Crime Stories, etc.
Anonymous asked: Hey guys. Do you know any useful reference for crime stories. Like you know about guns types, about US police procedure etc? Thank you.
We don’t have anything on that directly, but definitely check out:
- Small Bites, Chewing Slowly
- Writing Crime from writinghelpers
- This Is a Towel: Resources for Writing Espionage
- Genre Help: Mystery from thewritershelpers
- Forensic Outreach
Thank you for your question! If you can’t find what you’re looking for from these links, feel free to ask again!
I was down here in the supermarket, and this old woman comes around the corner this old woman – obviously one of the kind of women who says whatever is on her brain. She said, ‘I know who you are, you are the horror writer. I don’t read anything that you do, but I respect your right to do it. I just like things more genuine, like that Shawshank Redemption.’
“And I said, ‘I wrote that’. And she said, ‘No you didn’t’. And she walked off and went on her way.”
— Stephen King
your writing is not stupid and people who say so are jerks
This is only tangibly related to ‘what if my writing is bad’ in that people have different definitions of crap. For example, did you know there’s a constant debate about the quality of literary fiction versus genre fiction? And did you know those debates are always stupid? Because they are. They are always stupid. They are stupid because people always have different tastes, and what one person gets out of this year’s Depressing Best Seller, another will get out of that same exact thing, except it’s this year’s Depressing Best Seller With Vampires. People like different things, is what I’m saying. Some people want to read Jane Austen, and some people want to read Jane Austen fighting zombies. I am not saying those two things are equal! What I am saying is there are people who enjoy either or both of those things and that is perfectly okay.
What you want to write is not inherently stupid on the basis of what it is. Don’t let someone talk you out of writing your high school drama with werewolves. Don’t let someone make you feel bad about wanting to write about your childhood. Don’t listen to people who tell you your story ideas are boring, have been done, or aren’t worth the effort. Do you want to write them? If so, then they’re worth the effort.
Write what you want to write. Sometimes this is hard! Sometimes when you tell people about your story ideas, they tell you they’re not good. They’ll give you lots of reasons, like there are already stories like that, nobody wants to read stories about people of color, young adult novels are silly, you can’t have a gay main character, etc, etc. They will have lots of reasons. You don’t have to listen to any of these reasons. You will not be happy writing what other people want you to write instead of writing what you want to write.
That doesn’t mean thinking about what other people might want from your writing is a bad thing. It doesn’t mean there aren’t valid criticisms out there. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to those valid criticisms, even when it’s really painful to do so. But ‘you shouldn’t write about this’ - whether that this is a particular genre, a particular topic, or an event in your life - is not valid criticism. It’s bullshit. Don’t let that bullshit stop you from writing.
Why I Am Inspired (and Not Intimidated) as a Writer and a Reader by George R.R. Martin's Books
As a reader: Epic fantasy is my home genre as a reader, so I’m automatically more comfortable perusing and enjoying and judging myself against it because I have a good frame of reference. He wrote an absolutely fantastic series that, despite the frequent death of characters of personal importance to my heart, still inspires me to read on.
As a writer: His sentence craft is simple and direct. There are occasional lines that I highlight in my Kindle app (I’m rereading an ebook version six years after I originally devoured the paperback versions from a library) because he’s created a subtle double-entendre, or just made a sentence glow off the page with awesomeness, but the vast majority of his sentences themselves are easy to make and easy to read. They deliver the information needed to move us along, and then they get the fuck out of the way so the next sentence can do the same. As a writer, it pushes me through some of the trepidation I feel about starting to write something when I explore someone like George R.R. Martin’s work and find simple and direct sentences as the core of said work. It repeats to me what my mother, my teachers, and my friends have told me for many years: “you can do this. This man created a masterpiece of epic fantasy literature by stringing together this type of sentence, one after another after another.” Obviously I know there’s hours more work that has nothing to do with the physical sentence craft of a worldbuilding project of this scale (for those who don’t know me, my senior project for my B.A. in Creative Writing was a novella encompassing a worldbuilding project), but I find the creative worldbuilding process much easier and much less punishing than the writing process, so it’s nice to see someone wed the two so successfully, and use simple writing techniques to sew it all together. It’s definitely a “you can do it” message.
