Elizabeth George on Sherlock Holmes and Imperfect Characters

     No one wants to read about perfect characters. Since no reader is perfect, there is nothing more disagreeable than spending free time immersed in a story about an individual who leaps tall buildings of emotion, psyche, body, and spi…

     No one wants to read about perfect characters. Since no reader is perfect, there is nothing more disagreeable than spending free time immersed in a story about an individual who leaps tall buildings of emotion, psyche, body, and spirit in a single bound. Would anyone want a person as a friend, tediously perfect in every way? Probably not. Thus, a character possessing perfection in one area should possess imperfection in another area.

     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood this, which is one of the reasons that his Sherlock Holmes has stood the test of time for more than one hundred years and counting. Holmes has the perfect intellect. The man is a virtual machine of cogitation. But he's an emotional black hole incapable of a sustained relationship with anyone except Dr. Watson, and on top of that, he abuses drugs. He has a series of rather quirky habits, and he's unbearably supercilious. As a character "package," he emerges unforgetably from the pages of Conon Doyle's stories. Consequently, it's difficult to believe that any reader of works written in English might not know who Sherlock Holmes is.

Elizabeth George, Write Away, 2004

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Researching a Crime For a Book

Writing a true crime book requires the writer to dig into angles not covered in the original rush of publicity and to deeply research the stories of victims, survivors, investigators, attorneys, and others; review all court, prison, psychiatric, medica…

Writing a true crime book requires the writer to dig into angles not covered in the original rush of publicity and to deeply research the stories of victims, survivors, investigators, attorneys, and others; review all court, prison, psychiatric, medical, police and other documents about the perpetrator and interview people close to him.

Gretchen Brinck, authorsontheweb.com, 2002 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Stephen Glass: Notorious Fake Journalist

Whether fabricating sources or inventing scene settings, four journalists made headlines by choosing fiction over fact. It was discovered in 1998 that Stephen Glass had made up nearly half of his New Republic magazine stories. The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was fired in 2003 for fabricating quotes from people he never met…Janet Cooke, a reporter with the Washington Post had to return her Pulitzer in 1981 after admitting she had created, out of whole cloth, an eight-year-old heroin addict to write about. In 2014, USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned after falsely creating stories, including a piece about a drowned woman who later turned up alive.

K. C. Baker, “Under Fire,” People, February 23, 2015 

Whether fabricating sources or inventing scene settings, four journalists made headlines by choosing fiction over fact. It was discovered in 1998 that Stephen Glass had made up nearly half of his New Republic magazine stories. The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was fired in 2003 for fabricating quotes from people he never met…Janet Cooke, a reporter with the Washington Post had to return her Pulitzer in 1981 after admitting she had created, out of whole cloth, an eight-year-old heroin addict to write about. In 2014, USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned after falsely creating stories, including a piece about a drowned woman who later turned up alive.

K. C. Baker, "Under Fire," People, February 23, 2015 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Memorable Movie Dialogue

Some movie quotes become popular because they evoke a great film, or a great scene, or a great actor. Sometimes the words of the quote become proverbial–something like, “The natives are restless,” or “If you build it they will come,” or “Win one for t…

Some movie quotes become popular because they evoke a great film, or a great scene, or a great actor. Sometimes the words of the quote become proverbial--something like, "The natives are restless," or "If you build it they will come," or "Win one for the Gipper!" They enter into the language.

William Goldman in Leopold Todd, "What Makes a Movie Quote So Quotable?" CNN, August 22, 2014 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Ann Rule on True Crime Writing

True crime writing is a very delicate and difficult genre and not to be taken lightly. Done well, the books can be near classic. Done sloppily or carelessly, they serve only to hurt the innocent even more than they have already been hurt.Ann Rule, writ…

True crime writing is a very delicate and difficult genre and not to be taken lightly. Done well, the books can be near classic. Done sloppily or carelessly, they serve only to hurt the innocent even more than they have already been hurt.

