I’ve always enjoyed crime novels and I love to read stories that allow me to piece things together from a set of clues. When I heard that there was a Killer Crime panel at Get Lit!, I had to check it out. Here’s a little I learned about crime writing.
Okay there weren’t actually any suspects, but we did get to meet four different crime writers: Mathew Sullivan, Devin Devine, Tony Russell, and TJ Tranchell. They answered a few questions relating to crime writing and their personal experience with the genre.
What drew them to crime?
Matthew was drawn to crime writing from a literary influence and a life influence. He loved the idea of the natural progression of crime (from crime to case to solved), and the clear scaffolding that crime novels fit in. Matthew said he enjoys getting into the book and solving the crime from a writer’s perspective.
Devin said that crime novels have gray areas and even the worst characters can be likeable. She talked about being a nine-year-old watching The Ring as her first motivation to write. She thinks crime writing is realistic and a good sense of the state of things today.
Tony said that crime is universal.
Finally, TJ said that crime is about plot and planning. He said that crime novels are a search to find out if you as the reader are right in your assumptions.
What is suspense beyond “the next thing”?
TJ talked a bit about how Hitchcock used suspense. In one of the old Hitchcock movies, the villain planted a bomb under a table. The viewers knew about the bomb and that it would go off, but the characters had no idea. TJ talked about how suspense is showing readers details about a crime that the main characters don’t know about. Suspense comes from knowing what will happen and having to read to find out if the detectives will solve the crime in time.
Tony talked about the five-part novel he and Devin were working on. For him, the suspense is more about wanting to tell everyone who the murderer is before the series is completed.
Devin said that the series she is working on with Tony changes characters between each chapter. Everyone lies and that for crime novels it’s up to the reader to decide who they think is telling the truth.
Matthew says that suspense as a writer is much like being a therapist. Instead of handing out answers, the job of a crime writer is to let readers get to the conclusion on their own through clues.
What about the Denouement (end)?
Matthew said that he once wrote a story with a 150 page denouement that his editor had him cut to 20 pages.
Devin said that the denouement is about waiting and waiting until the end. She said that like with the Harry Potter series, a denouement does not always give all the answers.
Tony talked a little more about Noir and said that the style of Noir was exaggerated and uses misadventures to further the story.
TJ talked about novels and how he was a bigger fan of questions than he was with answers. A denouement might give some answers, but oftentimes it leads the reader to a few more questions.
A bit about Get Lit!
While this year’s Get Lit! festival has ended, you can check out the website in spring of next year and check out the schedule for 2019.