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Arts & Culture Series: Expert Comment

Top ten tips for writing crime fiction

Crime fiction is booming right now. According to figures from the publishing data company Nielsen Bookscan, worldwide sales of crime rose 19% between 2015 and 2017. So, if you have ever wondered if you could write for this thriving, thrilling genre, here are ten things you should know...

by Caroline Green

1. Understand who you are writing for

Read widely within the genre and decide what type of crime fiction you love to read. (Frankly, if you don’t get excited about reading it, why do you want to write it?)

2. But after you’ve read all those lovely books, don’t try and second guess the market.

No one saw the likes of Girl On The Train coming. The most important thing is to know the genre but write what you want to write.

3. Watch quality drama as well as reading books

Programmes such as Happy Valley or Line of Duty can teach budding crime writers a lot, despite being delivered via a different medium.

4. Aim for living, breathing, characters, not cardboard cut-outs

If you are writing another alcoholic PI or police investigator make sure they are so well-rounded they could step right off the page. What is their back story? What made them who they are?

5. Don’t be afraid to delve into your dark side

Your own imagination is more powerful – and has more twists - than all the CGI in the world. Tap into it and never shy away from those big, bold ideas that make you think, ‘Dare I…?’.

6. The best twists don’t come hurtling out of nowhere

The really satisfying ones make such perfect sense, you can’t believe you didn’t see them coming.

7. Remember that conflict is the engine of story-telling

Try to weave some form of conflict into every single scene, every conversation, every plot line.

8. Think about the ‘why-dunnit’ and not just the ‘who’

The reason psychological thrillers have taken off so much - and helped cause that boom in sales - is that the psychology behind dark deeds makes for a gripping read.

9. Vary your pace

Sometimes readers need space to breathe, and others they need to be sent hurtling towards the thrilling climax of your story.

10. Let your setting do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating atmosphere

A creepy atmospheric setting can really help rachet up tension.

About the author

Caroline Green writes best-selling thrillers as Cass Green and will be teaching the brand new ten-week Crime Writing Short Course at City, University of London from 2nd October.

Don't you Cry is the newest thriller by Cass Green, published in June 2018 by HarperCollins.

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