12 Elements of Crime Fiction

Fresh, unique ideas sell books, right?

Not necessarily.

Even the freshest idea must follow specific ‘rules’ or elements of the genre.

Don’t believe me? Then why in almost every romance novel the main character has one or more dead parents and the poor orphan was often raised by a kindly/odd/distant aunt or uncle? Or better yet, why is it that in an urban fantasy, the female lead is always haunted by something, whether it’s a real ghost or the ghost of boyfriend past, or in some cases herself?

Crime fiction is perhaps the worst offender.

And that’s why I love it.

These elements and rules give crime fiction its grit and style.

Mind you, not every one of the elements I list below will be in every book. But I bet that if you pull a copy of any crime novel off your bookshelf, you’ll find at least one and likely many more inside.

  1. The hooker/thug with the heart of gold
  2. Substance use/abuse
  3. A dirty cop
  4. A bottle of booze hidden in a desk/cabinet/toilet tank
  5. A femme fatale
  6. The term “Doll face” or “Baby doll”, really just some reference to a doll
  7. A description of a woman’s legs, in vivid detail
  8. A lounge/bar/nightclub/strip club
  9. A guy named “Fast” something, usually Eddie
  10. A dead partner/lover and/or betrayal by a former partner/lover
  11. Pipe/cigarette smoking hero and/or villain
  12. A dead body in the first 10 pages

Got any more? What about the genre which you write, what are the 'rules' in it?

 

 

The More You Know…A Writerly PSA

When I first started publishing, I felt lost and often confused.

And no, that is not my normal state. How mean of you to think so…

When I started thinking about proposing workshops to conferences or teaching writing at Rec Centers, I felt like I didn’t know enough to teach anyone anything.

I was right, in that, my first workshop was a disaster. *I threw up in a trashcan*

But I lived through it.

And now, I can stand or really sit at my desk, and tell you this--You have more knowledge about writing, marketing, and publishing than you think. Even if you’ve never published a single word or even finished a novel.

Because you are here, reading my words, among the hundreds of other books, blogs, and other assorted writer-related texts you’ve poured over learning about craft, learning about publishing (indie and traditional), and about marketing.

It’s truly amazing the depth of knowledge our brains can hold and the ability we have to share that knowledge with others. Whether it’s at a workshop or at your local coffee shop with a group of writer friends.

Since I have zero friends, I tend to chat up whoever is around, often resulting in restraining orders, but that’s another post for another day.

Which brings me to my real point. Share your knowledge.

Whether they want it or not!

Okay, the last part, not so much.

That being said, impart your knowledge on me. What have you recently learned that you’re willing to share with the rest of us?

 

 

WOTY & iWOTY Guessing Game – Answers to All Your Burning Questions

Over the past few weeks, we’d provided five separate questions that our lovely WOTY & iWOTY finalists answered. Today is the day you learn all!

  • Shannon Baker - A
  • Colleen Oakes - B
  • Robin Owens - C
  • Bernadette Marie - D
  • Stephanie Reisner - E
  • Wendy Terrien - F

Ready? Here we go:

What is your favorite comfort food?

Doritos and Dr. Pepper - Stephanie Reisner

A perfectly made grilled cheese. I have spent a lot of time perfecting this creation and I can share it here: sourdough bread from the most expensive bakery in town, a combo of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar and Colby Jack, & Land o' Lakes Unsalted Butter. Perfection, I tell you. - Colleen Oaks

Mac and cheese (but the bad kind, with Velveeta) - Shannon Baker

I can’t pick favorites. The comfort-food-of-the-moment depends on what part of me needs comforting, time of year, how hungry I am, how much I feel like making something versus just opening something, how accessible certain foods are…you get the gist. - Wendy Terrien

Favorite comfort food, depends, right now it is creme brulee. Chocolate is always good. I suppose I shouldn't say bon bons because that smacks of [REDACTED] writer cliche, but, well, truffles. - Robin Owens

Chocolate! - Bernadette Marie

 

What was your oddest job?

Folding boxes for bulk packed tomatoes. (Dad owns a food warehouse) - Bernadette Marie

Either a busgirl at the Original Pancake House or a nanny at a house in NYC that was most definitely haunted.  - Colleen Oakes

Driving a fork lift.  - Shannon Baker

Must we? Trapeze artist. No, not kidding. - Robin Owens

Training and certifying people to drive buses. Especially because I hated driving those buses.  - Wendy Terrien

Guessing people's age and weight at an amusement park. - Stephanie Reisner

 

What was your childhood nickname?

Stink (which is actually the nickname of the ghost my sister made up, but if I gave you my real nickname, you'd know who I am) - Shannon Baker

Beanie. It was not my favorite thing. - Colleen Oakes

Rob. My family still calls me Rob. - Robin Owens

Berni (boring). - Bernadette Marie

Never really had one. Maybe someone reading this post can think up something fun for me. 🙂 - Wendy Terrien

Steph  (Kind of gives it away) - Stephanie Reisner

 

What’s your favorite book?

