What make's a good crime novel?

Ask this question of crime fiction fans and you'll get varied answers. Some like the gritty gruesome, others prefer cozy comfortable. Some enjoy a literary style crime novel, others a racy, action-packed page turner. Reading about exotic locations turn some readers on whilst others enjoy 'home spun' tales. Then there's historical or contemporary, detective or private eye, male protagonist or female... But all crime fiction fans will agree they want great, believable characters and a cracking good plot. Saying this is easy, writing and delivering it time and time again is more difficult. But then that's the challenge and the enjoyment of writing.

Creating and developing a complex main character that the reader can have empathy with is vitally important. The reader must want to trust him or her, feel his/her pain and disappointments and root for him/her throughout the novel. And it's not just the main character but the supporting cast, and the villains and the walk-on roles who all need characteristics that are believable even if they are eccentric. The cast must be real to the writer and therefore real to the reader.

The plot needs to have twists and turns and to surprise the reader. But the plot and surprises spring from the characters' actions and motivations so we're back once more to creating great characters.

Writing a crime novel also takes fantastic organisational skills because all the bits of the plot and sub plots need to add up. If you change one thing on revisions then you find you have to change everything.

And all this takes hard work, which is what I should be doing now. But before I get back to Inspector Andy Horton and crew in the latest marine mystery crime novel here's a final note. In addition to the above the crime novel must also be well-written, have memorable settings, a mixture of narrative and realistic dialogue and a central theme. Being a crime writer is never dull.


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