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crime fiction

6 Good Reasons Why You Should Give Crime Fiction A Chance

There are those people who rarely read crime fiction and have good reasons to do so. But, if they give crime fiction a chance, they will understand why there is such a genre. Here are the reasons why:

1. Non-fiction provides you the facts. The fiction about it provides you the feelings.

Most of us start their research by reading non-fiction accounts of events. But if you want to know eyewitness accounts, better look into the writings of those who were there. Most fiction writers use their experiences and those of others in their writing. They present it with a better picture that stays in your mind much better than a photograph.

2. Crime fiction is as good as social criticism.

Lawlessness and corruption in society has brought about crime fiction. The cynicism is in response to the depression, corruption, brutality, racism, and the double standards in society. Most crime fiction depicts these themes because of its prevalence in society as a form of social commentary.

3. Crime fiction mirrors the social conditions that “cultivates” crime.

This is something related to number 2. But ever since Hollywood began making films from crime novels, the typical story line about catching-the-killer-before-he-kills-again became formulaic. These films don’t show a statement to the society that produced the killer. It’s not as simple as “society made him do it.” Depicting violence shouldn’t be about sensationalizing the gore. It’s about describing the violent consequences that may last for decades. And crime fiction should move people to act upon on this.

4. Crime fiction isn’t about killing, it can also show white-collar crimes.

Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. – Honoré de Balzac

White-collar crimes happen in the corporate world and described in one word: greed. White-collar criminals don’t need to kill.  Many authors have written about it. But sometimes, the only place where corrupt men and women go to jail or get killed is in the pages of our novels.

5. Crime fiction can analyze the life and times of one person.

One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic. – Josef Stalin

Unfortunately, a lot of contemporary crime fiction is escapism. But best crime writers can dramatize the solitary and tragic life of a single character. They make the reader feel the pain, sorrow, loss, and injustice that character had gone through.

6. You’ll discover new and unknown crime fiction writers.

Most of the new, aspiring writers start with crime fiction because the genre is in demand. At the same time, most writers create their first fiction from experience. And if you read more of these writers and their works, the publishers and the reading public might take notice.

I appeal to those who don’t read crime fiction, give the genre a chance and discover our different world.

Organize your writing

Organize Your Writing

Staring at a blank page is dreadful for a writer. The question, “What will I write?” is really not a problem. It’s the question “How do I start?” that matters.

Most of us often underestimate the planning of things because we’re obsessed with the goal. We have the clear picture of the end product but we don’t have a detailed plan on how to get there.

However, we also believe that planning is needed but to what extend do we believe that statement makes each of us different. Some would go for the general planning while others go for the much specific plan. In the end, we all believe that once the stage is set and everything is in place, we’re ready to go.

Let’s Start Organizing

So how does a writer organize his or her writing?

  1. RESEARCH. First things first: gather and organize the raw materials. Having all the research notes and reference materials at hand before starting saves a lot of time.
  2. OUTLINE. Next, sorting the materials into an outline will not only gives ideas but also provides an organization for us to fill in the details.
  3. DECIDE THE ORDER. Now that we have an outline, decide on what order are we going to cover the subject. Here are a few ways to do it:
    1. Chronological — the best bet for story telling: a beginning, a middle, an end.
    2. Synthesis — this is usually used in essays: from general to specific
    3. Spatial — this is usually used for descriptive writing: from left to right, top to bottom, exterior to interior, etc.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.Jean Luc Godard

However, flashbacks, reverse orders, and flash forwards have became common that others tempted to follow suit, too. But before doing that, be comfortable with the sequence first and try to check if they’ll work. Don’t forget that readers have to start somewhere, follow a path, and reach a clear ending.

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry about putting too much details. Be like a sculptor. Have the basic rough form first, and eventually chip off the things you don’t need until you come up with a work of art.

But before I end this, don’t forget to give proper credit where credit is due. So if you have sources that require permission or acknowledgment, list them down and keep them. Don’t discard your raw materials too soon. You’re going to return to consult these during the editing and revision processes. Dispense them only when you have the published work in your hands. Or better yet, keep them for future references.

genre

Genre

When we say genre, the first thing that comes into our minds is category. True, genres are categories of literary compositions. Each genre is determined by technique, tone, content, and even length.

