My primary skill set is in nonfiction.
James Ellroy is the preeminent crime novelist of our time. As his just-released Perfidia rolls out, he talks to Co. Create about how to write immersive page-turners like his classic, L.
Short, compact sentences hit in machine gun bursts. The immediacy of the writing registers more as an experience than a description of one. Although many have indeed become films, and Ellroy has written several screenplays himself, the only movie to truly capture the rapidly shifting, ultraviolent underworld the author calls home is L.
Confidential, whose screenplay fetched an Academy Award for scribe Brian Helgeland. Mostly, though, the preeminent crime writer of our time has done his best work offscreen and on the page, crafting meticulously plotted historical crime sagas like the just-released Perfidia.
The man referred to as the Demon Dog of American crime fiction is revisiting familiar territory in his latest novel, while also heading into uncharted waters.
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|How To Write a Crime Novel Like James Ellroy||The private dick knocks on the door of a rich client. The PI returns to the case after being fired or paid off by the client—we can trace these iconic scenes back to the early days of crime writing, with Chandler, often by way of Hammett, supplying them.|
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Set over a day period in around the attack on Pearl Harbor, Perfidia kickstarts a new quadrilogy involving characters from both the L. Quartet —which spawned L. Confidential—and the Underground USA trilogy. Quartet, forming 31 dramatically packed years in American history—overflowing with real-life characters and amalgams, all doing terrible things to each other.
Ahead of the recent launch of Perfidia, Ellroy spoke with Co. Create about his fastidiously organized outlining process, the many jobs dialogue can accomplish, and how to write a morally ambiguous crime novel so good it should be illegal.
Hatching the Plot A James Ellroy plot is an unwieldy beast that would be hard to summarize, even in a full paragraph. The author only arrives at it after the broad ideas and characters simmer in his imagination for a while.
Quartet and the Underworld USA trilogy and how these characters had to realistically sync to the earlier written but later set books. It comes down to a schematic calculation, though. You want a big crime. You want big history.
You want internal conflicts in characters. You want rivalries between police agencies. You want classy women. You want big love affairs. You want high stakes, life. His outlines are basically first drafts of the finished product.
With Perfidia, I had about pages of notes, I had to do lots of research, and then I shorthand blocked out the book. It was 80 shorthanded pages that only I could read—initials for proper nouns, initials for individual characters.
And then I wrote the page outline. Fucking book is mapped right down to the paragraph break. The outline is written by hand.
I come over to it and refer to it all the time, and then I write the book. I write 50 pages on white notebook paper, black ink, correct in red. If I get 50 pages ahead, I go back and rewrite. It has to be perfect.
I talk to myself and say the words as I write, hence the cadence, hence the incantatory quality of the prose. And he thinks he sees everything in the first person, which is inaccessible to some people. Making that determination required revising the outline.
It should be more than exposition. You have a mendacious world. And I have created people who are lying and dissembling continually. Lots of big evasion. I get taken to task on occasion for my very casual use of racial epithets and ethnic slurs.
The heroes of the book, they have the attitudes on race and gender common to their time, but said attitudes are not defining characteristics.When writing crime fiction, you should almost always start with the crime.
Click To Tweet. All narratives detail the complete story of one conceptual ‘item’. That item can be a person, an event, a relationship, a place, a belief, etc. In crime fiction, the conceptual item is the investigation of a crime. Author to write true crime novel based on Word of Life case The story of a local teenager who was killed in a beating death inside a church will become a true crime novel.
30, PM. Never start with a description of the weather. In a crime novel, if you open with the description of the weather I’m going to think that the weather killed somebody.
(3) Have a crime. If you are writing a crime novel bad and awful things, sourced from the madness of your soul, need to happen. It’ll also help you decide what kind of crime novel you’d like to write. (See Different types of crime novel) Tip 2. Don’t forget that the crime and the detection of that crime are the most important parts of the novel.
Everything else is simply there to throw the reader off the trail – subplots and red herrings. Beginner Tips for Writing Crime Novels • Choose the type of crime novels to write – cozy, hardboiled, police procedural and thrillers, legal or otherwise.
I particularly love legal crime thrillers. As a trial lawyer, that was the obvious choice for me. I believe our system of justice works beautifully most of the time. Crime fiction is a huge area of the market and so one of the first things you need to do is consider the type of crime you want to write – because this is a genre where category is important, particularly as far as publishers are concerned, and of course because it is such a wide genre.
To help you I want to define some terms.