As a worldbuilder: As I mentioned, I understand just how much love and detail and logic work goes into creating a functioning world that could live if set free. Mine is a roof-pile of notes like autumn leaves resting atop the shaky pillars of a mere handful of edited stories. Each time I return to the project, there’s still a roof over my head, but the less time I spend there the more it threatens to fall into chaos. All that aside, the reason Martin is inspiring as a worldbuilder rather than intimidating requires a look at the underpinnings of his plot and mythology. I happened to take a course in English History while still in college, and discovered that the houses dancing around one another and usurping castles and King of England status was remarkably like the battles I’d read about in A Song of Ice and Fire. At one point I believe I had found a scenario that directly correlated to what happened in the series, though I seem to have banished it from memory (preferring to live purely in the fictional realm just a bit longer). His houses and much of their structure and movements come from English history, though obviously the details and trappings are entirely his own. I don’t mean to intimate in any way that his masterpiece is a sham by pointing out this correlation. It doesn’t diminish his achievement in my eyes; rather, it reminds me that artistic theft is necessary to many projects. It gives us the logic and structures of the world we live in while delighting our fancy with the flourishes and trappings of fantasy. Would George R.R. Martin been as successful had he done a true-to-history recounting of English events and people instead of an epic fantasy series? Probably not. This is why genre writing is so powerful. Not because teenage girls like sparkly rapey vampires, or because teenage boys delight in the gore of zombies: because good fantasy and science fiction recount to us that history we must educate ourselves to avoid repeating in a package we readily accept and in fact devour. Artistic theft, especially in genre works, makes the piece more powerful to the reader and more accessible/inspiring to the worldbuilder. I didn’t discuss his mythology in detail, but I believe there are correlations to our world history there as well.
To conclude, George R.R. Martin inspires both awe and work from this reader-writer-worldbuilder. He lets the reader in me enjoy the ride even as the writer-worldbuilder in me goes, “hey, we could do that.”
“Well, I mean listen… I think it’s no accident that we’re celebrating genre writing by literary writers and not genre writing by genre writers. I think that one of the elements, one of the dimensions that is left out of this discussion endlessly, and to my great frustration, is the word privilege. No one would be reading these books at the level they’re reading them now, if they didn’t have the credentials, the imprimatur, of literary fiction. Which is to say if a genre-writing-Joe had produced both of those books they would be stuck in their genre moment. And I think that this is what’s incredibly important about this discussion … is that there is privilege, and that this privilege grants a serious reading to literary writers writing genre versus genre writers writing genre. I don’t think we’re giving them a serious reading, I don’t think they’re going to be reviewed in the New York Times, and there is a deep unfairness there. Somebody like Justin [Cronin] and somebody like Colson [Whitehead], they have an American passport and they can come back and forth from the third world of genre writing and no one asks them any questions, but the genre writers are stuck with a Dominican passport, and they can never get out.”—Truth by Junot Díaz from this interview.
The Horror Genre
This requires context. It’s an essay I wrote for a course called ‘Novel & Genre’. I decided to focus on horror specifically because it was something new for me. This essay was a learning process for me. I found (and I write about) how some of the key aspects of horror are actually very present in books I class as influential to me. The main feedback I received from the marker was that I needed to extend the discussion of my own writing, and also use it to complement the theory I chose to discuss.
The horror genre is deceivingly difficult to define. When does a novel cease to be gothic and become horror? What is it that makes a certain book a horror and the next a fantasy or a mystery or a thriller? These are the questions that raised their ugly heads throughout my research into the subject. My answer to them was to look beyond the sensational tropes of horror – the invocation of fear, the violent and gruesome depictions and the otherworldly monsters (human or otherwise). It’s true, all these things can and do belong in a horror, but they are not the fundamental ingredients of it. The key aspects of the genre are far more abstract and they depend on one achieve horror. In this essay, I approach the core structure of the genre as a whole – those elements and tropes that were derived from the gothic, and which developed over time into a separate entity. These are the qualities that frame and give context horror’s subject matter of violence and gore, and it’s ability to scare us. I explore how these fundamental aspects work in the literary fiction that has influenced myself as a writer, and further extract these to propose how I might consciously use them to write my own horror novel that innovates within the genre.
The idea of a credible setting is a key element of horror novels, and one that is regarded as instrumental to their imminent success – or failure (Castle, 1987). These stories often take place in familiar settings – in the ‘normal’, which is to be disrupted as the story progresses. The life of the characters is established, as is their place within it, and the reader recognises this. Stephen King is often cited as an example of this technique, and Hanson (1990, 142) articulates this: “The surface of life is peeled back… to show the abject which lies ‘behind’ it, that which is ‘secret’.”
