Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen: Step Right Up and Pick a Crime, Any Crime!

Yes, that's right. I did say pick ANY crime. A lot of writers believe that when writing crime fiction, one or more of their characters has to be the victim of a homicide, and their villain has to be a mass murderer or a serial killer, at least. This couldn't be further from the truth. There are many different crimes and many variations of each and any and/or all of them can be included in a work of crime fiction. Let's explore this in greater detail.

Homicide: Here's your classic crime. There are so many different ways that this type of crime can be approached for your story or your novel. You could have a crime of passion, you could have a locked-door type of murder mystery, you could have a serial killer traveling across the country or between different countries, etc. There's no limit to the different ways and means that could be used to direct the focus of your tale on a homicide. This type of crime can be incorporated into the story or become the driving force behind it. Either way, the possibilities are endless.

Robbery: Here's one I don't see utilized too often, but that has great potential. When I say robbery, it could be someone robbing the corner store that gets caught up in something bigger or perhaps witnesses something else going on at the time. It could also be the something bigger in the story, like the theft of priceless paintings across enemy lines in a war-torn country, or multi-million dollar jewelry on display that had been discovered with a mummy at a show in a museum. The theft could be the focal point of the story, it could be what draws the main characters together, or a sub-plot in a thriller. So many different things to steal--so many different ways to steal them. Give it a try.

Kidnapping: Now, here's one you could really have fun with. Whatever you do though, please don't kidnap the 'rich kid' for ransom and blah, blah, blah. Get creative with your plan. Kidnap the poorest guy on the block. What do you want for him? Hmmm. How about the key to a safety deposit box in Switzerland? Crazy? Maybe. But it's a different and unique perspective. You don't even have to kidnap a person. Kidnap an animal, a work of art--I don't know. You could actually kidnap anything at all and demand anything at all in exchange. Lots of possibilities here too. Let your imagination run wild.

Espionage: You might think 'no, no, no. I'm writing crime fiction, not spy stories.' Well, perhaps, but you know, espionage is a crime after all. You don't have to have shoe phones and high tech gadgets in your story and spies in black trench coats meeting under streetlights in Austria in February. You can have a fella selling company secrets to a competitor, photographing prototypes and offering them to the highest bidder... Spying doesn't have to just mean stereotypical 'spies'. It is a crime, so come up with something previously unheard of and put it in your crime fiction story. It has the potential to be very interesting and really cool.

Terrorism: Again, this is a crime. It can involve a country, a company, a group of people, or whatever. Terrorism is defined as the act of terrifying, so what you could do with this type of crime scenario is pretty much open to interpretation. It could be sub-plot of your novel or story or the focal point. Either way, there are many doors that could be opened using this crime as a premise. It could involve a group of "terrorists" or a lone psychotic driven to "terrify". It could involve hostage situations or elaborate weaponry--this could make for a really interesting read.

Arson: Let's not forget about this one. Your villain could start fires to cover up another crime (any of the above, actually) or perhaps just be fascinated with fire itself. The crimes could be copycatting to direct suspicion away from the actual perp. The fires could be small and damage property only, or they could potentially bring down a skyscraper (although, bear in mind that has been done over and over in movies). You do need to really think this one through to keep your focus or incorporation of arson original. There's a lot that can be done with this crime as well--both as a focal point or as a sub-plot.

So many crimes; it's difficult to go through all of them. Just remember one thing though. If it's a crime, it's usable in crime fiction. Don't get caught up in the idea that somebody always has to die because that's most definitely not true. While stories of murder and mystery are fascinating to write and read, we shouldn't be afraid to push our imagination outside that comfortable circle and take on something different. Different types of crimes will involve different types of characters and plotlines, and, as crime writers, we would be giving ourselves the opportunity to continue walking on the same path maybe, but wearing a different pair of shoes while we're doing it--so to speak. Stretch your imagination, get involved in a completely different type of research, create characters previously unknown even to us... I'm willing to bet a good time would be had by not only the reader, but the writer as well--and, as a writer of crime fiction, I want to enjoy writing the piece just as much as the reader hopefully enjoys reading it. Isn't that what it's all about?