The criteria used to divide literary works into genres are not consistent. It changes constantly and it’s even a subject for debate among literary scholars, authors, publishers, and critics.

Just see how literature as an art is divided into something like this:

1. Poetry

a. Lyric

(1) Song
(2) Ode
(3) Ballad
(4) Elegy
(5) Sonnet

b. Epic
c. Dramatic

(1) Comedy
(2) Tragedy
(3) Melodrama
(4) Tragicomedy

2. Drama

a. Tragedy
b. Comedy

(1) comedy of manners
(2) sentimental comedy
(3) burlesque comedy
(4) satirical comedy

3. Prose

a. Fiction

(1) Classic
(2) Crime/detective
(3) Drama
(4) Fan fiction
(5) Fantasy
(6) Historical fiction
(7) Horror
(8) Humor
(9) Mystery
(10) Realistic fiction
(11) Science fiction
(12) Short story
(13) Suspense/thriller
(14) Western

b. Non-fiction

(1) Autobiography
(2) Biography
(3) Essay
(4) Journalism
(5) Lab Report
(6) Memoir
(7) Narrative nonfiction/personal narrative
(8) Reference book
(9) Self-help book
(10) Speech
(11) Textbook

You might have noticed that a few genre overlap with another or the distinctions between them are thin. For example, crime/detective can also be mystery or suspense/thriller. Yet, their definitions differ and some scholars have made distinctions between each genres and subgroups.

Some people tend to use age categories as genre. In bookstores and libraries, literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children’s.

Genre must not also be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book.

Also, literary techniques should not be confused with genres. These techniques may be loosely defined like any genre but they are not the same. Examples are parody, frame story, constrained writing, stream of consciousness.

On this site, we focus on a specific genre: crime fiction. It is defined as the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives.

But what distinguishes crime fiction from the other genres like mystery and suspense/thrillers? We will discuss this on my next blog.

fiction

What Is Fiction?

When we say fiction we mean any story created by the writer’s imagination. Since it is a product of the imagination, it maybe or not based on history or fact.

In its original form, fiction refers to the major literary narratives. We refer them to as the novel, novella, short story, or play. Nowadays, fiction appears in various formats: writings, live performances, films, television programs, and games.

Since fiction involves creative invention, readers don’t assume its faithfulness to reality. Readers don’t expect factual characters or descriptions. This makes fiction open to interpretation even if it claims to be, or marketed as, “historical”.

This also makes the distinction between fiction and non-fiction thinner. Hence, we hear the term “creative non-fiction” these days. The thin line between the two may be defined from the perspective of the audience. If its people, places, events are all factual and real, it’s non-fiction. If it deviates from any of the elements, it’s fiction.

What we can distinguish is how a fictional work grounds on reality. A story is realistic when its basic setting is real and the possibility of events to happen in the world we live in. A story is non-realistic if it is set in an imaginary universe, or in an alternative history or timeline, or in some non-existent location or era.

In short, fiction is both artifice and verisimilitude. It requires both creative invention and a degree of acceptable truthfulness. Thus, the notion of a “willing suspension of disbelief”. Fiction brings the possible and the impossible together.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.Mark Twain

How do you define fiction?

guilty

Guilty

I wrote Guilty back in August 2002, right after submitting the manuscript of Living In a Lie. The idea came from an article I’ve read from an old copy of the Reader’s Digest. If I’m not mistaken, the article was entitled, “Why Do I Defend Criminals?” something like that.

While writing the story, I used the casting call method in developing the characters. I had in my mind the pictures of a well-known actress and a well-known teenage actor to play Rita and Paolo respectively. Whenever I write a scene, I would imagine how would the actress portray Rita — the way she moves, talks, and reasons out. Same with the teenage actor portraying Paolo.

I remember writing down the draft on an intermediate pad, on longhand, just to get the story out of my mind. After one chapter, I typed it on a short bond paper, double-spaced. Yes, I was using Voltaire’s typewriter then which he lent me since I don’t have a computer at that time yet. It was during that time that I’ve observed that one page of a handwritten story was equal to one page of a typewritten manuscript.

At that time, I wrote the story with Paolo’s transformation in mind. The original ending was a heart-tugging, emotional, unsent letter from Kaye addressed to Paolo. I remembered having the Mayor, Kaye’s dad, handed that piece of letter to Paolo a few days after the trial ended. My purpose was to show that the Mayor had accepted the court’s decision in acquitting Paolo.

