2,500 to 7,500 words each week. By the 19th June which is the final submission day, we should have 65,000 words. Moreover, a finished first draft of our novels.
I did start my novel by pantsing it, and after about 15,000 words I did not know where the story was going. So I stopped and thought that I should outline the story of my novel. I also looked at the different genres of crime fiction and opted for the hardboiled detective.
The Write Practice has given me room for thought on where my novel is set and where I get my ideas. It is true that if you help other writers by critiquing their submissions, then you receive help back from them. The outline is relatively basic, so when I come to write that section, it is still open to a significant amount of change that comes to my mind when I go through the scene.
This update is about my progress to my first draft of my first novel in crime fiction. I am on Day 38 of 100 on a course called Write a Book in 100 Days, by The Write Practice.
Here are my observations:
1. The course is $100 more expensive, but if you complete your weekly deadlines of posting the 4,500 words you wrote during that week for 15 weeks, then you will have the money returned. While you reach a total of 65,000 words after 100 days.
I have to say, this type of deadline pressure does help you find the time and actually to meet the word count. Although, you can miss two deadlines of the course and still receive the $100 refund.
2. There are about 140 students on this course, and we are embedded in groups of 10 people. Each week on Fridays I have to submit my chapter. Before the next Friday, I have to read at least three other people’s submissions and critique their work.
This critique of 2000 to 7000 words is not as easy as it sounds. As it is a first draft then spelling, grammar and punctuation is not an issue. Not even ‘Show, don’t tell’ is an issue you can highlight.
I often write at the top of my submission that all I am interested in is how fast it is progressing and what the voice of the narration sounds like to the reader.
I have to congratulate Joe Bunting in creating such a helpful course.
Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction
This is the opposite of the ‘Cosy’ crime. The cosy crime being able to be read by young children. The ‘Hard-Boiled’ novel has terrible language, maybe a sexual encounter and the book is covered in blood dripping onto your lap. The gory details are graphic and intense. These stories are not very violent, but the results of violence are imaged.
The term ‘Hard-Boiled’ was started in the 1920s California. The Protagonist detective should have some significant flaws that need to hinder the capture of the criminal, but we have the impression that the detective knows and has an absolute sense of what is right and wrong.
It is possible to have some fun with dreaming up some buried and embedded flaws for the detective.
Unlike the ‘cosy’ sub-genre the hard-boiled sub-genre would need a lot of research into violent crime, forensics, blood splatter, and wounds.
The Noir detective genre was created in California of 1930-1940s. It just means ‘Dark’ so it was related to the black and white movies of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.
In modern days the Noir terms have been used in contemporary world fiction like; Icelandic noir, Nordic noir and recently Brighton Noir.
Noir is just dark. If you think about the colours grey, black and the pollution on city streets with a sick and lower class of people on the streets.
Usually, the protagonist has a flaw that impinges them in different ways. This makes it fun to explore the human condition and hidden fears or torments that we find in us all.
It will be a necessity to become comfortable in adopting a gritty and direct writing style.
Police Procedurals: are the Crime Fiction sub-genre that focuses on the police methodology. This includes true-to-life details about forensic investigations and a medical examiner, other police roles.
It is most often told in first person narration from one of the specialists.
In modern-day events, you could excite your reader with the flashy terms used and the equipment that reveals the truth about what really went on in a crime scene.
There is a lot of research needed to be done beforehand, so you are familiar with the correct usage of the flashy terms used. But don’t use too much and imply that the reader is stupid. As we already know from previous posts that the reader is intelligent.
The Spy Thriller
The hero/heroine of the story is usually a spy in another country, and working for a sort of intelligence agency. From the beginning, there is a significant crisis or threat that looms above the nation of the agency. This sub-genre would read like a fast, action-packed adventure. This should have you turning the pages at some speed, and barrel rolling towards the climax.
Some knowledge of the politics, religions, finances, wars or status of the second country would be an advantage. Works by Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum are a few of my favourites.
Not centring on murder or violence is permissible and liked.
This is a challenging market to crack into as it is commanded by John le Carre, who has the substance one would need to make it credible.
Within this sub-genre of crime fiction is the cosy mystery. As a reader, the cosy mystery invites the crime and detective to solve an infamous crime but leaves out the blood and guts, bad language and sex. It supplies a happy ending. So a cosy mystery crime novel may be thought of as ‘Light Crime.’ However, has no lesser climax that the others in this genre. This sub-genre was made popular by Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and the murderer’s town of Midsomer. It is often set in middle-class small towns.
A new and upcoming crime writer, like myself, could convincingly write a cosy mystery, without too much prior knowledge of forensics, pathology or any other science.
To write a thoroughly convincing novel, you would have to look carefully at the puzzle that the detective must solve. If it is too apparent, then the reader will be tired easily. However, if it is too far-fetched and absurd, then the reader will make a not never to read any more of your work.
Many poisons are used in various situations as you don’t leave a bullet or need a gun. Different traces are evident from the collection of the chemical and its uses.
1. Belladonna – The name means ‘pretty woman’, but this poison is genuinely a devil in disguise. Its use is to relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. But the smallest dose can also be fatal. It is a plant that is about five feet tall and ingesting any part of the plant will result in dilated eye pupils, blurred vision and sometimes blindness. If left untreated, then death will follow quickly.
2. Strychnine – This is also known as Nux Vomica. It also produces seeds that provide some of the most dramatic and painful symptoms. The symptoms are violent convulsions, a rise in blood pressure, difficulty in breathing, a slow heart rate followed by paralysis of the airways that results in death. This chemical is also used to alleviate indigestion, increase appetite and treat constipation.
3. Henbane – This is a dangerous killer that is sometimes known as ‘the devil’s eyes’ It has been used in black magic and witchcraft and is said to look and smell of death. Merely smelling the toxic leaves causes symptoms of dizziness, stupor, insanity, dry mouth, dilated pupils in the eyes, delirium leading to a coma and then death. Medical uses include treatment of rheumatic aches and pains.
4. Hemlock – A dirty and unattractive plant that has spotted dirty-red stems that smells of urine. The symptoms of ingestion can result in paralysis, the collapse of the respiratory muscles and death. This chemical is not used for current medical purposes, although it was used in the treatment of rabies.
On your sleuth’s obscure and deep past:
While your sleuth has a mysterious and profound past, this raises the stakes. Every time out, your sleuth not only determines the crime but they also take an individual journey that includes a lot of struggle so they can get it right this time around.
There are many sleuths with emotional impediments such as:
Columbo – Oh the famous and very loveable Columbo; the best homicide detective there ever was. The only problem was he did not like hospitals, flying in a plane or sailing on small boats. He was forgetful with the location of his pen. This meant that with all these disadvantages, he was just an average guy like me or you. Most people could relate to the problems he had and therefore connect. It is this connection that makes a protagonist likeable.
If you’re writing a crime novel, then dark and awful things, sourced from the madness of your soul, need to happen. A crime novel without an offence isn’t a crime novel, and a straight-up murder isn’t going to cut it anymore. Give your culprits unique and differing reasons to be offenders. The crooked character in a story never knows they’re the antagonist. In their story, they’re the right guy. The protagonist is as active as the forces of antagonism they are opposing. Give them something to go up against, so they have a juicy match. As I said, ‘A murder or nine, is more interesting.’
*Note: Killers never kills someone because they’re mad, there is always an extra reason to pull the character out of complacency and into murder.
An exercise in this model would be to take the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ story and re-write it in the first person POV from the wolf’s perspective. While in that mode I’m sure you will see that the wolf can think and do many things that are fine with him.