Can I Get There by Candlelight by Jean Slaughter Doty - Stephanie Reisner

Hard to tell, like many in RMFW, I've written since I was a child. Greek Mythology, Fairy Tales, learned to read on The Cat and the Hat. Andre Norton, as a youngster. Hmm. I don't know. - Robin Owens

Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins - Shannon Baker

This is like picking a favorite—seriously too hard for me. But I can tell you the majority of books I loved the most growing up were fantasy, so it seems there might be an influence… - Wendy Terrien

If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon - Bernadette Marie

The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix - Colleen Oakes

 

What’s the best writerly advice you have for those wanting to someday win a WOTY or iWOTY?

Outer validation is a wonderful drug that you can't rely on to motivate you to write.  Inner validation is your strength:  You wrote the best book you could with the resources you had. - Robin Owens

It's a great life if you don't weaken. - Shannon Baker

If you think you can sit down and write an amazing book without spending years learning about craft you will most likely be wrong. - Colleen Oakes

Why not you? - Wendy Terrien

No matter how many times you fail, get up, dust yourself off, and try again - Stephanie Reisner

Puke out that story and don't go back to edit until you have it all out. - Bernadette Marie

 

Thank you to all our lovely contestants and to those who played along at home! It looks like Patricia Stoltey is our winner. Pat, we will be in touch with your awesome prize!

 

WOTY & iWOTY Guessing Game – Final Round

Below are answers to one question for today’s Guessing Game.

Read the question, and then in the comments, assign the correct answer to the correct finalist.

On June 21st, all answers will be revealed.

  • Shannon Baker - A
  • Colleen Oaks - B
  • Robin Owens - C
  • Bernadette Marie - D
  • Stephanie Reisner - E
  • Wendy Terrien - F

Sample answer: C, D, A, B, F, E in the comments.

Ready? Here we go:

What is your best one-sentence (or more) advice for writers?

Outer validation is a wonderful drug that you can't rely on to motivate you to write.  Inner validation is your strength:  You wrote the best book you could with the resources you had. ____

It's a great life if you don't weaken.. ____

If you think you can sit down and write an amazing book without spending years learning about craft you will most likely be wrong.____

Why not you? ____

No matter how many times you fail, get up, dust yourself off, and try again ____

Puke out that story and don't go back to edit until you have it all out.___

 

You are all fabulous! Thank you for playing along.

Remember to check the blog on June 21st for the answers!

WOTY & iWOTY Guessing Game – Round Four

Below are answers to one question for today’s Guessing Game.

Read the question, and then in the comments, assign the correct answer to the correct finalist, and possibly win a prize (*all correct responses will be entered into a random drawing).

Then in the next post on, June 13th, you’ll get the next question. On June 21st, all answers will be revealed along with a list of winners. So check in on June 21st for your name!

  • Shannon Baker - A
  • Colleen Oaks - B
  • Robin Owens - C
  • Bernadette Marie - D
  • Stephanie Reisner - E
  • Wendy Terrien - F

Sample answer: C, D, A, B, F, E in the comments.

Ready? Here we go:

What was the one book that inspired you to write?

Can I Get There by Candlelight by Jean Slaughter Doty ____

Hard to tell, like many in RMFW, I've written since I was a child. Greek Mythology, Fairy Tales, learned to read on The Cat and the Hat. Andre Norton, as a youngster. Hmm. I don't know. ____

Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins ____

This is like picking a favorite—seriously too hard for me. But I can tell you the majority of books I loved the most growing up were fantasy, so it seems there might be an influence… ____

If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon ____

The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix___

 

I have so any books to add to my TBR pile now. Thanks all.

Remember to check the blog on June 21st for the answers as well as selected winners!

WOTY & iWOTY Guessing Game – Round Three

Below are answers to one question for today’s Guessing Game.

Read the question, and then in the comments, assign the correct answer to the correct finalist, and possibly win a prize (*all correct responses will be entered into a random drawing).

Then in the next post on, June 7th, you’ll get the next question. On June 21st, all answers will be revealed along with a list of winners. So check in on June 21st for your name!

  • Shannon Baker - A
  • Colleen Oaks - B
  • Robin Owens - C
  • Bernadette Marie - D
  • Stephanie Reisner - E
  • Wendy Terrien - F

Ready? Here we go:

What was your childhood nickname?

Stink (which is actually the nickname of the ghost my sister made up, but if I gave you my real nickname, you'd know who I am) ____

Beanie. It was not my favorite thing. ____

Rob. My family still calls me Rob. ____

Berni (boring). ____

Never really had one. Maybe someone reading this post can think up something fun for me. 🙂 ____

Steph  (Kind of gives it away) ___

 

Hope this one was easy for you. Sample answer: C, D, A, B, F, E in the comments.