Writing mini tip: Genre Writing
Something that might be hard for writers to accept is that what they like to read and what they write well may be entirely two different things. That isn’t to say that one day they won’t be able to develop their skills to eventually write the genres that they prefer. However, they should always be open to exploring many different ways of writing, both in the areas that they are strong and also in the areas that need more work.
There’s really no point trying to suppress any facet of it: I am, by nature, a nerd. I have always obsessed over things, to a degree that seemed overwhelming to those around me. As a kid I remember my older sister’s raised eyebrow admonishment at my unprompted recitation of a history book on Egypt and hieroglyphs during my Indiana Jones-inspired archeologist phase. I like knowing the mechanics of the things I love – an aspect of my personality that strays into my relationships as well, to some detriment. I like knowing things backward, taking them apart, piecing them together in new ways. Finding the outer limits, analysing why I react, why others react.
So, Julia asked me why I like Supernatural, that it can’t just be that the Winchesters are attractive. It’s not that, it’s far from that. It’s partially that they are so easy to watch, it’s partially my lifelong obsession with ghost stories, my weakness for mythologies and investment in dark stories that are not necessarily lightened. But first, a digression, how I got here.
Do You Sense Lonely Places?
I’m working on a supernatural thriller and I’d love if any of you could help. Please pass this on too if you know anyone who would be interested. And please comment on any or all of the questions. Thanks!
Do you ever have the sensation of places being uncomfortable without a logical reason. I mean not just a desolate landscape, but any place, anywhere, even large urban areas.
Have you ever looked at a place and felt discomfort, wrongness or that is seems lonely-sometimes described as feeling out of place or disjointed from surrounding areas?
Have you ever felt there was something more to a place you saw or were near- almost as if it existed on more than level?
Have you ever seen a place in passing that had no appearance of neglect or decay, barrenness, or anything sinister, but it gave you a shiver?
Have you ever had these feelings about someplace unlikely like a large corporate office or an otherwise warm and friendly appearing cafe?
Have you ever felt a lonely place in one area or part of a larger space such as one room or even a part of a room in a building, or part of a street, or like under one tree in a park?
Have you ever had to be around a lonely space regularly?
Have you ever taken any action on your feelings, such as changing the way you would normally travel to avoid one?
Have you ever been aware of a lonely space in your own home? And did you do anything to try to “fix” the lonely space such as placing pictures, objects that had meaning for you, or encouraging people to be in that space? What happened when you did that?
Have you ever observed someone else having a reaction to a lonely place without previous discussion or knowledge?
Have you ever been afraid of a lonely place?
Has a lonely place ever begun to be part of your dreams?
Fabulous new book on writing
I bought The Arvon Book of Crime and Thriller Writing by Michelle Spring and Laurie R King the moment Ms. King announced its release on her Facebook. I bought it for two reasons: One, if Charles de Lint is my god, Ms. King is my goddess. Her prose and characterization are just gorgeous. (If you haven’t read her Holmes/Russell series do so. Now. Even if you don’t ordinarily read mysteries.) Two, my current novel-in-progress is a steampunk/Victorian detective novel crossover (with werewolves). This is my first foray into the mystery genre, and I’m looking for all the help I can get.
That said, I highly recommend this book to all writers, not just those in the crime/mystery genre. There’s a lot of good discussion about developing your craft and discovering your voice and your writing process that applies across the genres. The format (two authors with two different approaches to process, plus a number of ‘guest’ authors) gives the reader a lot to consider, and avoids the ‘my way is the only way’ dynamic that is a weakness in so many other books on writing.
For other book recommendations, see my blog post on the subject at www.ShawnaReppert.com.
I drew two random lots
Remember when I said I wanted to write some random genre of story? As an exercise? Well, last night, I wrote on random slips of paper, shut my eyes and picked two pieces.
And wouldn’t you know it, I picked Romance (Shoujo) and Drama.
The challenges I will set myself will be:
1) Follow SOME of the usual unwritten rules of a Shoujo manga.
2) Alter some stereotypes shown in Shoujo manga.
3) DO NOT base this story in Japan.
4) Avoid the high school setting. High school should not be the focal setting.
5) Avoid using extreme dramatic quips (i.e. “I slept with him to get back at her”, “He cheated on me with my best friend”, “he’s my boss, but I want to sleep with him”, “I’m pregnant”, “I’m your father”, “I’m your best friend’s father”, “I’m your long lost child”, “Ex-Wife smash”, etc.)
I will be busting up some gender roles, but not too much because I do want to story to be natural instead of having a group of deviants. I’m also going to try to make these people multi-level instead of one/two sided.
I have most of my cast.
Time to write!