Conference Session #1 – How to Write Killer Fiction

In a recent post, I wrote about my first writers conference. I attended three sessions which were extremely engaging, and I promised I’d share with you what I learned. So here goes…this is a short outline of what I was taught by Vic DiGenti in my first session of the day, “How to Write Killer Fiction – an Introduction to Mystery Writing.”

Elements of a Mystery

  • Sleuth
    • Well-rounded character with human flaws
    • Give your sleuth a goal, a need, a desire
    • Characters are driven by revenge, reward, and relief
  • Murder (crimes that need solving)
  • Clues and characters
  • Suspense, conflict, tension
  • Resolution

Creating Your Sleuth

  • Build a resume (name, age, birthday, physical description, etc)
  • “put your characters on a couch” and ask questions
    • Who are you?
    • What do you fear?
    • What are your hopes/dreams?

Creating a Crime Scenario – the Victim

  • Define the crime – who, how, and where
  • Is the victim tied to the plot?
  • How does the victim lead the sleuth to the villain?

Creating a Villain

  • Must test your sleuth
  • Equal to sleuth in intelligence/creativity
  • Give the villain some humanity

Be a Troublemaker

  • Make the protagonist’s mission more difficult
    • “throw rocks” at the protagonist
  • Take away advantages

Building Suspense

  • Remember the “bomb under the table”
  • Let the audience in on what might happen
    • Suspense is created when the audience anticipates
  • Turn up the sensory detail
  • Bait and switch
    • Increase tension, cut away
  • Use short, declarative sentences

Ask “suppose?” and “what if?” to complete the premise of your mystery.
Remember your audience.
Do your research, and be accurate!

Vic DiGenti’s Recommended Books:

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel – Hallie Ephron
How to Write Killer Fiction – Carolyn Wheaton
Murder and Mayhem – D.P. Lyle, M.D.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating – Steven Kerry Brown
A Writer’s Guide to Private Investigators – Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet & John Landreth
A Writer’s Guide to How Private Citizens Solve Crimes – Elaine Raco Chase & Anne Wingate
Don’t Murder Your Mystery – Chris Roerden
Writing Mysteries – Jan Burke
On Writing – Stephen King

3 thoughts on “Conference Session #1 – How to Write Killer Fiction

  1. Pingback: Brooke Reviews » Blog Archive » Taking Stock – 2013 in Retrospect

  2. Pingback: Conference Session #2 – The Plot Clock

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