The letter was Kaye’s reaction to what Paolo and his friends usually say that it was Kaye who reformed Paolo from a drug addict to a boy with a sense of direction. In that letter, it was revealed that Kaye was thankful to Paolo because it was Paolo who prevented her to commit suicide on the day that they first met. It was revealed that she had been depressed with her family’s situation, too. It was really a tearjerker.

After submitting the manuscript, my editor told me to change the ending. “Make it something hopeful,” he said. So I was instructed to type the new ending at the office, directly on the office computer, because the story was about to be printed. I guess, it took me a few hours to change two chapters at the end.

After submitting my revision, I moved on to the next projects. So I almost forgot this novel’s production.

Four stories after, sometime in November 2002, we (me and the other writers) had a falling out with the editors. I wasn’t paid for my last story that I’ve written. That was also the time I decided to venture to another medium: komiks. A few months after, karma had taken over so I don’t have to do anything.

Anyway, I’m presenting to you the e-book version of this novella. It’s much shorter than the others that I’ve written. And I do hope that you’ll enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

DEAR IN SETS modes of writing

DEAR IN SETS

The title of this article, DEAR IN SETS, may mean nothing to us. Actually, that’s an acronym I used to remember the different fiction writing modes or forms of expression.

Just like essay writing, it has EDNA. No, not a woman but an acronym for its main writing modes: Exposition, Description, Narration, and Argumentation. However, since we’re dealing with fiction, which is a form of narrative, let me explain to you the different modes of fiction writing in DEAR IN SETS.

When we say modes or forms of expression, it is the way we write or present the story. Each mode has its own set of conventions on how, when, and where we should use it in writing. However, there is no consensus within the writing community regarding the number and composition of fiction-writing modes and their uses. But for me to remember these modes, I will use the acronym DEAR IN SETS.

D – Description

This mode transmits a mental image of an element of the story. One of the most widely recognized modes of fiction writing, description brings life into a scene by carefully choosing and arranging words and phrases to produce a desired effect.

E – Emotion

This mode conveys the feelings of the character. Emotions can make or break the relationship between the character and the writer. Connecting the character to his own emotions allows the author to connect with the reader on an emotional level.

A – Action

Action demonstrates events as they are happening in a story. It helps the readers feel as if they were participating in the plot.

R – Recollection

This mode allows the character to remember details or events. It helps writers to convey the backstory or any useful information from the past or before the story began. Although recollection is not widely recognized as a distinct mode of fiction-writing, it is a common tool. Some say that Recollection should be considered a subset of Introspection. Others say that its role in developing backstory separates it from the other thoughts of a character in Introspection.

I – Introspection

Also known as internal dialogue, interior monologue, or self-talk. This mode conveys the thoughts of a character, allowing the expression of normally unexpressed thoughts.

Introspection may also be used to:
*enhance a story by allowing the character’s thoughts to deepen characterization
*increase tension
*widen the scope of a story
*play a critical role in both scene and sequel

N – Narration

This mode shows how the narrator communicates the story directly to the reader.

S – Sensation

This mode portrays the character’s perceptions. It helps the reader feel the actual sensations of things comprising the story. Since the reader can only use the sense of sight, this mode allows the writer to provoke recall from the reader, or convey the experience. This draws the reader in and maintains his interest in the story.

E – Exposition

This mode simply conveys information. Exposition may be used to add drama to a story, but too much exposition at one time may slow the pace of the story. Show, don’t tell, they usually say. (But that’s another article.)

T – Transition

Transitions in fiction are words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or punctuation that may be used to signal various changes in a story, including changes in time, location, point-of-view character, mood, tone, emotion, and pace. This mode allows the writer to move from one scene to the next, or one chapter to the next, etc.

S – Summarization

Also called the narrative summary, this mode condenses events to convey, rather than to show, what happens within a story. The “tell” in the axiom “Show, don’t tell” is often in the form of summarization. As I’ve said, this will be another topic.

Given these modes of fiction writing, I’m sure you have tried all of them in your novel. Have I missed anything?

