The crime fiction genre covers a lot of ground. By definition, crime fiction involves mystery to be solved, usually who the killer is, or a quest to figure out some type of diabolical plot. Crime fiction stories involve pretty high stakes, and therefore a lot of suspense. Often there is a ticking clock to ratchet the tension even higher. And of course, there is always a crime of some sort to be solved, or prevented; some sort of wrong to be righted.
Crime fiction is a broad term which includes many sub-genres, which focus on the investigation of a crime and the apprehension of a suspect, either by law enforcement agents, as in The Numbers Killer, by my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Jenifer Ruff or by a tough guy P.I., as in hardboiled crime fiction such as Jim Nesbitt writes, with his tough guy P.I., Ed Earl Burch in The Best Lousy Choice and the two previous books in that series.
Hardboiled heroes are memorable. Who doesn’t know of Sam Spade or Mike Hammer and their cynical tough-guy images? They are usually down on their luck, or at least between clients. They are often heavily flawed, often self-destructive, but a ladies man none-the-less, with a love them and leave them attitude and the snappy dialog of the 1920’s. Hardboiled fiction was birthed by Carrolle John Daly and Dashielle Hammett in the 20’s, and carried on by authors such as Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane.
In noir crime fiction, the protagonist is usually an extremely flawed, average guy. He’s usually down and out, or perhaps on a downward spiral in a situation that seems bleak and hopeless. He’s a self-destructive hero, who ends up going against all odds to fight corruption and injustice, not because it is his job, but for strictly personal motivations, which are usually not in his own best interests. An excellent example of this is found in Rose City, by Michael Pool (See my interview with Michael next Monday, the 29th).
And of course, the classic crime fiction is pulp, such as Quintin Peterson writes in Awesome Tales #10 . From pulp, we get our classic heroes and fiendish evil villains. It’s from pulp that comic book super heroes and super villains arose, which is yet, another sub-genre of crime fiction, which has expanded with a life of its own to super colossal proportions.
We went on a hunt for crime fiction, and we found quite a bit. I learned a lot and I hope you did to. Now, I’m looking forward to August in a quest for mysteries and mystery authors. My “Chatting with the Pros” guest will be New York Times bestselling author, Gilly Macmillan. I’ll also be interviewing mystery author Gerald Darnell. And I’ll be reviewing a mystery anthology, Death Among Us, as well as a search and rescue mystery, Murder on the Horizon, by M.L. Rowland, and a paranormal cozy, Broomsticks and Burials, by Lilly Webb. I hope you’ll join me.
Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress.
My first semester in the M.F.A. program at Western, we were assigned to write an excerpt in a genre outside of that in which we normally write. I was assigned the western genre, and while I’d never really written much in the western genre, I learned from that exercise that I was pretty good at writing westerns, and that excerpt became part of my first published novel, Delilah. Now I’m working on the sequel, and even though the western genre is not as popular as it once was, I enjoy writing westerns, and for me, that may be more important than how many I sell. (But, how many I sell is important, don’t get me wrong. I want ton be a best seller as much as the next author.) I could never be a literary writer. Hell, I can’t even read all the way through some literary novels. While I have a knack for the western genre, I also have available Last Call, which is a sci-fi short and my paranormal mystery, Hidden Secrets. I guess that makes me a multi-genre author.
Today Ask the Authors is going to talk about some of the genres and what makes them different. We’ll also look at what kind of things we do differently when writing in more than one genre, regarding the writing process, research and marketing. Without further ado, let’s see what our panel members have to say.
Which genres do you write?
Tim Baker: I really don’t know what my genre is – or if I actually can be placed into only one. Generally speaking I write fast-paced, tongue in cheek, semi- humorous crime novels. I have also taken that description and coupled it with supernatural themes. My latest novel is pretty much a suspense-thriller, but it is still fast-paced with very small doses of humor.
For the purposes of this segment – let’s just say I write crime novels.
Cynthia Vespia: I write speculative fiction for adults and teens. For those who don’t know what speculative fiction is, it is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. Often described as the ‘What if?’ genre, speculative fiction is distinguished by being based on unusual ideas and elevated imagination.
I write a combination of urban fantasy, dark fantasy, magical realism, supernatural, paranormal, superhero, and dystopian. Which is why I started to go under the umbrella of speculative fiction because it encompasses all of that. I’ve dabbled in horror, and I’m trying my hand at space-opera, but those aren’t my main genres.
Janet Garber: I’ve written and published in multiple genres: journalism, non-fiction book, book and movie reviews, essays, short stories, novels, poetry, sci-fi/spec, humor. About the only thing I haven’t tried yet is screenwriting. I’ve also got a number of children’s stories and I would love to put them together in a book someday.
Chris Barili: I write in every genre. I think the story and the characters dictate the genre, so rather than starting out to write a fantasy novel or a western short story, I set out with a character and a problem and let things go from there. With the acceptance of a story of mine to a new crime fiction magazine, I have now sold fiction in all the major genres: Fantasy, SF, Horror, western, romance, and crime. I write most of my stuff in the speculative fiction genres of fantasy and horror. In the end, a story’s a story, no matter the label we stick on it.
I think clumping everything under just “YA” is pretty limiting and doesn’t tell the reader much info. Technically, as many editors and agents point out, YA is simply an age category, for readers 12-18 (and up) and involves main characters who are usually between the ages of 14 to 18. The actual GENRE is a dividing into things like steampunk, fantasy, sci-fi, historical, graphic novel, etc. But it’s very handy to have labels like “YA steampunk” because then you get the age category listed as well as the genre.
Each genre has certain elements which readers pick up a book expecting to find within the story. Romance tropes are probably some of the most familiar: there are two characters, they often start out disliking one another, to spite all odds they fall in love, but there are obstacles to overcome for them to be together, and of course, there must be a Happy Ever After. These are the elements of romance, and without them we don’t have much of a story. This is what romance readers expect to get when they pick up a romance novel. Its what they want, and if you don’t deliver, your reader following is liable go find another author who does.
I’m sure you’ll all recognize the tropes for the western genre as well: you have a lone character who stands up for what’s right against high odds, and must battle against the environment to complete their journey. There is a certain time period in history in which the western must occur, after (1700s?). I optioned to go against a trope of the genre when I made my protagonist female, but by giving her a romantic interest, I crossed over into the romance genre, therefore widening my audience scope. Let’s see how our panelist handle the tropes of their genres.
If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, or if our panel’s answers have stirred new questions within you, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. Then, in the final post for the series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members.
Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.