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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?

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.

Number One Fan deleted prologue

Deleted Prologue: An Exclusive Peek

Here’s the deleted prologue from my novel Number One Fan which you can only read exclusively here on this site.

During NaNoWriMo last November 2012, I wrote a prologue to start my story. I thought it would be a good idea to explain a certain backstory of the main character. There are some novels that used this technique and it worked for them in the past.

At that time, my working title was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star which I had taken from the nursery rhyme clue in the story. Since I decided to use the first person point of view, I wanted to establish Regine’s character as a journalist and how she came to present the story.

However, times have changed. Authors and editors don’t recommend the use of prologues anymore. So sometime in April 2013, during the revision process, I decided to delete the prologue, went straight to chapter 2, and started the story from there.

The Deleted Prologue

A WORD FROM REGINE STA. MARIA

BEFORE WE TOOK our Christmas break during Grade 4, our English teacher instructed us to keep a diary and start writing on it by New Year.

I excitedly told my mother about our assignment when I got home. I asked her to buy me a diary.

A few days later, my mother was stabbed to death. I didn’t witness the actual crime, but I saw the killer went out of her room carrying a bloody knife that fateful day. I don’t know why the scene was still vivid in my memory except for the killer’s face. I was ten years old then and that memory haunted me only until recently when I came to terms with it.

Christmas morning, my aunt handed me my mother’s last gift. It was a Hello Kitty diary with a small lock and key on the side and a matching ballpoint pen. I couldn’t wait to start writing on it, referring to the diary as “Kitty” just like how Anne Frank called hers.

Writing on it for the first time felt like talking to a friendly cat that silently licked my wounds to heal. I felt Kitty reciprocated my writing with filial devotion and affection every time I poured out my feelings with words. I’m not a pet person, but Kitty the diary became my virtual pet, my form of catharsis, my form of therapy, and my intimate friend.

Mae West once said, “Keep a diary and it’ll keep you.” Right now I have lots of journals stacked in my drawer.

My journal writing has evolved into different forms — unsent letters, dialogues, lists, idea maps, doodles, sketches, or a combination of two or more forms. It kept on evolving.

The story you’re about to read was taken mainly from my diary. In fact, it helped me decide what college course and career to take. I took up A.B. Journalism because I wanted to be a newscaster just like my idol, Alma Perez. I wished to be famous like her. But no one warned me to be careful on what I wished for.

Although this story could possibly happen to anyone, I never thought that it would actually happen to me. I took the poetic license to write the story like fiction to include Number One Fan’s side. I could vouch for the authenticity of his story based on the audio file he sent me and some accounts from reliable sources.

To distinguish the difference, I would tell my story in the first person point of view and his in the third person (and written in italics, too).

Let me know what you think. If you haven’t read Number One Fan, please download a copy now.

Tuhog

Tuhog

Tuhog

In Filipino, the word tuhog means to fasten in a skewer. However, in fiction, it means to put and connect things to form a complete whole.

I remember two Filipino films both entitled Tuhog.

One made by Jeffrey Jeturian and stars Ina Raymundo. I had the chance to see this film on a special advanced screening back in 2000 at the UP Film Center.

The other one stars Eugene Domingo which I haven’t seen yet but I will someday… soon. As what I’ve seen in the latter’s trailer, it is about three different and separate stories that are connected in an accident. It follows three different stories running parallel to each other in one single movie.

I remember writing my first screenplay, Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme. The original concept has three different stories that would run in three days in a hospital. However, our mentor during the FDFPI Screenwriting workshop, Nestor U. Torre, suggested to make it 5 stories and he added two more interesting characters (an OB-Gyne who can’t have a child was one). He challenged me to finish the screenplay as my requirement for graduation and if possible, to enter it in the contest. I obliged and the rest was history.

Writing more than one story running parallel with each other is a challenge.

You have to find a good junction where they would merge into one to make a compelling story. In the case of Tuhog, it was the accident. In the case of Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme, it was the hospital setting.

And once you have a common link between the different stories, you start to plot and position each event in some particular order to determine how you will tell the three or more stories as one whole.

Incidentally, I used the same method when I wrote The Vixens. The stories of six different women run parallel to each other and the common links are their high school reunion and some episodes of their lives.

