Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Crime”

Top Suspense Hangout video

Today was the start of the Perth Writers’ Festival, the local festival for my fellow pale, short-sighted, readers and writers. Once a year we gather together to fulfil our in-person social interaction requirements for the year.

Before I left the house, Libby Hellmann, Lee Goldberg, and Paul Levine had a Top Suspense Google+ Hangout. They discussed a number of issues around writing suspense stories. Funny how the title of the group and hangout gives away the topic. It was a good session and I highly recommend my fellow writing friends to have a watch of the embedded video below.

Isabel Allende’s scorn for genre fiction

science-fiction-vs-proper-literature

Literature vs Genre: jetpack wins!

There is a storm brewing. In the latest of the long line of insults by literary fiction against genre fiction, Isabel Allende has taken a pot shot at crime fiction. Now apparently she hates crime fiction because:

It’s too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there’s no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people.

But that didn’t stop her writing a crime mystery. It also didn’t stop her saying that the book was a joke and ironic. I think the word she was actually looking for was hypocrite.

I’ve never really understood the people who read or write stuff they don’t enjoy. Sure, I read some really boring science journal articles, but that’s because I enjoy knowing stuff. If I’m going to sit down and read a book, I want that 10-20 hours of entertainment to be, well, entertaining. If I’m writing, which is a much longer and more involved process, why would I invest that much time in something I’m not enjoying doing?

So to some extent, I understand why Isabel decided that her mystery had to be a joke and ironic. But that is also the crux of the problem, she doesn’t seem to understand that she is also insulting readers and fans of genre fiction. I think the book store in Houston, Murder by the Book, that had ordered 20 signed copies of her novel, did the right thing in sending them back.

Now you can write a satirical or ironic take on a particular genre or sub-genre of fiction. But when you do so it has to be because of your love of all those little things you’re taking the piss out of. If you do it out of hate then you can’t turn around and try to sell it to the audience you are taking a pot shot at. I think this stuff is stupid, you’re stupid for reading it, but I still want you to pay me for insulting you.

I get a little sick of snobbishness toward genre readers and writers. Do genre readers and writers take pot shots at literary authors for their lack of plots, characters who have to own a cat and be suffering, and writing that is there to fill pages with words and not actually tell a story? No. We’re too busy reading something exciting.

It would be great if people just enjoyed what they enjoyed and stopped criticising others for enjoying what they enjoy. Enjoy.

See also:

http://www.fictorians.com/2013/03/04/literary-vs-genre-fiction-whats-all-the-fuss-about/

Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining GirlsThe Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I met Lauren two years ago now, when she was running a class on writing (d’uh). This first sentence of the review is essentially a name drop… move along, nothing to see here.

The Shining Girls is such an interesting take on crime novels, with a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey*, plot and some fascinating story telling. Lauren has an interesting setup for the serial killer and his victim protagonist, a setup that you hope has a good payoff. Well, it doesn’t have a good payoff, in the final pages it has an excellent payoff.

The version I ‘read’ was the audiobook, which is worth mentioning because there were multiple narrators to take on the various points of view used in the book. This was a great touch that I wish more audiobooks would do. For a complex novel like The Shining Girls, it is almost necessary. I can say I have stopped listening to at least two audiobooks in the past year that probably would have been improved with multiple narrators to clarify changes in points of view. Or you could just read the novel the old fashioned way, just not whilst driving, or using a table saw, as I was able to with the audio version.

* If you don’t get that reference I pity your TV viewing habits.

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Book review: Zero at the Bone by David Whish-Wilson

Zero at the BoneZero at the Bone by David Whish-Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know it is only early into November, but I think I’ve read the best book of the year. But don’t just take my word for it, Angela Savage thinks so too. That isn’t to say you can’t take my word for it. I’m trust-worthy. Honest.

David has set himself a huge task: setting a crime novel in the sleepy city of Perth Western Australia and making the hard-boiled-thriller work. Let’s just say that I’m glad I was too young to experience the Perth David has crafted in Zero at the Bone.

If you read Angela’s review, she has summed up the story and highlighted David’s skilled writing. I’ve previously discussed David’s previous novel, Line of Sight, as being a great novel; this one is even better.

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The 10 Commandments of How to Write a Thriller

I love a good thriller. To me novels are meant to, first and foremost, entertain. Some flowery prose may be interesting, the relationships and settings may be fascinating, but if there isn’t any imminent danger to life, limb and puppies, then I’m likely to be throwing the book away.

