In the second of my two Leeds Trinity University workshop reviews is Liz Mistry: The Crime Writers Toolbox.
Liz Mistry completed the MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity in 2016 and subsequently has had three crime fiction novels published by Bloodhound Books (Unquiet Souls, Uncoiled Lies and Untainted Blood). Her fourth novel, Uncommon Cruelty, will be released in April 2018. She is currently researching a PhD in Creative Writing, again at Leeds Trinity, focussing on the crime fiction genre. Although born in Scotland, Liz has spent most of her adult life in Bradford, and uses her many years living and teaching in the inner city to inform her writing.
The workshop aimed to explain some of the 'tools' used by crime fiction writers to create a portfolio of crime fiction using them. Identify what make a crime novel work for the reader and find ways of 'sourcing' each element of the crime tool box.
Ratchet - symbolises turning up the tension
Twist - reveals
Spanner - red herrings
Crochet hook - the hook (what gets the reader invested)
Roll of the dice - What if? (writers ability to change creatively)
Crime scene tape 'do not cross' - Compelling first line for your story
The big What If? Question any scenario is key in crime fiction. Allow imagination to spread its wings and explore other alternative possibilities. Inspiration - imagination, out and about, news/papers, articles, problem pages etc., photo's and postcards/art work, your own memory/experience and more.
Take a notebook and jot down your ideas and overheard conversations.
What if? Sift through articles, pictures etc. until you find one for stimulus or think of an incident that happened to you.
A novel excerpt was given - this character is about to die from something in his past that he hopes has been forgotten.
Hook - 1 Leave something unresolved 2 Unanswered questions 3 Introduce characters that pique the readers interest 4 Provokes emotion in the reader.
My clipping was about a body found after an accident on a zip line in Peru.
Ratchet up the tension - 1 Increase the tension in a scene, paragraph or section of the novel 2 To intensify the emotional connection to the reader 3 To move the plot along 4 To give a sense of impending danger.
So how is it done? Tension, trough, tension, trough etc.
1 Create a life/death dilemma for your character
2 Place a time constraint on them
3 Make the reader party to a danger that the character is unaware of
4 Put the character in jeopardy
5 Take away something they rely on
6 Make it personal for the character
Doing the twist - Twists don't have to come right at the end of a novel, they can come during and more than once, but readers are used to them being at the end. Balance your twists:
1 Put reader off kilter
2 Change perceptions of the reader
3 Gives them a thrill
4 Engages the reader intellectual participation
5 Helps to develop the plot
Can use the 'What if' tool here.
Using these notes, I wrote a four-part short story.