s.m.harding crime fiction


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The Softboiled End

Posted by [email protected] on October 15, 2011 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

At the other end of the continuum is the cozy, what I'm calling the "softboiled" novel. Characteristics of cozies are that sex and violence takes place off-stage [no blood, folks, except what's viewed from a distance after the fact]; features an amateur sleuth [no cops, except as secondary characters]; normally is set in a small town, sometimes a manor house [often one that's cut off from help]; and often the series will last for years.

There are so many cozy authors, particularly from the "golden age" of the Brits [think Agatha Christie with the Miss Marple series, Dorothy Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey, Nickolas Blake, etc.] But once cozies crossed the pond, they became a staple of American mystery writers. And they became involved in a wide range of occupations -- librarians, academics, caterers [recipes provided], antiques dealers, laundromat owners, journalists, archaeologists, and most recently, experts in a wide variety of crafts [patterns/instructions provided].

And, what I would suggest is that both of these categories, hardboiled and cozy, exhibit a range of three, sometimes four "minutes" on my egg scale. Some harboiled are so hard, you could bury the egg and come back in a hundred years [a lot of extreme violence, torture, and general ugliness]. Some cozies have an awful lot of guns -- and people behind them blasting away.

Next time, I'd like to look at a couple of examples of hardboiled and cozy novels that don't fit on the extreme ends of the continuum -- and why the "boil time" on novel covers would help readers select books they'd be comfortable with.

Sorry for the long absence, but I had a large project that needed finishing. More on that later.

The Hardboiled End

Posted by [email protected] on September 6, 2011 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

The genesis of the hardboiled crime novel can be traced to the United States. Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, James Cain, Ross McDonald, and Mickey Spillane are all acknowledged authors of the harboiled detective novel. Arising from earlier pulp publications, the protagonist was most often a tough and cynical PI who is a loner, violence was played out on the page, and the action occurred in large cities. The word most often applied to hardboiled crime fiction is "gritty."

The category "noir" is often associated with current hardboiled fiction -- and that's accurate. However, the sub-genre "noir" is a category in itself. The protagonist of a noir novel could be a PI, but also a cop or a serial killer. Sometimes, the protagonist is the victim who escapes death. In the place where these two sub-genres meet, there is a lot of violence, often explicitly portrayed on the page. Think torture, rape, etc. When these two sub-genres cross-polinate with the horror genre, look for a lot of blood.

Next time, we'll look at the cozy end -- or questions.

I Love Sharing What I've Learned

Posted by [email protected] on August 29, 2011 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Notice I didn't say "teaching," though that's what it's called. Along my writing path, I've had some wonderful teachers and one of the things I've noticed is that they share what they've learned, both in presentation and critique. No hard rules, just the lessons learned from their own perspective.

I want to thank the students who came to The Writers' Center on an absolutely beautiful Sunday -- they were fun and asked good questions. I hope I gave them a good beginning for short stories. We'll continue that exploration on October 2, 1:00 to 4:00. If you missed the first one, come anyway.

Thanks, gals, for a most pleasurable experience. And feel free to use the comment area for questions, problems, whatever.


Posted by [email protected] on August 19, 2011 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (2)

On the home page I mentioned the cozy/hardboiled continuum, but it strikes me that not many people think of it as a gradual shift from one kind of writing to another. "Oh, I don't read hardboiled novels," says one person. As if that covers it, closes the subject. Yet I wonder if she reads Sara Paretsky. V.I. is the epitome of a hardnosed PI. Not as much of a lone-wolf as the classic PIs, not as concerned with a personal code of conduct as much as a social conscience. So where does V.I. get slotted? And it's not just the hardboiled detectives, but cozies, too. How cozy must a cozy be?

What I would love to see is an egg scale. Not kidding. A softboiled egg takes 3 minutes; hardboiled, 15. So why not a 3 to 15 scale? Take a look at a book cover and it says 5; you would know it's a traditional mystery, probably with an amateur sleuth, but no recipes and more guns. See how it might work?

My own work is normally somewhere in the middle of the scale, and the way publishers work now, it's a disappearing area. Have you noticed how many favorite authors who reside in the middle are no longer published by the Big Six, or not published at all? I have.

Perhaps there are a couple of areas we can explore from here. Let me know.


Some Ideas

Posted by [email protected] on August 18, 2011 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I'd like to talk about fiction in the following months (I'm not promising days), writing it, reading it, trends in publishing, and marketing ideas I see on other blogs.

For this time just let me say that if you want to write, do it! Don't talk about, don't read about how to do it, just put one word at a time down. Into sentences, into paragraphs, into stories. Begin with an image and describe what you see. Begin with a character and throw her into a situation. Begin with an idea you want to explore.

Set aside time every day to write. I know, you're too busy! Not an excuse. Get up 15 minutes earlier. Take 15 minutes from your lunch. Take 15 minutes from your normal TV viewing, your Facebook time. Tweet less.

15 minutes out of 24 hours is manageable. Do it today.