Mystery, crime and thriller genres are often lumped together or confused for one another. This is kinda like cars, some people don’t know the difference between cars and will just go by colour. While it’s true that they often overlap, there’s a distinct difference: in a mystery there is a puzzle to solve, in a crime there is a crime to solve after it has occurred (although there may be others committed later in the story), whilst a thriller is all about knowing that a crime is going to be committed and the story details the prevention of it.

In an article on Writer’s Digest, Zachary Petit put forward a list by Brian Garfield. He called this the 10 Commandments of thriller writing, because you can’t have a thriller if someone isn’t breaking some rules.

The 10 Commandments of How to Write a Thriller

Start with action; explain it later. TA: I especially agree with this point. I’m sick of “thrillers” that take the first half of the book to set up the action.
Make it tough for your protagonist.
Plant it early; pay it off later.
Give the protagonist the initiative.
Give the protagonist a personal stake.
Give the protagonist a tight time limit, and then shorten it.
Choose your character according to your own capacities, as well as his/hers.
Know your destination before you set out.
Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread.
Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read. TA: You know, like street directions and descriptions of flowers and home renovations.
For the full piece, “10 Rules for Suspense Fiction” by Brian Garfield, click here.

At the 2008 Maui Writers Conference, bestselling thriller writer Gary Braver (Skin Deep) said that dread drives thrillers. You know who the good guys and bad guys are. Dull moments will lose an audience, and writers can’t afford to lose an audience, even for one page. To captivate an audience (and agents and publishers), Braver offers these 10 essential ingredients for a successful thriller.

1. You need to have a good story. Thrillers want to be thrilled. A common element in thrillers is that the protagonist will fall victim to someone else’s scheme and get stuck in a moment of dread. There are only three themes in all of literature: death and rebirth (Stephen King’s Misery); the hero slaying a dragon to restore the world to normalcy (James Bond, Indiana Jones); and the quest to make life better (The Da Vinci Code). Know which theme fits your story.

2. Write about the underdog. Tell your thriller from the point of view of the person with the most to lose. The protagonist gives the story character. Give him baggage and emotional complexity.

3. Multiple points of view can give you great range in a thriller. They allow you inside the heads of many characters, which can build more dramatic tension and irony.

4. Open your book with an action scene. Don’t put biographical information or exposition in Chapter 1 (do that later). Introduce the crime—which tells you the stakes—and introduce the hero and villain, and even some obstacles the protagonist may face.

Don’t sacrifice style—use metaphors and good language—but stick with action.

5. Early on, make clear what your protagonist wants and what he fears. You should know what the protagonist wants and how he would end the novel if he were writing it.
There are two quests: Stopping the bad stuff from happening (In The Silence of the Lambs, it’s to stop Buffalo Bill from killing) and dealing with the character’s baggage (for Clarice to be a good, professional FBI agent in a [then] male-dominated profession).

Think Cinderella: Her main quest is to get to the ball. It’s about liberation. When she gets to the ball she finds freedom.

6. Make your characters miserable. Ask what the worst thing is that could happen to your protagonist and make it worse. Give them grief, false hope, heartaches, anxiety and near-death experiences. We don’t want our protagonist to win until the end.

7. Your main characters have to change. It has to be an emotional change that shows growth and victory over some of his baggage. In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice is stronger and tougher at the end and she gets a good night’s sleep.

8. Pacing must be high: Strong Narrative Thrust. Each scene should reveal something new, no matter how slight it is. Don’t tell us about stuff that has nothing to do with the story. The villain has a ticking clock, so there’s no time to waste on pages with useless information. Short paragraphs and white space are good. Consider using cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, albeit a sudden surprise or provocative announcement.

9. Show—don’t tell. Avoid the passive voice. Use action verbs (He heard the screams in his bedroom). Avoid adverbs—they are cheesy and cheap ways of telling instead of showing. Don’t start sentences with –ing words (“He stared” vs. “Staring at the …”). Make the subject and verb close and up front in the sentence.

10. Teach us something. Make sure your audience has learned about something—an animal, medical treatment, social issue—so we walk away with more knowledge.

Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing

 

Crime_writing_comic
  1. In mystery writing, plot is everything. Because readers are playing a kind of game when they read a detective novel, plot has to come first, above everything else. Make sure each plot point is plausible, and keep the action moving. Don’t get bogged down in back story or go off on tangents.
  2. Introduce both the detective and the culprit early on. As the main character, your detective must obviously appear early in the book. As for the culprit, your reader will feel cheated if the antagonist, or villain, enters too late in the book to be a viable suspect in their minds.
  3. Introduce the crime within the first three chapters of your mystery novel. The crime and the ensuing questions are what hook your reader. As with any fiction, you want to do that as soon as possible.
  4. The crime should be sufficiently violent — preferably a murder. For many readers, only murder really justifies the effort of reading a 300-page book while suitably testing your detective’s powers. However, also note that some types of violence are still taboo including rape, child molestation, and cruelty to animals.
  5. The crime should be believable. While the details of the murder — how, where, and why it’s done, as well as how the crime is discovered — are your main opportunities to introduce variety, make sure the crime is plausible. Your reader will feel cheated if the crime is not something that could really happen.
  6. The detective should solve the case using only rational and scientific methods. Consider this part of the oath written by G.K. Chesterton for the British Detection Club: “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?”
  7. The culprit must be capable of committing the crime. Your reader must believe your villain’s motivation and the villain must be capable of the crime, both physically and emotionally.
  8. In mystery writing, don’t try to fool your reader. Again, it takes the fun out. Don’t use improbable disguises, twins, accidental solutions, or supernatural solutions. The detective should not commit the crime. All clues should be revealed to the reader as the detective finds them.
  9. Do your research. “Readers have to feel you know what you’re talking about,” says author Margaret Murphy. She has a good relationship with the police in her area, and has spent time with the police forensic team. Get all essential details right. Mystery readers will have read a lot of books like yours; regard them as a pretty savvy bunch.
  10. Wait as long as possible to reveal the culprit. They’re reading to find out, or figure out, whodunit. If you answer this too early in the book, the reader will have no reason to continue reading.

by Ginny Wiehardt

Source for Image

From Writers Write Blog.

What would John Grisham do?

crime_writing_comic.jpg.scaled500

Choosing a location for your story

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As much as I love America, does every crime and thriller novel written have to be set there? Wouldn’t it be great if more stories chose some other locations?

Before anyone jumps on me, yes, I know, there are plenty of stories set in diverse locations. My comment is more about the way writers are so often told that people only want to read stories set in the US, that it has to appeal to the US market. I think we all know that this is a presumption on behalf of the industry for us readers. Let’s try and push for the more challenging locations in the stories we read.

Perth Writers’ Festival 2013

Another year has come and gone for my local writers’ festival. Once again I joined my fellow reading nerds and aspiring authors to descend upon the grounds of UWA. This year there were 30,000 of us who felt the need to spend three days of lovely weather discussing books.

This year I spent a lot of the three day in writing workshops and less time at discussion/interview sessions. There is always room for improvement in writing, so what better way than sitting down with an expert and two dozen peers to discuss and practice. I’d like to thank the various experts who all had some interesting insights and tips: Susan Midalia (short stories – literary focus), Belinda Castles (finding your voice and turning that story into reality), LA Larkin (thriller writing, great tips and she is also running a longer course with the Sydney Writers Centre) and Parker Bilal (crime writing, developing the characters and structure).

This isn’t to say that I didn’t get the chance to see any talks. The discussion of Antarctica was fascinating and puts it on the list of places I’d like to visit before climate change has its wicked way with it. The discussion with Major General John Cantwell and former WA premier Geoff Gallop about why it is necessary to help remove the stigma around mental illness was fantastic. John managed to pretend he wasn’t suffering PTSD for 20 years, which is just amazing considering some of the the ramifications it was having on him. Another great session was with David Petrarca, Sue Masters and James Bradley discussing how TV storytelling now rivals cinema and literature. It is quite clear that subscription TV and services like Netflix are changing the game for production of TV, which is why we are seeing great writing, great acting and decent budgets to give us programming I actually want to watch. James Bradley made a very poiniant comment: we have to stop ragging on Master Chef and other boring and mindless TV shows, their popularity allows decent TV to be funded. Finally, on Sunday I was introduced to two new (for me) authors in the panel discussion on thrillers with Andrew Croome, LA Larkin and Steve Worland. I’m looking forward to reading Andrew and Steve’s books, and of course Louisa’s new novel Thirst.

But, now the festival is over for another year. This picture sums up the take home message for me from this year’s Perth Writers’ Festival:

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Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I normally hate literary styles books. They normally take all the fun stuff out of the book and replace it with tedious exposition masquerading as deep and meaningful prose. Award winning books are usually weighed down with this superfluous fluff.