Remember to check the blog on June 21st for the answers as well as selected winners!

WOTY & iWOTY Guessing Game – Round Two

Want to learn more about the finalists for the Writer of the Year and Independent Writer of the Year? If so, you are in the right place. Then again, what fun would it be, for us, if we just gave you the answers in one post to five deep, thought-provoking questions?

It wouldn’t be.

So in that vein, below are answers to one question for today’s Guessing Game.

Read the question, and then in the comments, assign the correct answer to the correct finalist, and possibly win a prize (*all correct responses will be entered into a random drawing).

Then in the next post on Monday, June 5th, you’ll get the next question. On June 21st, all answers will be revealed along with a list of winners. So check in on June 21st for your name!

Sample answer: C, D, A, B, F, E in the comments.

  • Shannon Baker - A
  • Colleen Oaks - B
  • Robin Owens - C
  • Bernadette Marie - D
  • Stephanie Reisner - E
  • Wendy Terrien - F

Ready? Here we go:

 

What was your oddest job?

Folding boxes for bulk packed tomatoes. (Dad owns a food warehouse) ____

Either a busgirl at the Original Pancake House or a nanny at a house in NYC that was most definitely haunted. ___

Driving a fork lift. ____

Must we? Trapeze artist. No, not kidding. ____

Training and certifying people to drive buses. Especially because I hated driving those buses. ____

Guessing people's age and weight at an amusement park. ____

 

So many weird and wonderful jobs. Thank you all.

 

Think You Know the WOTY and IWOTY Finalists? Think Again

Want to learn more about the finalists for the Writer of the Year and Independent Writer of the Year? If so, you are in the right place. Then again, what fun would it be, for us, if we just gave you the answers in one post to five deep, thought-provoking questions?

It wouldn’t be.

So in that vein, below are answers to one question for today’s Guessing Game.

Read the question, and then in the comments, assign the correct answer to the correct finalist, and possibly win a prize (*all correct responses will be entered into a random drawing). Sample answer: C, D, A, B, F, E in the comments.

Then in the next post tomorrow, May 31st, you’ll get the next question. On June 21st, all answers will be revealed along with a list of winners. So check in on June 21st for your name!

  • Shannon Baker - A
  • Colleen Oaks - B
  • Robin Owens - C
  • Bernadette Marie - D
  • Stephanie Reisner - E
  • Wendy Terrien - F

Ready? Here we go:

What's your favorite comfort food?

Doritos and Dr. Pepper ____

A perfectly made grilled cheese. I have spent a lot of time perfecting this creation and I can share it here: sourdough bread from the most expensive bakery in town, a combo of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar and Colby Jack, & Land o' Lakes Unsalted Butter. Perfection, I tell you. ____

Mac and cheese (but the bad kind, with Velveeta) ____

I can’t pick favorites. The comfort-food-of-the-moment depends on what part of me needs comforting, time of year, how hungry I am, how much I feel like making something versus just opening something, how accessible certain foods are…you get the gist. ____

Favorite comfort food, depends, right now it is creme brulee. Chocolate is always good. I suppose I shouldn't say bon bons because that smacks of [REDACTED] writer cliche, but, well, truffles. ____

Chocolate! ___

 

All those answers made me hungry. Did you guess right? Check the blog on June 21st for the answers as well as selected winners!

Listening to the Universe

About a year ago, my agent and I tried to sell a 65k fairytale-pun-ie mystery.

We didn’t even get a request for a full.

Ouch, right?

*Admittedly (or so I don't start crying at the lack of requests), it wasn’t a project either of us was pushing. It went out to a handful of editors at best.

Following the less than world on fire responses, I decided to indie pub it. It wasn't a decision I made lightly. Not every book I write needs to be in the world. Which is the greatest lesson I have ever learned (Self-publishing a bad book can haunt your career). This novel, though, does need to see the electronic reader light.

At least I believe so.

*please leave me my delusions.

Since I was slammed with other projects until the last month, this project sat on my hard drive gathering dust-kilobytes. I brushed it off last month, did a run through revision, and then a copy edit (for an indie book I do a much deeper copy edit as it’s as close to final as I can get it). I hired on a cover designer.

And BOOM

Last week, my agent emails with a full request.

This week, an offer.

Suddenly I find myself with two options for publication. This is where the universe came in -- I was all ready to indie pub it, and now I had this other option with a small press. The offer made me realize that I don’t have as much time to invest as the indie pubbing needs (due to another project’s sudden appearance). It would suffer because of it.

Things fell into place for a reason. I needed to take the hard look at what I could accomplish, and the universe knew it, taking some of the pressure off releasing the fairytale book in order for me to focus on a bigger project.

Thanks universe.

Do you find your projects fall into place like this? What is the universe telling you about your writing at this moment?