Simon Hall – 11th October 2011

Following Simon Hall’s amusing talk,Writing Crime, Reporting Crime last evening at the University of Winchester, our Steering Committee thought you would like to have the following record of his advice for writing marketable crime fiction.

Simon Hall Advised Writers ‘ To Keep the Faith’

Simon Hall ‘s talk Writing Crime, Reporting Crime not only informed but entertained a capacity crowd of writers at the University of Winchester on Tuesday evening, 11 October at the second meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

His direct discussion of the techniques of crime writing informed writers how to use a strong protagonist to help solve the crime, the subtext to Simon’s tvdetective novels.. He demonstrated how Ben, his protagonist, as a tv reporter, is a mixture of highs and lows but that he is believable and memorable. His dog, Rutherford, adds another dimension to this character.

He reminded the audience how he uses his notebook to record the quirks that bring characters to life. He described a lady in a pub who rattled her empty glass as a signal to her obedient husband to return to the bar to replenish her drink and then nibbled food from her husband’s plate when he had left the table. ‘A character to weave into my plotline’.

As the BBC crime correspondent for the south east, he often works with the police to report crimes ‘These are often searing experiences’. He recalled being asked to report on the terrorist suicide attacks in London in 2005, to seeing the terror on the faces of total strangers as he approached the railways stations and his shock to see a police traffic sign with the words ‘Avoid London: Area Closed’!

He urged writers to be guided by their principles, that this leads to the ‘voice on the page’ and also to develop a relationship with the reader, to invest in their research and to provide all of the clues that are need to solve the crime satisfactorily. Aim for a plot with a series of twists and turns. ‘Readers want value for money…so do publishers’.

During question time he admitted that he writes ’nice crime: no difficult science, nor swearing, …which is an excuse for proper vocabulary, no gore but instead a worthy plot and no sex!

Settings are important as an angle on which to base a novel. He reminded listeners of Morse’s use of the city of Oxford and the multiple settings used by John Le Carre. Periods of history, travel, journeys, even personal tragedies are good starting points. ‘Humour takes us through tragedy’.

Simon Hall’s conclusion was that being a writer is not a God-given art…it takes much research, writing, editing and revision before you convince that commissioning editor and publisher. . We have the talent but it is important to work at it. ’Keep the Faith’!

We also remind you that Jack Sheffield, author of the Teacher Teacher series published by Transworld will give the next talk, Paperback Writer -The Journey Toward Publication on Tuesday , November 8th 7:30 pm, University of Winchester. We can promise you another hugely enjoyable and highly hilarious evening of advice and entertainment. Do come and bring your writer-friends. We want this society to be packed with talented writers.

With all good wishes for your writing success,

PS You may like to take a look at Simon Hall’s blog about the event last night.

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