Writing

AIDA and What Does It Have to Do With Writing

 

It has been a year now that I’ve stopped teaching and somehow I miss the campus life. But learning doesn’t start and end in a school, it goes on continuously. So I turn my blogs into a form of teaching hoping that those who read them learn a thing or two.

Months ago, while discussing persuasive writing to my students, I asked my class to write a copy for a fictitious brand of beauty products. I’ve told my class that copy writing, or writing for an advertisement, is a good example of persuasive writing. It is the art of grabbing someone’s attention to act on the matter in brief statements but full of impact. Although most advertisements come in 5 to 60 seconds, the process of creating one involves copy writing.

So I told my students to think of AIDA. No, she’s not a woman. It is an acronym that spells out the process in copy writing.

A Stands for Attention.

The first part has to do with getting someone’s attention. Usually, it is a form of a startling question or quote. The “what would you do?” question works in most commercials like Sprite or Cornetto. And once you’ve attracted someone’s attention, you’ll have to go directly to I.

I Stands for Interest.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, once you got someone’s attention, you have to make a way of sustaining that interest. Whet his/her appetite without divulging too much information. Keep the suspense high then go for the D.

D Stands for Desire.

You’ve managed to whet the appetite, so it goes on to create the desire. Show, not just tell. Sell the benefits, not just the features. Do these and he/she will crave for it. Then you go straight to the last A.

A Stands for Action.

You already have his/her attention, you already kept him/her interested, he/she showed the desire to have it, so it’s time for him/her to take action. This is the part where you will provide the information they’re asking for: where to get it and how. This is also the part where to use the verb power. Use active verbs that influences action.

AIDA does not limit itself in copy writing. It also applies in other forms of marketing — SEO, PPC, etc. And as I always say to my students, whenever you write with a call to action in mind, think of AIDA.

Now it’s your turn. Try writing a copy using this method and see the difference. Let me know if you achieved something positive with it.

mentor

In Search For a Writing Mentor

It is not just a question of having or not having your own writing mentor. The real question here is: Do you really need a mentor or could you do without one? Opinions vary from writer to writer. But first, let’s take a closer look at what mentoring a writer is.

When we say “mentor”, it is synonymous to a “guide” or “counselor”. He/She is someone who could give sound advice not just on our writing career but also on life in general; someone who has been there and done that and has inspired you to become a better writer.

Most likely, the mentor a writer has in mind could be someone who is well-known or experienced, who have written and published numerous articles, stories, or novels, and probably still be busy writing his/her next book. How could that mentor squeeze in time for mentoring is something the mentor can only determine.

Another common source for writing mentors is from the field of education. Teachers, professors, and even workshop instructors are always ready to act as someone’s writing mentor because it is innate in their personality and job.

I don’t have a mentor in the strict definition. I take as much advice and inspiration as I can from the people I am close to.Natalie Massenet

Mentoring follows three stages which are:

  1. To lead — It starts with the mentor leading the mentoree the way, teaching what and what not to do most of the time.
  2. To follow through — The mentor will let the writer do things on his/her own, following through the steps — this time giving advice, commenting, giving suggestions, etc.  , and
  3. To let go — When the mentor feels that the writer is successful and can do things independently without him/her, the mentor starts to let go.

But the relationship doesn’t end there. The friendship still continues.

On the other hand, there are people who don’t maintain this kind of mentor-mentoree relationship with someone. These writers would just take advice from different sources and take it from there. They are too independent that they don’t need to be followed through. Others are those who had a bad experience with mentoring before that they decide to do things on their own instead. Which brings me back to my question: Do you really need a mentor or could you do without one?

Every writer would claim to have been taught and inspired by someone to write and be the person and writer he/she is now and would consider that someone as a mentor. To maintain a professional mentoring relationship with someone is his/her own choice.

research

Who Cares? Just Make It Up! It’s Fiction.

As a fiction writer, that title is something easy to say. But as a journalist, writing should be based on facts.

I’m not a professional journalist but I’ve been a news writer and managing editor for our school paper back in college. Writing news follows an inverted pyramid pattern and has to be factual and up-to-date. With that kind of training, my logical side has this tendency to put down facts in my fiction, yet my creative side wants to mangle with these facts to bring out an incredible story.

But readers nowadays could tell if a novel or story was well-researched or not. And once a reader had sensed a not-so-well-researched story, he or she could drop the novel and walk away.