I usually create a table where I would list the different plot points in the first column (the trigger, the turning points, the midpoint or the point of no return, the climax, the denouement, and the end). Each column after that would be the different characters or stories (story 1, story 2, etc.). And then I start to plot down the points where these should be. Once I’ve laid out the plan, I start writing scene by scene.

It looks easy at first, but when I came down to writing, it became harder. Somehow, the characters have lives of their own that move the story forward to where I didn’t plan it to be. I just have to trust my gut feel. The ultimate goal is to create a whole story ready for grilling, a secured skewer, in Filipino, tuhog.

How about you? Do you have stories that could be joined by one element like a theme, a place, or an event? Have you tried this technique before? If so, how did you do it?

Reasons Why I Write Crime

The Reasons Why I Write Crime

I started seriously reading books when I was 9 when I got interested borrowing books from our school library. There was something in the word “mystery” in “Nancy Drew in The Spider Sapphire Mystery” that made me borrow it. Since then I was hooked with the series, always looking for those Grosset & Dunlap hardbound books with yellow sides and has numbers on them. I don’t remember how many have I read out of the more than fifty in their list but something made me crave for more.

I was even more fascinated when while browsing inside a bookstore, I found a book that says “The world’s most popular mystery writer of all time…” That description pertained to Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime. Why was she described as that made me research and found out who she was. I was 10 years old then, but I read my first Christie, Ordeal By Innocence two years later.

I, like everyone else, am curious about unsolved mysteries and whodunnits.

Who isn’t? I love coming up with conspiracy theories about things I thought I know more about. It’s easy for me to jump into conclusions. I love to pry on someone’s secrets. I don’t want things hidden from me. Spies, assassins, and undercover agents fascinate me. The bottom line: I always ask the how and why of things.

There is a feeling of affirmation that the Earth is still a good place to live in and life goes on.

These are some of what crime/mystery thrillers are made of. The story that begins with a crime and keeps me in suspense as I guess who did it every time I turn the page. I anticipate that the villain will get caught in the end. Cathartic in some ways, yet I ask for more; a good form of escapist entertainment.

I want to write something that can cross with other genres

That’s the main reason why I write crime fiction.  I can mix it with romance, drama, historical, comedy, sci-fi, paranormal, etc. It may require me to include police procedures, legal and medical facts, interviews with investigators and forensic experts, which could be a learning experience for me as well. I wish I could meet an actual spy or assassin for an interview.

Mystery/Crime fiction appeals to all genders, therefore it could reach wider audience.

There is something in pulp fiction that it still sells until today. Stories that thrill are most likely to be translated into film, TV, play, or other entertainment forms.

And speaking of translation, my first English novel, Number One Fan, was offered to be translated to Turkish by Altin Bilek Yayinlari for their 2014-2015 book season. However, it never happened. Now, here’s wishing for an offer to have it translated into film or television… 🙂

the vixens

The Vixens

The original plan on The Vixens was a 6-part erotica series in the tradition of Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. It was originally a ghostwriting project for an erotica website in the UK and the instruction was to “make it titillating to women readers (the market).” However, my client and I parted ways in the later part of 2012 and since they’re not going to use my stories, I can keep them.

The series is about six women who call themselves Vixens (female foxes, female bitches); each has a story to tell about love and being a woman (a single mom, a divorcee, a mistress, a widow, a wife, and an old maid). The grand alumnae homecoming becomes the common scene on all six stories.

After writing a few chapters (and a few sex scenes, too), I asked myself, “Where’s the fine line between sexy romance and erotica?” or “How far could you get to write erotic scenes without being tagged as pornographic?”

Related link: On The Edge: The Power of Titillation

However, during the course of writing, the timelines have changed after the client edited the first story. I had to straighten out the timelines while revising the second story and started writing the third. And shortly after that, I said goodbye to my client.

In the 2013 NaNoWriMo, I decided to start from zero, use the idea from these stories to come up with a trilogy.  This erotic novel made me reach the 50,000 word goal for the first time in my second year in NaNoWriMo.

I still don’t have an outline for the last three women although the Vixens should be complete and deserves a sequel. The big question is when.

Grab your FREE copy here or from Free-eBooks.net of my first erotica, The Vixens, and let me know what you think. Feel free to give me suggestions for the last three stories. I’ll be looking forward to it.