I recently volunteered at a crime writing conference at my university (the University of Wollongong) called ‘Telling Truths: Crime Fiction and the National Allegory’.
Having just started a novel that has elements of crime in it, I was keen to hear what some established Australian crime writers had to say about it. I had no clue what ‘National Allegory’ meant (though I was assured at the Launch that we would “interrogate the fuck out of it”) and I’m still not sure. But as it turned out, it was the talks on truth and morality, feminism and the discussion panel that really sparked my interest.
I learned the difference between ‘crime’ and ‘thriller’ as told by Larkin (thrillers deal with our larger fears about the world, and the desire for us to stop something before it happens as opposed to solving something). This was when I realised that the book I’m writing falls into the thriller category, not crime.
I’m yet to kill anyone in my novel, and was slightly worried when I heard Maloney say
Once you start killing people, you just can’t stop.
Am I going to turn out as a crime/thriller writer? Who knows. I haven’t written in the genre since high school.
But during the panel, I was made aware of the fact that writers usually just fall into things. We get inspired and we go with our gut (or at least that’s what we should be doing). So that’s my plan, for now.
The issue of planning was also brought up (which I’ve blogged about here), and I was surprised to hear some of the writers say that they don’t plan their crime novels.
As you’d imagine, they mentioned the dreaded ‘writing yourself into a corner’ and the immense trust that you have to put into your characters to get themselves out of that hole. Ah, how sweet it was to hear that other writers get just as stuck as I do. They re-kindled the hope in me that this book project of mine could actually work out, if I use a little elbow grease.
I’ve never considered myself a crime (or thriller) writer. But it was nice to realise that I don’t need to brand myself, that I can just go with my gut, even if the way forward is blurry.
‘Telling Truths’ also reminded me how good it feels to be in a room full of other writers, and just how valuable those little sparks of advice can be.