By Caroline Green
Crime fiction is booming right now. If you have ever wondered if you could write for this thriving, thrilling genre, here are ten things you should know:
- Understand who you are writing for. Read widely within the genre and decide what type of crime fiction you love to read. (Frankly, if you don’t get excited about reading it, why do you want to write it?)
- But after you’ve read all those lovely books, don’t try and second guess the market. No one saw the likes of Girl On The Train. The most important thing is to know the genre but write what you want to write.
- Watch quality drama as well as reading books. Programmes such as Happy Valley or Line of Duty can teach budding crime writers a lot, despite being delivered via a different medium.
- Aim for living, breathing, characters, not cardboard cut-outs. If you are writing another alcoholic PI or police investigator make sure they are so well-rounded they could step right off the page. What is their back story? What made them who they are?
- Don’t be afraid to delve into your dark side. Your own imagination is more powerful – and has more twists – than all the CGI in the world. Tap into it and never shy away from those big, bold ideas that make you think, ‘Dare I…?’.
- The best twists don’t come hurtling out of nowhere. The really satisfying ones make such perfect sense, you can’t believe you didn’t see them coming.
- Remember that conflict is the engine of story-telling. Try to weave some form of conflict into every single scene, every conversation, every plot line.
- Think about the ‘why-dunnit’ and not just the ‘who’. The reason psychological thrillers have taken off so much – and helped cause that boom in sales – is that the psychology behind dark deeds makes for a gripping read.
- Vary your pace. Sometimes readers need space to breathe, and others they need to be sent hurtling towards the thrilling climax of your story.
- Let your setting do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating atmosphere. A creepy atmospheric setting can really help rachet up tension.
Caroline Green writes best-selling thrillers as Cass Green and teaches City’s Crime and Thriller Writing Short Course.
Book now for the autumn term, starting 3rd October 2023.
Crime fiction is having a boom time, spurred on by the phenomenal success of books like Richard Orsman’s Thursday Murder Club series. Read on for more on why now is a great time to learn how to write crime fiction.
- Crime fiction is an incredibly popular genre
Crime is one of the fastest growing genres in UK fiction book sales, with Nielsen’s reporting a 19% volume growth in UK book sales for crime and thrillers in 2020.
- Crime fiction translates
Write a successful crime novel and the chances are it will be adapted into a film or onto the small screen or stage. From TV staples such as Midsomer Murders and Wallander to box office hits like Murder on the Orient Express and The Talented Mr Ripley, all began life as crime novels.
- Crime fiction has some of the most loyal fans
From Hercule Poirot to Philip Marlowe, from Inspector Morse to John Rebus, at the heart of the best crime fiction is an unforgettable detective. Create a detective your readers love and you’ll have them clamouring for the next book in the series.
- Crime fiction: a genre for our times?
From climate change to global pandemics, we live in increasingly uncertain times. While crime fiction delves into the darker side of life, ultimately justice prevails – the criminal is caught, the mystery is solved – and readers are left with the, however temporary, relief that order has been restored.
- Crime fiction is versatile
Study crime fiction and you’ll discover plenty of sub-genres to sink your teeth into (no pun intended). From cosy crime – currently having a moment due to the incredible success of Richard Orsman’s Thursday Murder Club series – to psychological thrillers epitomised by City Novel Studio alumna and Sunday Times bestselling crime writer Harriet Tyce, to hardboiled fiction, courtroom dramas and legal thrillers, there’s a sub-genre for everyone!
City’s Short Courses offer a ten-week Crime and Thriller Writing course taught by Sunday Times bestselling thriller author Caroline Green. Read here for her top tips on how to write crime fiction. Or click here to book her next course starting in January 2023.
And don’t just take our word for it: in the words of former student Darah O’Reilly, it’s ‘an outstandingly well put together course from a leading crime writer.’
For more on City’s Writing Short Courses visit our home page and keep an eye out on this blog for more updates on our growing list of published alumni.