So you’d like to know a bit about crime writers and the way we think? Well, that’s wonderful! We crime writers are sadly misunderstood. The vast majority of us are really very nice people. We love our children, we pay our fair share of taxes, and we’re kind to animals. So quite frankly, I don’t understand this misperception of crime writers as dangerous people. My guess is that it’s just a matter of getting to know a little more about what we’re like. So, always here to help, I’ve come up with this handy guide to the way crime writers think. Once you’re clear about these basics, I’m sure you’ll have a much better relationship with the crime writer in your life.
A Guide to the Crime Writer’s Thinking
Everything – and I mean everything – is fair game for inspiration.
It’s true. Anything a crime writer sees or hears about might find its way into a story. Here’s an example. Not long ago, Mr. COAMN and I went to our local winery for a music-and-art day, and we had a great time. It’s a terrific winery, with delicious offerings; a friendly, knowledgeable and dedicated vintner; and enjoyable events. So what was I thinking while we were there? Do you have any idea how many places there could be to hide a body at a winery? Just think of those casks, for instance! And imagine all the possibilities for murder motives, too. That’s not to mention the different methods for murder. Poisoned hors d’oeuvres or wine, sabotaged equipment…
See what I mean? Crime writers simply can’t help noticing things and being inspired by them. It’s what we do. So don’t be surprised if the crime writer in your life gets all sorts of criminal ideas from a walk, a shopping trip, or just pulling weeds in the garden. Don’t worry about it, though. I promise, we’re only dangerous when we write.
Wandering between the real world and our fictional worlds is normal.
Like everyone else, your crime-writing partner, friend or colleague knows that bills need to be paid, food provided, and so on. We do laundry and dishes, and those of us who have ‘day jobs’ do those jobs.
But really, the real world can get a bit dull. Especially when there’s a whole fictional world, complete with suspects, a villain, murder victims and more just waiting for the crime writer’s return. You’ll want to keep in mind, too, that those fictional worlds are our very own creations. So naturally, we’re quite fond of them, and they’re very real to us. Have patience when the crime writer in your life ‘disappears’ for a bit. We always come back. Of course, that sometimes means that dinner’s a bit late or – ahem – overdone. Or that we keep talking about people who don’t exist. Or that we seem to be living in a completely different era (for those of us who write historical crime fiction). Don’t worry; we know the difference between the real world and our own worlds. Usually. 😉
We go to some very dark places.
It’s an occupational hazard if you’re a crime writer. After all, crime fiction is all about the nasty things people can do to each other, and the sometimes disturbing psychology that can go with that. So crime writers aren’t afraid to ‘go there.’ And that takes some people by surprise.
Here’s an example. Not too long ago, I attended a large meeting with work colleagues from all of the university’s different colleges and departments. During a break in the proceedings, I had a brief conversation with someone, mostly about the speech we’d just finished hearing. I happened to mention how easy it would be to tamper with the speaker’s water pitcher, since most people’s attention was on the speaker. My colleague’s reaction: ‘Your mind goes to some dark places!’ What? You mean not everyone thinks that way? Oh, I could come up with worse – trust me!
See what I mean? Crime writers’ thinking does get dark. It has to, or we couldn’t write those stories that keep you turning and swiping pages. But we really wouldn’t carry any of it out. Promise.
Seemingly unimportant, but actually quite vital, facts have an irresistible appeal.
Have you ever wondered how long it takes bluebottle flies to hatch and mature? Or whether deleted files can be recovered from someone’s telephone? Or what tools you’d need to fix a broken boiler? Or whether there’s a pizza place on a certain street in a certain city? Just ask the crime writer in your life. Crime writers tend to be curious. What’s more, most crime writers want their stories to be credible. And that all adds up to research. Sometimes a lot of it. So we crime writers often have a wealth of seemingly trivial facts at our fingertips.
Of course, sometimes that research gets a bit, well, unusual. A search of a crime writer’s web browsing history might raise eyebrows. A more thorough search might get a crime writer on certain watch lists. But don’t let that stop you being friends or colleagues with a crime writer, or choosing one as your partner. It’s all in the name of research. Really. And please, don’t accuse the crime writer in your life of wasting time googling street maps. It really does matter whether that particular street has a dead end. What? Don’t you want the stories you read to be credible?
So there you have it. Just a few guidelines to help you understand the crime writer in your life. You’re welcome.
Am I right, crime writers? Which guidelines would you like to add?