How to Write a Detective Story

August 17, 2008 at 4:58 am | Posted in Writers Write | 1 Comment
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If you want to write a detective story, you’ll have to begin with a little investigation of your own. There are several different sub genres in this category of mysteries; from hard boiled detectives to amateur sleuths.   Your detective could be anyone, a little old lady, a cynical ex marine, a teen girl with a knack for mischief, a chef, even a couple of cats.

The first detectives of popular fiction were amateurs who solved murders like a parlor game outwitting the incompetent police.  Dashiell Hammett, a former Pinkerton detective, took a more realistic approach to crime solving, with classic detective novels like “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man.”  Raymond Chandler once said “He (Hammett) put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.”

Chandler’s Philip Marlowe epitomizes the hard boiled private investigator, a incorruptible, hard drinking, tough guy.  Chandler created a feeling of believability with his characters and stories.

Amateur sleuths are usually not held to the same standards. It can be tricky justifying the presence of your  protagonist especially if you intend to serialize the character.  Remember the Angela Lansbury character from Murder She Wrote?  Every where she went a murder was committed.  I would seriousily reconsider a friendship with this type of sleuth.  Your detective has to have a legitimate reason to be involved and something personal at stake.  They may have been accused of a crime or the victim of a crime, they may be protecting someone else or they may have a professional interest in the truth, such as: journalists, lawyers or writers.

Once you’ve decided the type of detective story you wish to write, focus on the crime and facts of the case.   More than any other type of story, I believe the detective story will benefit from a detailed outline before you start writing.  There are certain rules you must follow to meet your readers’ expectations

1.  Introduce the crime early on, preferably within the first three chapters. It is the crime and subsequent clues that hook your reader.  The crime should be significant enough that your reader feels invested in the outcome.  Most detective stories involve a murder or kidnapping.

2. Introduce the detective and culprit early on.  You’re not playing fair if you don’t include the antagonist in the line up of suspects.

3.  Provide clues along the way so it is possible, though highly unlikely, that your reader could solve the case themselves.

4.  Don’t provide enough clues along the way so your reader solves the case before your detective.  A detective story is a race between your protagonist and your reader.  If the reader wins, the victory will be bitter sweet.  Your readers want to be challenged, but in the end, they want to be outsmarted.

5.  Wrap up all the loose ends.  Readers will remember every red herring you threw in their direction.  If a clue wasn’t relevant, make sure you provide a reason why it was included.    Each plot point must be plausible, and  the action even paced, without getting bogged down in back stories or subplots.

6.  Your detective must solve the case using logic or scientific means.  CK Chesterton wrote the following oath for all writers of detective stories: “Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow on them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?”

Of course, the best way to learn how to write a detective story is to read detective stories.  Pay attention to how clues are revealed, when key characters are introduced and when revelations are made.  Detective stories are fun to read and fun to write, but if you don’t play by the rules, you won’t stay in the game.

Get Paid to Write

July 24, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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When you decided to be a writer, did you think you were going to write a novel or screenplay?  Did you imagine yourself as the next Stephen King or Hollywood “It” Kid schmoozing with celebrities and getting comfy on Oprah’s couch?  I imagined writing terrific mysteries, releasing a new best seller every year and living comfortably doing something I love. 

 

I do get paid to write, but it’s not quite the vision I had years ago. While you wait for that publishing contract and big advance, you might find yourself hustling for freelance jobs.  I’ve written articles for others to post on a wide variety of topics.  I might not be passionate about solar energy or knitting, but I am passionate about writing. While the topics don’t nourish my writer’s soul, it does put food on the table.

 

I’ve heard my fellow writers complain about the dismally low pay scale for writing articles.  It does not pay as well as print because site owners need to update content daily, not weekly or monthly.  They need quality content but they also need quantity content.  The budget only stretches so far and many of my customers are small business owners.  If you can’t stomach the idea of earning only $20-$30 an hour, there are other options

 

1.  Write for your own site.  This is appealing because you can write about the topic of your choice (such as writing) and you will reap all the rewards. Just be prepared for the three W’s…

 

Hard Work

Lots of Writing and

A long Wait

 

As you build content on your site, you also want to build links. You can do this by writing supplemental articles, NOT duplicate articles, and placing them on sites like WordPress or Peoplefuel.  These sites will host your articles or blog for free and Peoplefuel also allows revenue sharing. This makes the article doubly beneficial because it provides a link to your site plus displays ads to collect extra income.

 

If you decide to write for your own site you should consider how you will make money once you’ve generated traffic and established yourself as an authority.  This brings me to…

 

2. Write an e-book.  The hottest products for online entrepenuers are e-books.  Consumers are ravenous for information and e-books are ideal for satisfying their appetite.  E-books are inexpensive to publish and distribute and they will keep generating revenue long after they’re written.  Non fiction or How To e-books have been accepted by the online audience but fiction e-books still struggle to find a readership.  I don’t know why one genre is more successful than another, but it’s something to consider when planning your e-book. 

 

3.  Ghost write – similar to writing articles for others there is demand for ghost writers to write e-books for others.  There are sites that connect writers and clients with jobs ranging from resumes, essays to e-books and novels.  I haven’t done any business with these companies, so I’m not endorsing them, just letting you know they’re services are available.  The best endorsement for a potential client is an example of your work. Most of my contacts have come from the articles I have posted.  Did I mention that when I write an article for others I ask to include a link to one of my sites?  The best way to get work writing is to write. 

 

4. Pay per post – You can also earn money if you write a review or article about a specific product and post it on your site.  You can pay $10.00 a year for a domain name and find hosting for free.

 

You can get paid to write. It might not be quite what you envisioned, but it is possible. The opportunity is there, you just have to take it.

 

 

Get Paid To Write

Get Paid To Write

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