Writing crime fiction – where to start


Well, I’ve always read this genre since I was in my teens – Simenon was my first love & still the master to return to, to remind myself about simplicity, just tell the story, make it real, make the reader care about the characters, their intentions, their bad decisions, their mistakes = less is more.  

So ‘pen to paper’? Well no! Not me! Not now! Fingers to laptop! I’m still only two fingers, but I like to think my slow ineptitude allows my mind to be ahead of the words on the page.  


With me in can be almost anything – but often a dream, most mornings I have the vestiges of some situation swirling around, sometimes disappearing too fast to retain, much more likely to remain vivid if I’m in the middle of a book.

Otherwise I’m an inveterate starer and eavesdropper – often wondering why or how or what someone is doing or saying. 

I get ideas for stories driving along the road, in the bath, gardening, walking into to town – I suppose looking at that list, anywhere my mind can wander.  

Also now I feel I can recognise a possible ‘premise’ – a question ‘what if . . .’ or ‘suppose . . .’ – but also recognising that there are only so many stories and that they are all re-doable in a different way, time or place. 

And if I’m honest my stories generally have a political edge, allowing me to express my anger with the unfairness, avarice and deceit of the capitalist model we live in – but keeping them realistic in that my characters are more likely to be frustrated in combatting injustice than ever succeeding to effect any great change. 

I suppose small, unreported victories are all they, or I, can hope to achieve.


So you have a premise! An idea! What next?  

For me, it’s just start writing! 

It doesn’t really matter where it’s going to end up in the story or even if the first pages never get to be in the finished book. 

Some people storyboard and can’t begin to write words until that’s done. 

Not me! I only start to story board after I’ve written a few thousand words and then it will only be the next chapter and only a few key words for each voice.   

Once I’m up and running I just listen to the voices of the characters, I go to sleep with them and they wake me up in the morning – or in the middle of the night! 

Sometimes it’s almost impossible to keep up, finding out what they want to do next: their insecurities, the lies they’re telling themselves, not knowing what the bad guys are planning, even though I know!


For example, what was the premise for my latest book ‘Blackthorns of their own’? 

It’s there in the blurb:  ‘What if a serial killer, who so far has avoided detection and hasn’t killed anyone since 1981, was to start again? Why?’ I’ve got a detective, Mick Fletcher, who is well retired, but driven to try and finally catch up with this killer. 

He has a retired sidekick, who despite herself will be unable not to be dragged into the investigation. 

I’ve got a serial killer who has been in two other books already, so I know her well and a whole cast of other characters who I can reintroduce. 

But then, of course, I’ve got to bring along a new generation of working police officers and investigators. 

And also, I have my other themes which are threaded through all my novels, the presence of the past, sometimes the supernatural; my anger with the injustices in the world, generally perpetrated by the shadowy forces of greed and self-regarding power.  

And then there are recent events which form the backdrop to the story – Brexit and the uncertainty of people’s lives.  

So if you’re curious about writing crime fiction or where the ideas come from take a look at my site – unlike a published novel, it’s still a work in progress – a never ending conversation with myself about why and how I’m driven to write stories.