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DyerWilk
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This is a great question. Technically, I fall into the middle ground between writer and reader (I do both frequently), but I think one tends to inform the other. I spent about three years attempting to crack the short fiction horror market before moving to crime where my work has been more readily accepted. The only thing that I was a bit uncertain about in that transition was how I could consistently write good crime fiction without sounding like everyone else. Enter books. A lot of them. The thing I love about writing is I can chalk buying books up to “research.” I read crime shorts and crime novels in an attempt to figure out what crime fiction is and how I could put my own spin on it. And I think during that process, I discovered something. I’m tired of the tropes. Most private detectives bore me. I’m not interested in intricate puzzles and red herrings. Most twists feel like the author is patting themselves on the back rather than giving us the kind of revelation we might expect in reality. That’s what I’m talking about here. Reality. At least a possible one. When I’m reading crime fiction (noir, mystery, suspense, thriller, etc.), what I want is to be entertained. But I don’t want to reach a particular moment in a story and have my logical brain kick in and remind me that what I’m reading is completely ridiculous. I realize that reading and writing involves the suspension of this disbelief, but there’s only so much I can take. There’s that saying about certain books feeling like movies. That’s exactly what I don’t want to read. I spent five years in film school, listening to washed-up professors feed me homogenized bullshit about what is cinematic. Movies are a big draw, so it’s no surprise that a writer would want their book to be ready-made for a film adaptation. It means another payday. But I went from aspiring filmmaker to aspiring writer because I realized that one form could do what the other couldn’t. A book can get into a character’s head. And that’s what I want. I want to get swept up in a character’s thoughts. Having done a lot of thinking over the course of my life, I know that a thought process can be chaotic, that you can find yourself thinking about something irrelevant in a tense situation, that sometimes your impulses override logic only to be reigned in by a mental back-and-forth before you do something you’ll regret. In other words, I want characters that resemble human beings. The detectives and heroes floating around in supermarket fiction feel more like mannequins and cardboard cutouts. It feels like the writer has created a role in their exciting plot and developed a thin stereotype to fill it. I’m talking about the James Pattersons and Dan Browns. The Tom Clancys and Brad Thors. When the situation is not a natural extension of how a person would act or react in a given circumstance, I tune out. I put down the book, spend awhile getting pissed off that a publisher paid money for such crap when my work goes unpublished, and then I seek out something better. I’ve never gone wrong with Jack Ketchum or Jim Thompson or Ed McBain. They manage to strike a balance between character and plot, where it feels like a character has free will rather than being an unwilling participant. They show us what makes these characters tick, and ultimately that makes the plot so much more rewarding. And, yes, sometimes we are given a character’s thoughts––something a movie can’t give us without delving into cheesy narration, which assures us that we don’t need to worry about this character in moments of suspense because they will inevitably survive the ordeal and tell the tale. And there’s another issue. Narration. First. Third. It doesn’t matter to me. As long as I don’t feel safe. I want the writer to gracefully omit information and establish subtext, to build things up adequately until that big moment, when I’m sitting there holding my book with white knuckles, excited and terrified about what will happen on the next page, paragraph, sentence, word. If a writer can do all this, I’ll pay to read them and I’ll keep coming back.
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Dec 10, 2012