Sunday, March 03, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: find out etc.

People who write crime fiction: stop telling us that cop work or P.I. work or coffee-serving work isn't as glamorous and action-packed as it is in the movies.
"Oh, it's not as exciting as James Garner makes it look on TV," said the character in the book that is on the verge of getting slammed shut and never opened again. "All I need is a pair of sunglasses, and I'd be a real David Caruso."
The worst, though, is when some jackass writer makes this big deal in the first or second chapter about how his cop character isn't some action hero you see on the big screen and then fills the rest of his stupid, asinine, bestselling, piece of crap novel with the worst cop show clich├ęs. That's the worst.
Like, say you're writing a book about some normal everyday people who get caught up in criminal events which spin out of control, howzabout don't fill their mouths with the kind of argot Elmore Leonard invents for his career criminals. Howzabout you don't fill their mouths with stuff you got from reading Richard Price--or more likely, watching The Wire.

Howzabout you give me something in your novel I couldn't get from Wikipedia? George V. Higgins, in his really good On Writing (which is where I got the photo of text at the top of this post), says, "You cannot write well without data." If you're getting all of your data from second and third hand sources, and it's, y'know, obvious, well, you might find your book well-reviewed and get blurbs from people I admire, and maybe get rich and not have to spend your weekends pushing a mop, but, you, sir, in the inimitable words of TLC, won't get no love from me.

People know what they're getting into when they read a novel. They understand the compact of fiction. Even the most realism-heavy story needs to use the craft of fiction; compression, selection, flashback, metaphor, you get the idea. Unless you have very good reasons for doing so--and there are lots of them, but you gotta have at least one--don't pull them out of the story with your smug, knowing wink.

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