This is a harsh statement, I know. Just because a book has won a literary award that doesn’t mean it has to suck. But it all comes back to some training I had in communication sciences at university. No-one cares about the methods, or process, or how long you spent doing this, and especially not how much research you did, they only care about what’s in it for them. Boil that down to a simple: readers are reading your book to be entertained. So all of that exposition is just getting in the way of entertaining the reader.

Gone Girl is as close to a literary styled novel I have read (to completion) in almost a decade. I used to read persevere with them all the time, now I have learnt my lesson. What makes Gillian’s book different is that she hasn’t forgone the plot, nor drawn out the story. So fans of crime novels will be captivated and literary fans might admit they need to read more genre books.

I put this novel off for a long time, buying it because of all the rave reviews and awards, then hearing it was very literary and baulking. I can see why this novel has been the big thing of 2012, it deserves the praise.

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Short stories now on Amazon

That’s right. I decided that there was no better way to learn how to publish my novellas than to practice with two of my short stories. I’m now prepared for the task of crossing the threshold into “professional author” territory, letting my creations escape the confines of my head and harddrive. I’ve priced both short stories at the Amazon standard $0.99, which is about what I think short stories should go for – novellas $2.99, novels somewhere between $7 and $10.

Running-the-Cross Rum-and-Roses

So if you would like to read some short stories, may I suggest you download mine from Amazon. Running the Cross is “A test of mind and body, running the cross is the ultimate test. A dozen rail lines, thousands of tonnes of freight trains travelling at high speed, a race across the tracks to prove yourself. Will you survive?” Rum and Roses “The police don’t like ‘Skinny’ McAfree, but they do like him for the disappearance and possible murder of his next door neighbour.”

I really enjoyed writing both of these, especially Running the Cross, and hope you enjoy reading them.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3WP0OK – Running the Cross

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3XTKFO – Rum and Roses

Book review: Assassin by Tara Moss

Assassin (Makedde Vanderwall, #6)Assassin by Tara Moss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Trying to read with a newborn in your arms is tricky. You try to get them to sleep and then realise you haven’t been reading all of that time. You try to feed them and realise that Zaphoid was right, a third arm does come in handy. This all adds up to making it hard to enjoy a good book.

The fact that I did enjoy this book shows just how good it was, because my reading has been very interrupted. Mak is back in what appears to be the finale in the Vanderwall series. Since the last book, Mak has been hiding out in Spain, but it isn’t long before assassins get wind of her location and she is headed back to Australia.

If this is the end of the series (I’m going by the novel, I haven’t heard Tara mention anything on this) then I think it ended appropriately. Some authors, TV shows and musicians drag out a series for too long. Tara has avoided that nicely. Now the only question is, will she continue in the crime genre, or will her paranormal novels be the focus now?

NB: This was a signed copy. Book fans may appreciate that detail.

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The surprising decline in violence

Damn. How can a thriller or crime writer make a crust if violence is declining?

I know that we writers are generally known for writing fiction, but we readers – yes, I’m both – are also a fickle bunch who like things to have a level of realism to them. We need there to be a basis for our stories so that you can become more emotionally involved with the protagonists. If violence keeps declining then thriller and crime authors are going to have to look to the sensationalism of media reporting for story ideas. I think we can all agree that you can’t base fiction upon fiction.

Book Review: Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Fallen (Will Trent, #5)Fallen by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unbelievably this is the first Karin Slaughter novel I have read. I have read one of her short stories before, which made me pick up this novel, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know that Slaughter had the goods in crime thrillers.

I quite enjoyed the slightly different take that Karin has on the crime thriller. Front and centre are a mix of slightly dysfunctional characters that somehow manage to not only work with one another, but are actually interesting to read about. You know how crime novels often have that self-loathing, alcoholic, dark and depressing lead character? Well this novel doesn’t have that – thank his noodliness.

You can see why Karin is a bestselling author, so the only question is which of her novels I’ll read next.

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Every Crime Fiction Author’s Thoughts

 

Sometimes the best ideas for a scene come about at the oddest moments. By oddest moments, I mean when someone has really pissed you off. This post is to thank all of those people who make writers think of murder.

