Writing materials

Writing a romance versus writing a mystery ‹ CrimeReads

Is there such a big difference between falling in love and solving a murder?

Um, yes there is, especially when writing about love and murder. For me, it’s not just about content, but about the craftsmanship and process of writing in these distinct genres. I find it fascinating that, although I’ve been writing for over twenty years, my initial process for writing crime novels was very different from what it is for writing in the genre of fiction.

I started writing novels because I like to read them. It’s not a billion dollar industry for nothing! Consisting of stereotypical and quirky storylines, as well as Happiness Guaranteed Forever (HEA), the genre breeds voracious readers who want engaging main characters, a romantic main plot, and that all-important HEA (or HFN – luckily for the instant, which has become accepted in the genre.)

Some writers like to intrigue. Others write by the “seat of their pants” – otherwise known as the pants. When I first started writing, I tried to sketch and plot before the story, but ended up orienting myself where my characters took me. Now I’m starting a book with character A and character B, but I don’t know how they fall in love and overcome obstacles to end with their HEA.

Twenty years of romance writing have given me an interesting perspective on the genre and its subgenres. I write contemporary romance, paranormal romance and romantic suspense. They all share common tropes, such as: enemies of lovers, destined companions, secret baby, fake boyfriend, etc. I’m constantly amazed at how challenging – and fun – it can be! – to write the same tropes over and over and always come out with different stories. And let’s not forget that intimate mysteries always have a mystery – usually a murder – that needs to be solved. In every book.

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But engaging reading has to do with character, which to me, is the most important part of quality genre fiction.

In romance, I start a book with character sheets. I need physical, emotional and mental traits. Do people like them? Very educated? Street smart? Obsessive? Do they come from broken families or well-adjusted homes?

I know all of these factors before I start writing, because without them my characters are inconsistent. Then my brain won’t let me write because I’ll be stuck, that dreaded writer’s block that really isn’t. My subconscious tells me I made a mistake. This leads to deleted scenes and a redesign of the book to get it right (lots of extra work!) before I can move on.

However, to start writing a mystery is so much different. Yes, I need to know the characters, but I also need to know who my evasions are from the start. What are their possible motives for killing the victim? I have to plant those seeds throughout the script, and it’s much easier to plant as you go than having to go back and restructure the story to fit possible culprits.

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I also write my mysteries from a first-person perspective (POV), and that’s a very different mindset than third-person POV. Take this example from the narrator’s point of view (in the first person) in dig into the problems:

“Hello, Officer Berg.”

His fake smile soured. “This is Detective Berg. »

“Well, Inspector Berg, what are you detecting today?”

He studied me blankly, and I wondered if he was going to handcuff me and then imprison me for being too nice. For some reason, even though Berg had only been in town a few months, he had taken a fierce dislike to me, my dog, and anything that looked like dirt.

“I could have sworn I saw the tail of a disruptive dog just minutes ago.”

I subtly stepped to my left over the freshly dug dirt, blocking Berg’s view of the fresh dirt I had packed up.

He looked down at the rose bush and then around, and I guessed I should have been glad Cookie had taken the second I had yelled at him for digging. I was hoping very difficult that she had gone straight home.

Behind me, I cross my fingers.

This feeling of immediacy and closeness to history is evident. You get the words straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Then watch it written in the third person:

“Hello, Officer Berg.”

His fake smile soured. “This is Detective Berg. »

“Well, Inspector Berg, what are you detecting today?”

He studied Lexi blankly, and she wondered if he was going to handcuff her and then put her in jail for being too nice. For some reason, even though Berg had only been in town a few months, he had taken a fierce dislike to Lexi, her dog, and anything resembling dirt.

“I could have sworn I saw the tail of a disruptive dog just minutes ago.”

She stepped subtly to her left over the freshly dug dirt, blocking Berg’s view of the fresh dirt she had packed up.

He looked down at the rosebush and then around him, and Lexi supposed she should have been glad Cookie had taken away the second she had yelled at him for digging. Lexi hoped very difficult that she had gone straight home.

Behind her, Lexi crossed her fingers.

Both scenes work, but in the context of a limited point of view in the story, the close perspective of the narrator also helps to increase the tension, as the reader doesn’t know the full thoughts and feelings of everyone. knowing Lexi very well. because Lexi shares them directly.

However, writing in first person, when you’ve been writing in third person for years, is a challenge. I have to correct my pronouns and my plot, because my narrator doesn’t know everything that I, the writer, know. I need to provide this information to him through other characters, which can lead to some interesting twists.

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So what does a day of writing look like to me? For romance and mystery, it’s basically the same thing. It’s just my starting points that are different.

Starting with the novel: main character sheets, notebook with secondary characters, detailed research of where the story takes place (usually a real city), vague idea of ​​the plot although I know that A and B fall in love and live happily ever after , sets of 5-8 page chapters waiting to be written, and the novel can be between 50,000 and 80,000 words.

From the Mystery: character bible for everyone in town, victim/suspect sheets, updated and detailed map of Confection, Oregon (my fictional town), 5-6 page chapter sets waiting to be written to reach 80,000 words or more – according to my current contract, the word count is specified.

I read what I wrote the night before and edit that material before writing for four to five hours, or more if I’m really jamming. I correspond on social media and email after writing (email sometimes before.) And of course all other parts of the post with edits, formatting and taking contact with cover designers and readers occurs as needed.

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Overall, although my process for writing romances and mystery novels is different, the actual writing is the same. Fun, exciting and intriguing to see how I can make the stories work.

Thank you so much for inviting me, CrimeReads!