A Night of Crime and Darkness…
Two purveyors of crime and mystery talked about how they weave dark and compelling tales.
Report by Lisa Nightingale
Special Guest – John Hayes
John Hayes is Smug! Winchester’s first satirical magazine Remember Viz, Mad and Punch? Well, it’s a bit like those. Smug is a mix of humour and investigative journalism backed up by in-depth research – people watching!
Hoping to launch in December 2015, Smug needs input. Spoof news stories, reports, short-stories, anything relevant to the prevention of Winchester disappearing up its own bottom! The deadline is ASAP. Even if it’s just a crazy idea, let John know at firstname.lastname@example.org You should be able to find Smug in the Art Café on Jury Street – John owns it!
Also the very first announcement of the Winchester Short Film festival 2015. John is keen to pair up screenplay writers with directors so if you have an idea for a film of under 15 minutes contact him through the Winchester Short Film festival website http://www.winchestershortfilmfestival.com/submit by 15 October 2015.
In 2016 Winchester Short Film festival is going international! Next year films will can be up to but no longer than double the length of this years. There is also a new category for 2016 – Write a Short Script for any Genre. Entries need to be submitted by December 2015
Speaker: Crime Writer, M.J. Arlidge
‘I am not a woman,’ says Matt Arlidge. One and a half years ago, it was his agent’s idea to submit the plan for DI Helen Grace as gender neutral. Four books later, the name has stuck. Unfortunately for Matt, it is common misconception among his readers that as the main protagonist is a woman then so must the writer be.
It has become apparent to Matt that women are infinitely more interesting than men and that life for a woman is fraught with difficulty. He fully accepts that this is tragic for women. But, not so at all for fiction writers. Plus, it seems to be the time of the female crime solver. So, a female DI with a fetish for leather and motorbikes cannot fail to sell.
Matt admits to finding a story’s baddy more intriguing and so the characters of his serial killers come fairly easily. In a crime novel the denouement is the most important element. So Matt works backwards, meticulously planning and reworking the chapters as he goes. Then the fun part – playing with the characters.
Matt started out a junior story-liner working at the BBC on East Enders before moving onto many happy years writing for Monarch of the Glen, he then moved into writing crime for independent television. This is when Eeny Meeny was born into a society controlled by reality TV. What if a serial killer was to ask the question – who should be evicted next?
MJ Arlidge is a writer of thrillers not police procedure, so he does not have deep contact with the police, in fact he confessed to making some of it up! The come-down after the action of the denouement is important to the reader – they need to ‘come back up for air’. It can also be used to lead into the next instalment.
It is important to remember that writing might be a craft, but publishing is a business. A publishing house is almost guaranteed to like a genre. They will also want to ensnare those readers for a long time, so a series is much more likely to grab their attention. ‘Don’t be shy.’ he says, ‘Think Big.’
A secret – Little Boy Blue, the prequel to DI Helen Grace, will be launched over the twelve days of Christmas in chunks. It will only be available in e-book and on Kindle.
Liar Liar by MJ Alridge was published on 10th September 2015 by Penguin.
Speaker: Crime Writer, James Marrison
Scary music, downloaded photographs, banging a tennis ball on the wall and strict routine all go into James Marrison’s writing day at his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
He sets himself targets as most writers do. But, not word-count. He uses time. Rigidly! Have a break or a time when you ‘call it a day.’ And switch off; it is so important.
Plotting is James’ nemesis. He does it in his head which can mean that sometimes, he has precious little in the way of tangible evidence of work. But plotting is work and he has to remind himself that he has actually done a lot today. Agatha Christie, one of his favourite authors was a plotter. And she often hid her killer in the open – a friend or a colleague.
Characters definitely do lead the plot. He fell back on his own emotional experiences of living away from his home for the answers to his main protagonist DCI Guillermo Downes. Once Downes had been given a backstory, he burst into life.
James agrees, it is the unveiling of the killer that is the reader’s reason for choosing crime. But, the day-to-day frustrations of police investigations are pivotal to the plot. Essential information dumps must be handled with care. So, James weaves in the character’s traits, keeping the text interesting. He also has no continual contact with the police but their procedures are not difficult to discover – the internet can give you all the information you need.
In crime writing, pace is imperative. Steer clear of over-describing. Sweep everything along for the ride. Keep working up to that key action scene.
It wasn’t until he started doing it that he actually realised that writing was what he wanted to do. He became a journalist. He collected details of strange and grisly murders carried out by the most demented serial killers and published his findings.
Writing is a lonely job, but James is keen to stress that at times it is also crowded. His agent and editor are vocal and blunt, and he is able to rely on them. Doubt, however can be a destroyer if it is allowed to creep in. Until your work is finished – put publishing out of your mind.
The Drowning Ground by James Marrison was published on 27th August 2015 by Penguin.