Ann Rule, writersreview.com, 2000

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

What It Takes to Write Narrative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction requires the skills of the storyteller and the research ability of the conscientious reporter. Writers of creative nonfiction must become instant authorities on the subjects of their articles or books. They must not only understand …

Creative nonfiction requires the skills of the storyteller and the research ability of the conscientious reporter. Writers of creative nonfiction must become instant authorities on the subjects of their articles or books. They must not only understand the facts and report them using quotes from authorities, they must also see beyond them to discover their underlying meaning, and they must dramatize that meaning in an interesting, evocative, informative way--just as a good teacher does.

Theodore A. Rees Cheney, Writing Creative Nonfiction, 2001 

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Novels Are More Challenging to Write Than Short Stories

Short stories are wonderful and extremely challenging, and the joy of them–because it only takes me three or four months to write–is that I can take more risks with them. It’s just less of your life invested. That’s great. But the challenge of a nove…

Short stories are wonderful and extremely challenging, and the joy of them--because it only takes me three or four months to write--is that I can take more risks with them. It's just less of your life invested. That's great. But the challenge of a novel is so rewarding--there's so much more you can cram into them. Maybe the metaphor is: With a short story, you're building a table, you have four legs, you're trying to make it as beautiful and as functional as you can. With a novel, you're building not just a table but a whole house--you're building all the furniture inside it. It's more challenging, and then when you finish, it's more rewarding. I do think it's a richer experience.

Carole Burns, Off The Page, 2008 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Science Fiction Pioneer Edward Everett Hale

     The term “science fiction” hadn’t been invented in 1870 when the American magazine Atlantic Monthly published the first part of Edward Everett Hale’s delightfully eccentric novella The Brick Moon. Readers lacked a ready-made pigeonh…

     The term "science fiction" hadn't been invented in 1870 when the American magazine Atlantic Monthly published the first part of Edward Everett Hale's delightfully eccentric novella The Brick Moon. Readers lacked a ready-made pigeonhole for it, confronted by a fantasy about a group of visionaries who decide to make a 200-foot-wide sphere of house-bricks, paint it white, and launch it into orbit.

     Jules Verne's From The Earth to the Moon had appeared five years earlier, so Hale's work was not unprecedented, but while Verne chose to sent his voyagers aloft using a giant cannon, Hale opts for the equally unfeasible but somehow more pleasing solution of a giant flywheel.

Andrew Crumey, "The Brick Moon," theguardian.com, May 14, 2011 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Bad Review That Killed a Writer’s Will to Write

I quit writing after Publishers Weekly told me my first novel was “just terrible.” Something broke, you see. I was 29 and I’d worked for ten years at that novel, and I didn’t see the point of spending another ten years only to be told the same thing ag…

I quit writing after Publishers Weekly told me my first novel was "just terrible." Something broke, you see. I was 29 and I'd worked for ten years at that novel, and I didn't see the point of spending another ten years only to be told the same thing again. So I tend bar here in North Plainfield, New Jersey, and try to encourage the other writers who come by now and then. We don't get many writers in North Plainfield.

Luke Walton in Rotten Reviews and Rejections, edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernards, 1998

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Hunter and the Hunted in Thrillers and Suspense Novels

Many suspense novels and thrillers are based on the drama of the hunter and the hunted. Often a chase requires a one step forward, two steps backward approach. For example, after chasing down many false leads, a police detective finally discovers the s…

Many suspense novels and thrillers are based on the drama of the hunter and the hunted. Often a chase requires a one step forward, two steps backward approach. For example, after chasing down many false leads, a police detective finally discovers the suspect's hideout and hurries to secure a search warrant. The scene could end on his assistant rushing into the room with the warrant, and the detective grabbing his keys and heading for the car. Naturally the reader will be curious about where the villain lives and will keep reading. Or the scene might end with the detective arriving at the hideout to discover that the villain has vanished along with all traces of its illegal operation. The question is not only where he has gone, but who tipped him off.

Jessica Page Morrell, Between the Lines, 2006 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/