Thursday, 8 September 2011

Darkly Dreaming Crime-Fiction

Shots eZine are delighted to feature a guest blog by US Law Student Marie Owens discussing the subject of true-crime and the writing process.

Writers are known for their ceaseless imagination. Whether it be a screen-writer or a novelist; authors are constantly required to come up with endless ideas in order to create a prolonged and successful story. Can creativity make an author go a little too far however? People thrive through the art of storytelling, but what can be more intriguing is the background work that authors do in order to make a story well written for its audience.

Criminal stories told through books, television shows, and movies is one of the most popular forms of storytelling and also one of the most important genres in order to maintain fact more than fiction within the work. The book series Dexter by Jeff Lindsay is a great example. “Dexter” is the story about a man, named Dexter, who works as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department. Dexter is a serial killer who satisfies his uncontrollable impulses to kill by murdering only culprits who have escaped the criminal justice system. Just Dexter's job alone in the show must be difficult to portray accurately by using correct forensic jargon and creating realistic cases for his character to solve. Portraying Dexter's personality must also be changeling. Dexter is a sociopathic serial killer, so it is important to have his character talk and act like one. This isn't common knowledge so how does the reader know whether a criminal writer has a background in criminology such as having a criminal justice degree or has trustworthy expertise in the field?

It's important for a criminal writer to have a knowledgeable background in the stories that they are trying to create because not only does it give their work credibility, but it gives the author the opportunity to teach their audience important and interesting facts regarding the real world of crime.

It is crucial for criminal writers to make sure the facts in their story are as accurate as possible because it will help the story appear more realistic to the audience. How many times have you watched a film or read a book in which an action that the character had done or a scenario created was so completely inaccurate that it made you scoff because you knew it could have been easily portrayed accurately if the author just did a little bit of research? Even the simplest mistakes can lead a fan to stop reading your work all together or not believe you to be a credible author. Creativity is the most important part of storytelling, but it shouldn't drive you to be incorrect. In order to be a credible criminal author one doesn't necessarily have to have a law degree or be the chief of police, but it is important that you take the time to understand the field.

Writing with credibility also gives you a chance to teach your audience interesting facts about dark subjects in crime such as murder. One of the main reasons why people read criminal mystery novels or watch crime shows is because they have a fascination with the subject and want to learn more about it. In fact, New York University Professor Auora Wallace compares criminal television shows to macaroni and cheese “They are enormously comforting. This is the comfort food of television.” This is mainly because people hold a dark fascination for stories outside of their normal lives. Through reading and watching crime television, it’s comforting for people to understand and learn from a dangerous experience that they would never desire in reality. By filling your writing full of accurate situations and characters, people are more likely to appreciate your work and become more intrigued to learn more about the subject you are engulfed in writing about.

All in all, it’s crucial to not depend on just your imagination alone when writing a story. Research and accuracy are just as important. An audience is more loyal when the work is not only credible, but when it also includes accurate facts that they can learn from. Whether you choose to become knowledgeable about law and crime through school, work experience or basic intensive research, its important to know that as a writer you not only need have an extraordinary imagination, but a precise one as well.

Marie Owens is a prospective law student in Washington state with a particular interest in criminal law and gender issues. She writes to promote criminal justice education, and teaches martial arts in her spare time and can be contacted at :

Photo of Jeff Lindsay being interviewed by Peter Guttridge © 2008 Ali Karim from Crimefest 2008 Bristol, England

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