All writers will agree that even crime fiction writing still needs to be researched. An author should take time to look for facts regarding characters, places, events, business establishments, and even the industry where these characters work. It could be by reading books and other printed materials, watching films and videos, or interviewing experts on the subject matter. Whatever kind of research and information related to the story has to be taken in and noted down.

Most of the time, I have more information than what I need or would use in the actual novel. But that’s okay, better to get the facts straight first and discard the unnecessary information afterwards.

How much research will I put in my fiction? I would say enough to make the characters, places, events, or business establishments realistic and logical for the readers to relate with. At the same time, something enough to provide me the creative liberty to put in fictional elements to make a story become larger than life.

Research should be used more as background information to give me the confidence to write about the story without sounding too ignorant or too all-knowing.

I’m taking my time to do research for this novel I’m currently writing. Good thing I have a good set of reference books and an online writing tool that helps me map out my story as I research. I’m even contemplating to interview a criminal lawyer cum police officer. If you know someone I could talk to, feel free to contact me through this website.

hate violence

I Hate Violence But I Write Crime Fiction

Is that a problem? I don’t think so. The fact that I hate violence is one of the reasons why I write crime fiction.

Most of us, in one way or another, had seen or experienced violence. I myself had been violated and writing it down on paper released at least some of the negative emotions I had in my heart and soul. I think there’s nothing wrong with writing to be read, and somehow, crime fiction is a sure hot topic to read.

Also, crime fiction interests a steady and ever increasing audience, from the traditional mystery a la Sherlock Holmes to the legal drama a la How To Get Away With Murder on TV, and all other types of crime fiction in between. So the enthusiasm of readers to follow their favorite authors (or films or TV shows) is an added bonus for us writers.

One of the things that make crime fiction flexible is the fact that it could be combined with other genres like romance, sci-fi, paranormal, etc. Crime fiction may follow a certain formula that could guide any writer from start to finish. Anyone could still get away with writing a plot-driven crime fiction if he/she couldn’t write it in a character-driven plot at first.

And lastly, writing crime fiction challenges my mind to confront larger issues of violence and tackle them on paper. It makes me ask the merits of our justice system. It makes me wonder why people commit crime. It could be a fun learning experience at the same time, it gives me the relief upon solving the puzzling crime by myself. In the end, good and justice prevails and resolves that crime doesn’t pay. And with conviction I’ll say, I hate violence that’s why I write crime fiction.

feel write repeat

Feel. Write. Repeat.

Imagine a friend has come to you for help. He/She dreams of becoming a writer but is burdened by fears. He/She worries he/she has no talent and has nothing to say. Perhaps he/she worries he/she’s taking precious time away from her family to pursue his/her selfish desire to write. For 15 minutes, write to that friend and give him/her hope.

 

I see you’re not smiling. Why that frown on your face? Your eyes seem to cry.

So you want to write? Then why are you not writing?

Who told you that you have not talent? If you’re not talented, then what am I?

You see, my friend, I see you as more intelligent than I am. I see you as more than talented than I am. Yes, really. You’re my idol. I look up to you. So what are you talking about?

So what? Don’t mind them! I mean, writing is something done alone.

Does that really mean you’re selfish? No, I don’t think so. Because when you write, you’re sharing much more than what others don’t. You’re sharing your mind… your heart… your soul. It might not be that intangible, but it’s the most beautiful to share because it touches the heart.

That’s why writers write.

Go on, cry. But I suggest that you write what you’re crying about. Write while you’re crying. That’s cathartic… and productive. After crying, step back. Don’t look at what you’ve written today. Return tomorrow, or probably next week. By the time your emotions are over, read what you’ve written. You’ll discover a gem, a true piece of writing from a soulful writer in you.

Come on, grab a pen and a paper. Write.

Don’t worry about your handwriting. Don’t worry about your spelling. Don’t worry about grammar. Just write what you’re thinking, and write while you think, just like how you would talk. Write!

There… go on… it doesn’t matter if you fill up a page or two. Stop only when you don’t have nothing else to write. Go on… continue writing.

Whew! You did it! How was it? Was it cathartic? Does it feel good? I know, right? Good job!

You’re welcome. Just don’t forget, whenever you feel like this again… do this kind of writing. Feel. Write. Repeat.

We write to taste life twice…Anais Nin