Today I am thrilled to welcome Nick Quantrill to my blog. Nick is an established crime novelist based in Hull. His latest novel, The Dead Can’t Talk, is published by Caffeine Nights Publishing: https://goo.gl/LyXc9F
Here he offers some useful & precious nuggets of guidance to budding crime writers:
You need a protagonist
All stories need a protagonist, someone who can give a story its essential structure. Of course, not all protagonists are born equal. Some are paid professionals, typically a police officer or investigator of some kind, but equally, they can be the person we pass in the street with no secret powers or a well-motivated amateur. The choice is yours. Your protagonist doesn’t even need to be a good person. Sounds like a contradiction? Think about someone like Tony Soprano. The key to him being such a compelling protagonist is that he has his own strong moral compass.
You need a worthy opponent
If you’re going to test your protagonist thoroughly, you need to really disrupt their life to see how they react. Their opponent can be pure evil, or they can also be more complex and nuanced. It’s a case of perspective. They can be misguided, manipulated by darker forces or maybe motivated by revenge. People are rarely either good or bad. The grey area is where crime writing thrives.
You need a location
Deciding on a location will go a long way in helping you decide what type of crime novel you’re going to write. Will your story be set in a contemporary location? If so, you need to consider how well you know it and what your research needs are. Will it be urban or rural? If you’re going to tackle the historical novel, you’re opening up a whole different can of research worms. You also need to consider how contained your story is going to be. All worlds have rules and norms, all characters have a stake in the world and interact with it differently.
You need a plot
“Where do you get your ideas from?” is a question often asked of any writer, and the truth is ideas are everywhere. The trick is in working out which ones can sustain a novel. More importantly, it’s about working out what interests you. Maybe it’s an injustice that makes you angry, maybe it’s a need to explore a particular location to make sense of it. Once you’ve got your motivation it’s a case of working it up into a plot and making the structure work.
Don’t sweat the sub-genre
Crime writing seems to contain more sub-genres than ever – police procedural, domestic noir, psychological thriller, serial killer…the list goes on and on. Some sub-genres are very much in fashion at the moment, some always will be and some will come and go. The publishing world moves so slowly, chasing the market is likely to prove foolish. There’s so much advice to cut through when writing, but it doesn’t ring truer than write what you want to write. It’s the only way to find your voice and tell a story with passion and commitment.
Crime writing is not the pariah of the literary world
Think crime writing is for writers who aren’t technically skilled enough to write beautiful prose and deep meaningful thoughts? Think it’s only about cheap thrills and tricks? Think again. Crime writing can be pure entertainment, but it also has the capacity to go far beyond that. Crime writing looks the world firmly in the world and says it as it is. Crime writing can examine where money, power and influence intersect and offer up perspectives beyond our own understanding. It has the power to challenge and question our opinions.
Crime writers are friendly
I don’t know why they are, but they just are. Maybe it’s being treated as literary outsiders which leads to crime writers huddling together, maybe it’s dealing with dark subject matter on a daily basis, but crime writers know how to let their hair down. If you want to find industry professionals, go to the big crime festivals and mingle, seek advice. If you want to meet likeminded people and receive encouragement, also go. You’ll find you’re more than welcome.
Learn more about Nick & his work: http://www.nickquantrill.co.uk/