We run an online crime fiction course (you can email me on deangriss@btinternet to find out more) so I thought it would be useful to look at how to write a good crime story:

 

* The story should be strong and one that can be told in a short story (most crime stories are novels)

* Create a strong sense of place - the reader must be able to visualise where the action happens

* Create strong characters - do not stray into cliché, make our investigators real people. Your hero must not be perfect, he or she must be flawed but be careful about writing in too many flaws

* If you create a sidekick, make sure they have a job to do - passing on information, allowing your main character to react so we learn more about them etc

* Make the villain real not some clichéd villain from the movies. The best thing is for them to have appeared earlier in the story so the reader knows them. Give them a good reason to commit the crime - secrets, secrets, always secrets

* Grab the reader from the start. Here is an extract from an interview with the author Nick Brownlee explaining how to do it:

Q The opening scene of Bait features a character being gutted alive on a fishing boat. Was it always in your mind to start the book with such a gory scene?

A I have been a journalist for the best part of 20 years, much of that time writing stories for tabloid newspapers. The first lesson you are taught is that you must grab the reader’s attention with the very first paragraph, because by the third they will have lost interest in the story. It’s the same with commercial fiction – especially if you are an unknown author. In order to get published, Bait had to leap out of an agent’s slush pile and then make a publisher look twice. I needed an opening that would catch the eye. Hopefully it will have the same effect on the casual reader.”

 

* Even with a short story, it is worth mapping out a synopsis because crime stories are by definition complicated and you need to get it right

*  Keep the story moving - nothing holds a reader better than tension creates as the pace develops. Keep it driving on relentlessly

* Think about your ending - surprise the reader, have some drama, a chase, a fight, a killing, a dramatic revelation

* Feel free to makes us think - maybe you want to cast light on human nature, or perhaps a problem in society, Do not preach but feel free to let that idea come through in your story

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