Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to Construct a Crime

by Linda Hall

During this month with its Valentine’s Day theme of ‘Killing me Softly’, (Remember that old song?), I thought I would begin with 'How I Begin,' that is how I sit down to start to write a Love Inspired Suspense novel - from scratch.

I’m at that stage now. My APRIL release SHADOWS ON THE RIVER will be out soon (Woo hoo!), and I’ve just completed another one for release next year. For the past few days I’ve been in the process of ‘crime construction.’

I always begin with the crime. I get my blank piece of paper and in capital letters with a red Sharpie, I write: THE CRIME in big letters.

And yes - if you remember my introductory posting from January - I do a lot of my writing by hand with colored ultra-fine Sharpies on one-side-clean sheets of paper that I get from the university. (So, the backs of what I write on can be anything from notices to faculty to stuff that students print off from the library.)

And then, red pen in hand, I brainstorm. I have to come up with a criminal, what he did, WHY he did it (really important) and how he either got away with it for all these years, or how he thinks he’s going to get away with it now. I will write down the timeline of the crime when he did what - even figuring in how long it takes him to get from Point A to Point B.

Story criminals need really, really good reasons to kill. Police officers will tell you that in reality most real murderers are “crimes of passion”, which means they’re done in the heat of moment with not a lot of forethought and planning. He was mad. A gun happened to be lying around. He picks it up and kills someone.

Our Love Inspired Suspense novels can’t be this way. Our criminals need to have very strong motives. The strongest I can think of is control. The villain is losing control of something important to him, something that he would kill to keep. And he ends up doing just that.

Often I will ‘brainstorm’ the crime with my husband or a friend. That part is fun!

Once I have my “crime map” finished I go back to the beginning of the book and write toward it.

Just as an aside, here’s the snow we had in our yard last week.


EllenToo said...

Yikes!! Glad I live in an area where there is no snow as I'm not sure if I could survive that amount. It looks like it was almost to the top of the windows. I think it is very interesting that you use the back side of paper used for other things. While I am not a writer, I did teach high school and used the back side of paper to write information I wanted to include in lessons. Very interesting to know how you start writing a new suspense book.

Linda Hall said...

I try to recycle everything, and when I saw the amount of paper - one side still good - that was being thrown away I was appalled. I asked if I could use it. Now, there is someone at the U. who saves paper for me.

Lisa Mondello said...

Okay, Linda, you win. You have MUCH more snow than I do. I'm so short you wouldn't even see me behind those snow banks!

Debbie said...

Linda--since retiring from teaching the 2nd grade, I've thought about writing kids mystery books but have not taken time to really sit and plan one.Of course I don't want anyone to DIE, but I'd like something important to come up missing and have children banding together to help find it through prayer and hard work.Maybe I'll start 'constructing'. Thanks for the 'Shadow' books...urnestly awaiting that next one. As for snow...we left western NY because of that snow...I went for a walk on the beach last week... :o) Debbie in SC

Linda Hall said...

I hope you DO write your kids mystery books, Debbie! A walk on the beach sounds so lovely. I just came in from a nice walk in the snow. It's beautiful today, the sun is shining, but they say we're in for another snowstorm tomorrow.

Kimberley Payne said...

I think that amount of snow may be reason alone to provoke someone to murder :)
Actually I bought a licence plate for my hubbie that says, "ThinkSno". He LOVES to snowmobile and so loves the snow.
Kimberley Payne

Linda Hall said...

Glad you were able to log on, Kim!