I’ve been working on a new project, and to make the crime aspect of the story work takes some serious thought and planning. There are a few different aspects that need to be considered when planning a fictional crime.
The crime itself
The first thing that has to happen is a decision on the actual crime. Will it be murder, abduction, theft, arson, blackmail, or something else?
When I first started writing I read a book called ‘Gumshoe’ by David McRobbie. The book contained a chapter explaining the process of writing backwards – starting at the end and working forwards in the plot. It makes sense when you think about it, especially with crime. The method is to write the story, but to then work from the end, back through the plot, making sure to lay clues and change things to better suit the eventual outcome.
Australian thriller author Michael Robotham said he once arrived at the last chapter of a book he was writing and still didn’t know who the killer was.
Sometimes a story can start with a clear idea of who committed the crime, other times the identity of the antagonist will reveal itself during the writing process. The other ‘who’ to be considered is the victim. In the end, the ‘who’s’ may be dictated by the ‘why’.
Every criminal has a motive, and there can be several. This is the hardest thing to decide on as the whole book has to revolve around the ‘why’ so that it makes sense in the end. There are many reasons why people will commit a crime. Most motives fall into one of two categories: passion (anger, love, hate, fear, jealousy) or gain (money, status, possessions). Choosing a motive can help determine who committed the crime.
I love doing research and that’s a good thing, as a lot is needed! Which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction over the crime? Who would be assigned to the defence case? What are the legalities around timing of charges being laid? What is the relevant process for the particular organisation (NCIS in the case of my current project)? What forensic and investigative procedures would be used? I’m continually amazed, and pleased, by what can be found on the internet.
I’ve come to realise that the best source of information is the organisations themselves. I once emailed NCIS directly and they responded in a little over a day, answering my question and offering other advice.
Sounds simple? Sometimes it is, and sometimes not. One thing it always is – fun!
Just make sure you keep it fictional…
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