Don’t check my browser history

I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you haven’t cleared your browser history in a while, and then perform a Google or (insert your favourite search engine here) search, that a number of links are highlighted as pages you have been to before. This is just a friendly little reminder that you’ve asked the same, or a similar, question just recently and that, maybe, it is time for a screening for Alzheimer’s. But have you had a look through your browser history, or, more to the point, would you prefer no-one ever saw your browser history?

For the average person, I’m sure they don’t mind having eBay, Amazon and Rotten Tomatoes in your browser history is not a big deal. For the average crime or thriller author, the internet browser history would provide an interesting insight into the key plot points of the current work/s in progress. It would also encourage police and intelligence agencies to set up 24hr surveillance on the off chance the author was planning on murdering a key political figure to facilitate the buying of nuclear weapons to arm a terrorist cell that has ties to local organised crime figures who operate in drugs and prostitution; with plenty of pictures. This is slightly concerning.

Sci-fi authors don’t have quite as many concerns with their browser history. Anyone looking at it would fall asleep after the first ten pages of physics article links. Fantasy authors might receive some grief for the swords and leather searches. Romance authors would probably blush at the size of the list of “hard abs” pages. But it is going to be almost impossible for me to argue down a murder charge.

Lawyer: So you deny planning and executing the murder of the cast of Jersey Shore?
Tyson Adams: Of course I didn’t murder or plan to murder those morons.
L: Then why had you visited so many sites on forensics, samurai swords and human anatomy?
TA: Research for my book.
L: A book that you haven’t as yet published.
TA: Well the editor doesn’t like the scene with the cast of Boston Shore being beheaded.
Judge: I just don’t see the crime here. Although, Mr Adams, what is rotten.com?

So could any law enforcement people please keep in mind writers are likely to have a bizarre web history, and that it was very important that I know how to make meth in my backyard. For my novel…

Book Review: The Seventh by Richard Stark aka Donald Eastlake

The Seventh (Parker, #7)The Seventh by Richard Stark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Parker is not a man to be messed with. When it comes to setting the record straight, Parker does it. That is pretty much the plot and action from this great book. Also, this may be the earliest mention I have noted of gay characters in a novel. I’m sure I’ve read earlier examples, but I couldn’t bring any to mind. So despite the criticisms of Eastlake’s Parker series for misogyny, he may have actually been ahead of the times with some issues.

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Book Review: Blood Moon by Gary Disher

Blood Moon (Inspector Challis, #5)Blood Moon by Garry Disher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m known for being on the cutting edge, for having my finger on the pulse; for example, I just bought a smart phone. It isn’t really surprising to learn that I’ve only recently discovered Gary Disher’s work, despite him having been an award winning author since before I entered highschool.

The first novel I read of Gary’s was Wyatt, after hearing him speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. I enjoyed that novel and now have plenty of good novels to catch up on.

This is my first Challis and Destry novel set in a small seaside town in Victoria Australia. It follows the assaults, rapes, murder and sex lives that keep the local police busy. The intertwining characters and investigations are deftly handled by Gary to give an engaging crime novel.

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Book review: Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais

The Monkey's Raincoat (Elvis Cole, #1)The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am the reason that author’s of series have to write novels so that they can stand alone. That’s right, I don’t read series in order all that often. I started with Lee Child’s 61 Hours, Michael Connelly’s City of Bones, JK Rowling’s’ Goblet of Fire, Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis and Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow. Long time fans don’t appreciate readers like me.

The first Elvis Cole novel I read was Sunset Express, which I enjoyed immensely. I decided to read the series the right way, so I went out and bought the first three Elvis Cole novels. Robert Crais kicked off this series with Monkey’s Raincoat, which was a shorter crime thriller.

Wit, humour, action, a weeping widow and drug dealers: mix and stir. Crais is definitely an author I’m trying to emulate and enjoy his writing and characters. I’m looking forward to the next two instalments.

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Genre vs Literature


During a discussion the other day my favourite authors and books came up as a topic of conversation. Needless to say I listed off writers like Lee Child, Matthew Reilly, Robert Crais, Matt Hilton, etc. Now these people weren’t exactly literary snobs, but they did respond as if I was supposed to list the authors of classic literature and contemporary literature.

Seriously?

Can we all stop pretending that there is something superior about literary fiction. I’ve seen discussions of social problems in crime fiction, fantastic use of literary techniques in horror, exploration of character and humanity in science fiction; all performed with more skill and insight than I have seen in the literary genre.

How about we go back to judging a book by its cover.

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