Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Crime Writing Workshop: Day 1

Thirteen would-be writers, including me, showed up to Sydney University's Nursing Campus building on a gloomy Saturday morning to spend the next two days learning the ins and outs of crime fiction writing. The course was presented by Marele Day, author of the Claudia Valentine PI series.

We went around the room and did the obligatory introductions, detailing our writing experience and reasons for being there, the types of crime we were most interested in, and our favourite sexual positions.

Marele gave some background, talking about her Claudia Valentine series, which includes her Shamus award-winning THE LAST TANGO OF DELORES DELGADO, and then her shift into more literary work such as LAMBS OF GOD and MRS COOK.

The first day we covered the topics of research, characters, voice and viewpoint. As a general focus for the group, Marele stuck a few headlines and images from the weekend newspaper up on the whiteboard. Throughout the weekend, we would all refer to a short story or novel idea that was inspired by these images.

We then went on to hear everyone's wishlist attributes of their most wanted crime novel. Mine weren't quite as ambitious as the others, so it was good to note them all down. Some of the more interesting ones were: a protagonist that doesn't give up, an unreliable narrator, and a good balance of light and shade.

Aside from the exercises set around building our newspaper-inspired stories, we had to make up a character name off the top of our heads, write it down on a blank piece of paper, and pass it to the left. The recipient's job was to flesh out the clothing and appearance of the character, their hopes and dreams, and their biggest fears in life.

Emmaline was the name given to me, and I turned her into a typical Newtown gal, replete with flowing skirt, corset and Doc Martens boots, all in black of course. The guy next to me was stuck with my own creation: Biff Johnson.

Although I've come across many of the concepts in my personal studies on writing (all the bloody books I've read on the subject), it was something else to have an author right in front of me that's done what I'm trying to do. And she's been extremely successful at it to boot.

I'm still absorbing all the information, so stay tuned for another post on Day 2: The Day We Went Outside.


Sandra Ruttan said...

wishlist attributes of their most wanted crime novel?

I've never even thought about that.

Sounds like quite a workshop, though!

Stephen Blackmoore said...

The wishlist thing is a pretty good idea. Never occurred to me, either. Don't know why. Makes sense. Know what you want and you have a better idea of getting there.

Sounds fascinating. Looking forward to hearing more about it.

jamie ford said...

A Crime Writers' conference at a nursing school–-cool. They could unveil a corpse and let you do some amateur forensics.

The wishlist thing is a very good idea.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Actually, something slightly disturbing did happen on the second day, but I'll leave the details for my next post.

Stuart MacBride said...

Does it involve nurses Daniel? Mmm, nurses...