Return to Content How to pace a crime novel If you want to write gripping, gritty police procedurals or other crime fiction, knowing how to pace a crime novel is essential. An effective crime novel must keep the reader turning pages while revealing enough information to make the narrative flow at a cracking pace. Here are some suggestions for pacing your crime novel, as well as pitfalls to avoid:
Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and download free character development worksheets! It makes me think of readers who pick up thrillers and find no thrills in them. Or at least not as many as there could be.
For a healthy, fully functioning thriller, try some literary vitamin C. Dose your book with these five Cs and it will stand strong, chest out, ready to give your reader a run for the money. This guest post is by James Scott Bell. Follow him on Twitter jamesscottbell. Complex Characterizations The first place to fortify a thriller is its cast of characters.
A critical mistake made here can undermine even the best story concept. Is your protagonist all good? Instead, the thriller hero needs to struggle with issues inside as well as outside. These roiling conflicts make her survival an open question. Quite an introduction, especially for someone on the LAPD bomb detail.
We know she has a short fuse. And we want to watch to see if it goes off. Miki Hayden Brainstorm a list of at least 10 inner demons your hero has to fight.
Then choose the best one. Give him actions that demonstrate the flaw. Move on to the rest of your cast. Reject the first image you come up with when creating a character.
Entertain several possibilities, always looking for a fresh take. Then, give each character a point of potential conflict with your hero as well as with the other characters—especially those who are allies.
Look for ways friends can become enemies or betrayers. Short of that, create more arguments. To help you add complexity, make a character grid like this: Now, fill in the blank boxes with possible relationships, secrets and areas of conflict.
If possible connections are eluding you, try running this exercise for each of your main characters: In his closet is something he does not want anyone to find, ever. What does this reveal about the inner life of the character? Use the secrets and passions you discover to add another point of conflict within the cast.
Standout thrillers need complexity and webs of conflict, so that every page hums with tension.
Confrontation I call the main action of a novel the confrontation. This is where the hero and antagonist battle over the high stakes a thriller demands. They make their bad guy all bad.
More interesting confrontations come from a villain who is justified in what he does. You mean, in doing evil things? How much more chilling is the bad guy who has a strong argument for his actions, or who even engenders a bit of sympathy? The crosscurrents of emotion this will create in your readers will deepen your thriller in ways that virtually no other technique can accomplish.
The trick is not to overdo it—if you stack the deck against your villain, readers will feel manipulated. Start by giving your antagonist just as rich a backstory as your hero. What hopes and dreams did he have? How were they dashed?Writing a novel is a satisfying yet daunting task.
Believe me when I say this I wrote quite a few. For new writers and even experienced writers alike, the main stumbling block would be how to begin the novel.
The crime novel, as a visit to any good bookshop will tell you, is a huge category, and I would never claim to know the definitive method of constructing and writing one; I can only go from my own.
The plot should stand up to scrutiny, but the technical work should never overwhelm the desire to tell a good story. Looking for some more writing tips and inspiration? Take a look at our previous Five Things blogs.
A crime novel may not be particularly action-oriented always, but it still has elements of action and other incidents that build the plot and drive it forward. Structure is vital to effective pacing in a crime novel.
When writing crime fiction, you should almost always start with the crime. Click To Tweet. All narratives detail the complete story of one conceptual ‘item’. Thrillers typically get writing this urgency down to a fine art (though no matter genre, there’s no reason urgency should be lacking in your plot).
Harry Bingham is author of the DC Fiona Griffiths series of crime novels.