On Monday I went along to the Crime Writers’ Association panel event ‘Is Crime the new Literary Fiction?’ With Sophie Hannah, Lee Child, Peter James and Benjamin Black (John Banville) as panellists it made for a lively and entertaining evening.
In the first part of the session, the panellists discussed the question, reflecting that some of the best fiction in the twentieth century is crime fiction, and yet you do encounter snobbery about the genre. What came across really clearly was each of the panellists’ passion for the crime thriller genre and their love of writing it.
As the discussion broadened, each of the panellists talked about how they approach their writing, what interests them about the genre, and the importance of great characters and great stories.
As an aspiring crime thriller writer, the key takeaways from the session for me were:
- On thinking about character’s in action, the discussion on psychological depth was really interesting: how everyone is a psychological puzzle and that choosing who to trust and what will happen when a character does/doesn’t embodies the puzzle questions we ask ourselves in life.
- That there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to writing – that it could be starting with an essence of plot, or planning everything in advance, or not knowing what happens in the next line let alone the next chapter.
- That characters and story are both important in crime fiction – that you need strong, likable and memorable characters and a great story including a puzzle and a satisfactory conclusion.
- And, on pace, that stories don’t have to be fast paced, but they do have to be compelling. Pace is about variation.
It was a fabulous evening and I’d like to say a huge thank you to the panellists, and to the Crime Writers’ Association for organising the event.
ps. CTG was delighted to meet Lee Child and Peter James after the panel finished, and had a true fan-girl moment when discussing a shared love of coffee with Lee Child.