Friday, 1 October 2010

Narrative Class [3]

Lin Anderson lectured this week on researching for crime fiction. The gist: speak to relevant professionals, hit the libraries, don’t be afraid to email old friends, collect specific details from crime folks, write about someone’s head exploding and use episodes from real life.

This left me wondering how much of crime is actual fiction. If a crime writer speaks to forensic scientists and notes down specific details from cases, bases characters on people, and so on, the novel becomes, to an extent, a transcription of actual events and cases.

There is a curious line between ‘being authentic’ and writing fiction. This is the line crime writers must straddle, presumably, and it’s not as if exact dialogue, scenes, or descriptions are taken. Crime is the genre for those who prefer more grim reality in their escapism.

First assignment this semester involves researching. I’m looking forward to seeing what detail can do to a story. My other pieces are held together by a few stringy ideas, usually with no researched detail whatsoever. In the past I wrote a novella on the teachings of Albert Adler, Austrian psychiatrist, and I sometimes look up street names. That’s it.

In other news,
Calpol are facing bankruptcy. This news has put a strain on my day. Today has been very strainy.


  1. Good point. I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. An author speaking at the Oslo Book Festival told the audience that she basically only used stories of the people she met through her work. It sounded like she never made anything up at all. It made me question whether she was a novelist at all, or a tabloid journalist (though to be fair, they DO make up most of their stories).

    Where to draw the line?

  2. I wrote a series, unpublished, of six related crime short stories.
    For me, the research/accuracy factor was that the murder methods would work and the identification was possible.
    The cops and the criminals were drawn from people observation, not criminal study.

    The thing that separates cops from 'us' is their seeing the darker side of life constantly and the related cynicism - everyone is a liar.

    The thing that separates criminals, especially murderers and excepting psychos, from us is that they actually put their intent into action.

    I also prefer my fiction, in any genre, to be more speculative than docementary.

    To use an analogy - I feel perfectly happy to write a story about a pianist without ever having questioned one.

  3. CC: Indeed. Mrs Anderson made it sound as though she was feeding nothing but the TRUTH through her typewriter (or quill). It takes talent to write in a compelling way about real events, but still. Well, I'm sure it varies from book to book.

    Michael: Anderson was saying the exact opposite. She seemed to question everything and absorb info from anyone willing to talk. I admire that go-getting attitude and can only look on in admiration!

  4. I think I weirded Miss Anderson out a bit when she came last year as I followed her most of the way home. I wasn't actually stalking her, just you know... following her to see where she went.

  5. Interesting. I think I saw parts of you still stuck to her coat. Half an eye and a nose, defo.

  6. I am having a very strainy week too. Research anyone?