If you’re a wannabe bestselling author of crime fiction novels, whether it be military thrillers, cozy mysteries, or police procedurals, you might want to read this post because, after reading my fair share of some really good crime fiction novels, I think I can come up with a pretty good list of tips.
1. Hate Your Protagonist:
Writing fiction in general, we create main characters that we cannot help but form a close bond with. In a sense, our main characters are like our children and we don’t really want to see them hurt. But to make our readers truly connect with our fictional children, we need to hurt them and we need to give them pain.
In crime fiction novels, authors should definitely not hold back on smacking their main characters around a bit. Heck, go all out. Punish, torture, stab, shoot, punch. Doing that is what ultimately keeps your readers reading because they want to see your protagonist survive everything you, like the cruel god you are, throw at them.
2. Know Your Starting Point:
When it comes to mystery novels, the beginning of your book can be a really important factor. Often, when readers come to the conclusion of the book, their minds will instantly go back to those first few pages they read and it is then that everything clicks for them.
Perhaps your protagonist is at a funeral or something, or having a nightmare about some killer. Whatever happens in those first few pages is just about the most important thing when it comes to mystery novels.
3. Make Your Angels Devils:
I hate it when I tell somebody that so and so just did this awful thing and whoever I tell this to looks at me like I’m crazy. People, no matter who they are, how they look, or what they do for a living, are capable of some serious bad bleep. In your crime fiction novel, it should be no different. Nuns, teachers, plumbers, gardeners, grandmothers.
Make readers see just how wrong they can be about your “good” minor characters. They’ll scratch their eyes out and run into walls because of it, but they will love you for it.
4. Make Your Devils Angels:
You totally can. You can make readers hate and despise a character throughout your crime novel and, somewhere in the end, you can flip that pancake and show that the person they hated all along was actually good in his or her own way.
Characters who are seemingly mean to your protagonist are great for exactly this. I’m not saying that you should suddenly turn a fictional Adolf Hitler into Superman’s distant cousin or something, but remember, it’s all about surprising the heck out of your readers. The more you prove them wrong, the more that pen name of yours will burn into their minds.
5. Give Everyone A Chance:
Sometimes we come up with these really cool ideas for novels and we tend to invent these almost impossible protagonists. You know the type. The fictional Tom Cruises, Johnny Depps, and our own warped versions of 24’s Jack Bauer. But sometimes, the hero of your novel need not be all that.
There are a variety of professions in the world and because the world is what it is, nobody is safe. With this in mind, why not make your hero something like the guy who works in a bakery. Surely, that man or woman can kick some serious behind too.
6. Hate Your Readers:
Noooo. I’m not saying you should actually hate your readers because who would you sell your books to? What I’m saying is that sometimes you should think about your book as a game between you and the reader and you are the one that’s trying to win.
One of the main reasons why I enjoy novels like thrillers is because, having read so much myself, I try to guess everything that’s going to happen after something. If I’m right, yay, but I don’t always want to be right. In fact, most of the time I want to be wrong.
While writing your novel, ask yourself, is where I’m taking my novel next easily predictable? Try to be one step ahead of your readers as much as you can, but it’s okay to let them be right every now and then.
7. Speak Often to Reclusive and Simple People:
If you’re looking to write something like a psychological thriller, speaking to reclusive and simple people could be your greatest assets. There are reasons why people are the way they are, so listening to people who are reclusive or simple talk often reveals some interesting details about them that you could use in your novel.
But I’d add that you only speak to such people that you personally know because, well, I wouldn’t want you to have tea with a guy who has “peculiar” things in his freezer, lol. But if you know this person and you know that this person is for a fact harmless, by all means.
8. Speak to Actual Victims of Crime:
Fiction writers can get away with a lot of character sketching without actually talking to people. It’s not that hard to look up on the internet to get an idea of what being in danger and experiencing something traumatic feels like, but to understand what real fear, pain, and anger feels like, real people with real stories can help your crime fiction novel greatly.
If you yourself have experienced something truly awful, write it down somewhere. That pain you felt, that awful experience, as well as the hate and other emotions that you felt afterwards, can be used later.
I hope that I have given you some helpful tips concerning crime fiction writing. Some of the best thrillers are often written in ways that most beginner writers can only dream of, but once you know what it is that crime fiction readers are looking for, you’re halfway there!
Images used found on Pixabay.