Wednesday, April 27, 2016

“Love Your Characters Before You Kill Them

“Love Your Characters Before You Kill Them, and Other Strategies for Fledgling Crime Writers” (by Katia Lief) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: Katia Lief’s most recent story for EQMM, “The Orchid Grower” (November 2015), was a finalist for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Award for best long story. The Brooklyn author has also been recognized for her novel-length fiction, with nominations for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the RT Reviewers Choice Award. Her latest novel is The Money Kill (HarperCollins 2013). She shares her experience writing both short and long fiction with students at classes she teaches at The New School—online in the fall and in the classroom in the spring. In this post she provides a few important tips for aspiring writers.—Janet Hutchings


Max Allan Collins said...

I had trouble reading this. It begins by saying you shouldn't start with a chase scene, but that's one of those rules that falls apart when you start thinking of effective stories that begin just that way -- VERTIGO for example. Then all of the references to your main character is "she" -- I realize "he" is now considered sexist, but how is the assumption that a main character is female any less sexist? It may not be poetry, but "he or she" is better, followed by "your protagonist."

And oddly the title's rule about loving your characters seems absent from the piece. By the way, that's not good advice, either -- loving your characters can easily sentimentalize your attitude toward them. The image of Erich Segal crying at his typewriter writing LOVE STORY comes cringingly to mind.

Mike Stamm said...

Agreed--both Peter (MODESTY BLAISE) O'Donnell and Trevanian break this "rule" most of the time, and those are just the first two that come to mind. And they were both remarkably successful. As a flat "thou shalt not," this is nonsense. To paraphrase Kipling, there are nine-and-ninety ways to begin a story, and to develop character,and every single one of them is right--for the right story.