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Ten tips on writing crime fiction

Crime author Pauline Rowson with A KILLING COASTThere are many different types of crime novels ranging from gritty gruesome, cozy comfortable to cops, robbers and gangsters, racy, action-packed thrillers, historical or hard boiled, contemporary, detective or private eye and many more variations in between.

Then there is the setting: the city, the sea, countryside, mountains, home or abroad. I have chosen to set my crime novels against the backdrop of the ever changing sea on the south coast of England.

I have also chosen to write what have been termed as 'police procedurals' or 'detective novels' with my DI Andy Horton series (15); historical crime with my 1950s set Inspector Ryga mysteries (3); and a series of mystery thrillers, with two standalone thrillers, In Cold Daylight and In For The Kill, and four mystery thrillers with undercover investigator, Art Marvik working for the UK's Police National Intelligence Marine Squad (4).

So here are ten tips on writing a crime novel.

1. Choose your location/s - it can be real or fictitious but it must have atmosphere.

2. Choose your type of crime story - detective, thriller, private eye (you might find that as you write your type begins to choose you!)

3.Choose who is going to be your main character or characters

Flesh them out. Know their backgrounds, hang ups, personalities, motivations. Creating a likeable, interesting and complex main character, one the reader can have empathy with, one they want to trust, feel his/her pain and disappointments, root for throughout the story is the key to creating a riveting read and a successful crime novel or series.

But it's not just the main character it's also the supporting cast, the villains and the walk-on parts who all need characteristics that are believable even if they are eccentric. The cast must be real to the writer and therefore real to the reader

4. Choosing and mastering viewpoint - whose story is it?

Viewpoint is one of the most difficult aspects for new writers to grasp, and sometimes even established writers struggle with this. Whose story is it i.e. from whose viewpoint are you telling the story? You might think it is fairly obvious that it is the protagonist’s story but is it his (or hers) alone, or do you need to switch to telling the story from another character’s viewpoint i.e. is it single viewpoint or multiple viewpoint?

I write in the single third person point of view in the following: from DI Andy Horton's perspective; Inspector Ryga: and Art Marvik.

In my standalone mystery thrillers IN COLD DAYLIGHT and IN FOR THE KILL I write in the first person.

5. Do your research - much of it will never be included in your novel and shouldn't be but it will help not only to get the facts right but will also give you further ideas for your story line.

6. Writing isn't just pounding away on a keyboard. Creating a novel requires more. There is also thinking time.

7. Write, write and write. Nothing happens until your characters start speaking, moving and doing things. They may surprise you.

8. What comes first plot or character? The answer is that the two are so interlinked it is difficult to say. The characters drive the plot but in order to create the characters you must have an idea what the plot is about.

9. Revise, revise, revise...The first draft is just that, it is not the finished novel. Take time to edit it and then re-edit it as thoroughly as you can.

10. Enjoy it!

Inspector Andy Horton Mystery no. 15

A Deadly Wake a DI Andy Horton MysteryNumber 15 in the DI Andy Horton series set against the backdrop of the sea on the South Coast of England in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight

As DI Andy Horton follows the trail of a man found dead in a log cabin on the Isle of Wight, he uncovers some startling revelations into his own mother’s past and the truth behind her disappearance over thirty years ago.

Published in paperback, ebook, on Amazon Kindle and Kobo order on line and from all booksellers


Inspector Ryga 1950s set mysteries

Death in the Cove, an Inspector Alun Ryga 1950 crime novel

When the body of a man dressed in a pinstriped suit is discovered by war photographer, Eva Paisley, in a secluded bay on Portland Island, Dorset, Inspector Alun Ryga of Scotland Yard is sent to investigate. Recently promoted, the thoughtful, observant Ryga, is on his first solo investigation outside of London, and is keen to prove his worth. Ignoring the warnings of the local police inspector, and the Dorset Chief Constable, that his trust in Eva Paisley is misjudged, Ryga quickly realises that her observations could provide the breakthrough he needs in a complex murder investigation and the answer to the haunting circumstances that have sent the man in the pinstriped suit to his death.

DEATH IN THE HARBOUR, Inspector Ryga mystery by Pauline RowsonrMyra Swinley is convinced that her police constable husband’s death was no accident, and that he would never have lost his footing on a dark, foggy November night on the quayside of Newhaven Harbour while on his beat. Determined to get to the truth she visits Scotland Yard to ask his former friend, Detective Superintendent Street, to investigate. Street says they have no basis to do so, but when Myra fails to return home from her visit to the Yard, Inspector Ryga is sent down to the Sussex coast to investigate. Accompanied by former war photographer, Eva Paisley, who has been airlifted back to England after suffering a wound incurred in Korea, Ryga’s investigation soon begins to uncover some puzzling facts. Painstakingly, and with Eva’s assistance, Ryga begins to unravel the mystery of why an ordinary police constable was murdered and his sensible law-abiding wife has gone missing.

The ART MARVIK series of mystery thrillers

Art Marvik Mystery Thrillers by Pauline Rowson"Fans of Rowson’s DI Andy Horton books will be delighted with her series featuring former marine commando Art Marvik.A tense, terrifying thrill ride that twists and turns with dizzying speed, combined with a likable, smart, tough, but all too human hero, make this a cracking-good series—action fans need Marvik on their radar." Booklist

Where to buy Pauline Rowson's books

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JULY 22ND, 2015 @ 6:07:07 BST


RE: Ten tips on writing crime fiction

I`m plotting my first contemporary mystery, not ghostwritten (have done historical/futuristic ones) and I`m trying to get the structure/character/research right. Thank you for this great info.


RE: Ten tips on writing crime fiction

You are very welcome. Glad you find it helpful.Good luck with the novel.


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