Today we’re privileged to have author Adam Croft with us. Adam writes crime novels and is going to share a bit of his method for doing that. Read his post, then ask questions if you have them and leave a comment or two. Adam said he had some copies of his book he was willing to give away today so you’ll want to make sure your name is in the hat for those.
When I self-published my first novel, Too Close for Comfort, I never expected it to do as well as it did. I was hoping that people would read it, obviously, and that I might be able to find out what they thought about it, but I never thought that so many people would read it.
I’m very glad they did, though. It’s not many people who get to say that they write for a living. After that first novel, there were two more: Guilty as Sin, part of the same series as Too Close for Comfort, and more recently Exit Stage Left, the first of the Kempston Hardwick mysteries. To date, I’ve managed to sell more than 200,000 copies – all through self-publishing – and Exit Stage Left has recently been turned into an audio drama.
My genre is crime, and writing and publishing three crime novels has taught me a lot about the genre, as has a lifetime of reading books by the best authors in the business. So today I thought we’d take a look at my recipe for a successful crime novel, developed through the process of writing my books – and not forgetting that there’s always room for improvement.
A twist is followed by a double twist
The art of the twist is one that anyone who reads crime novels will be familiar with, but often I think we need to go one step further. Follow up that twist with a double twist. Not only was the killer an alien from outer space, but it was a lesbian alien from outer space who was having an affair with the vicar!
The characters need to perform about-turns
One of the most effective tactics in many crime novels is to turn what we think we know about the characters on its head. For example, that dodgy-looking guy with the dark past, a crotchety demeanour and a general look of the guilty about him who would be the perfect villain actually isn’t the villain at all. He’s lovely. He gives a home to rescue cats and enjoys knitting at the weekends. Meanwhile, that lovely lady who everyone thinks is fantastic is actually as mean as they come.
However, is not just about people being someone different to who you expected them to be – it’s also about making them believable. Don’t forget that everyone has their own motives and thinks that they are doing the right thing even if everyone else thinks they’re mad. Character depth and development have to be some of the most important parts of any crime novel.
End every chapter with suspense
Suspense and tension are two of the key elements of crime fiction. The job of the author is to make the reader want to keep on reading – now. If the reader is happy to put the book down at the end of a chapter, the book isn’t working properly. Every chapter should end with some form of suspense that makes you want to keep on reading, even though it’s two in the morning, you have to be up at six and you’ve got a massive presentation in the morning. That doesn’t matter. You have to read the book.
Work towards a conclusion… then pull the rug out
All novels are building to something, and what the best crime novels are able to achieve is that they lull you into thinking that the conclusion is coming only to pull the rug out from under you (and the characters). The problem then becomes even greater, and it keeps on building until it’s a life or death situation. Keep building until it can’t be built upon any more. Then make sure that the real conclusion is a killer (actual killing optional).
A pinch of salt
Like most recipes, the recipe for a good crime novel is another one that benefits from a pinch of salt. There are no hard and fast rules; the ‘ingredients’ outlined above are ones that I think work really well and that I love to both read and write. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t do it entirely differently when you’re writing your own novel, or that you shouldn’t love reading crime novels that take a slightly different approach. You never really know how some things will work until you write them, and the suspense that that creates in itself is exciting – both for the writer and the reader, if you do it properly.
Crime is one of the most popular genres out there, and it’s definitely an exciting one to be writing in. There are always new things to try, new twists in the tale to plot out or discover along the way. No one is safe in crime, and that’s the way it should be.
Book cover attached
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