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Manual: The Definitive Guide to Thriller, Noir and Mystery Novels.

Updated: 5 days ago

Night, the headlights of a car illuminate the silhouette of a man on foot.


1.1 The characteristics of the genre

1.2 Brief history of the detective and crime novel

1.3 The birth of the thriller and noir

1.4 What is the thriller and what are its distinguishing features

1.5 What is noir and what are its distinguishing features


Creating the crime novel: plot and tension

2.1 Creating a compelling plot for a crime, noir or thriller novel - differences and similarities

2.2 Decide what kind of detective novel you want to write and manage the particularities

2.3 How to create tension: techniques, tricks and tips


Beyond tension: how to create fear and twists

3.1 How to create the emotion of fear in the reader

3.3 The exercise

3.2 Creating the twist


The characters of the genre

4.1 Five elements to build a detective protagonist.

4.2 The most famous protagonists and their characteristics.

4.3 The importance of secondary characters in the crime novel.


Style and language in the detective novel

5.1 Distinctive elements of the language

5.2 Procedural aspects and consistency.



6.0 Constructing a serial novel

7.0 The checklist

8.0 The aphorisms to remember




The characteristics of the detective story.


Let us begin by circumscribing the characteristics that define a crime novel. Meanwhile, it is a work of genre fiction that revolves around the investigation and resolution of a crime, usually a murder. This literary genre relies on the author's ability to construct a gripping and suspenseful plot in which the reader is involved in the process of discovering and solving the mystery. There are seven distinctive characteristics of a crime novel:


  1. Investigation: the focus of the plot is an investigation conducted by an investigator, who may be a professional detective, a policeman, a private investigator, or an amateur who stumbles upon the mystery by chance. The investigation unfolds through analysis of clues, questioning of witnesses and suspects, and reconstruction of events.


  1. Mystery: the crime novel is based on a central mystery that must be solved, such as the identity of the murderer, the motive for the crime, or how it was committed. The mystery is what stimulates the reader's curiosity and prompts him or her to follow the investigation step by step.


  1. Narrative structure: detective novels often follow a well-defined narrative structure, with an introduction that introduces the crime and the characters involved, a development in which the investigation unfolds, and a climax in which the mystery is solved and the culprit unmasked. Finally, there is a resolution phase in which the details of the crime are explained and the remaining loose ends are clarified.


  1. Characters: detective novels often feature a number of well-delineated characters, including the investigator, perpetrator, suspects, victims, and witnesses. Each character may play a specific role in the plot and contribute to the resolution of the mystery through their actions or the information they provide. Or, they can play the opposite role and throw off both the reader and the investigator.


  1. Atmosphere: the setting and atmosphere of a crime novel are important elements that contribute to a sense of tension and suspense. The setting can range from an urban environment to an isolated village to a single location (even a room), while the atmosphere can range from dark and disturbing to lighter and ironic, depending on the author's style and narrative intentions.


  1. Puzzles and twists: to keep the reader's interest and fuel suspense, detective novels often feature puzzles and twists that lead to new discoveries or upset the certainties of the characters and the reader themselves. These narrative elements are essential to make the story compelling and unpredictable.


  1. The crime happens at the beginning: if not in the first sentences, usually in the first few pages. The reader of this genre wants to be immediately involved in the investigation, in the crime.


As in all genres, there are ground rules and works that can break them, change them, or derivative genres (in our case they will be thriller and noir) that will change the proportions of the ingredients. But for you, who have decided to approach this genre, the seven rules are an excellent checklist to see if you have directed your narrative energies in the right way.





1.1 Brief history of the detective and detective novel


We begin our journey into the world of the detective and detective novel by examining the origins and development of this literary genre. Your understanding of the historical roots will enable you to better grasp the distinctive features and key elements that distinguish the genre, facilitating your growth as a writer or novelist.


The earliest traces of stories focusing on investigation and puzzle solving date back to antiquity. In particular, the tale "The Three Judges" from Egyptian literature offers an example of the investigation and judgment of a crime. However, it is during the Enlightenment period that we see the birth of the modern detective genre, with the rise of rationalism and logic as tools for solving problems and mysteries.


A precursor to the genre is "Zadig" (1747), by Voltaire, in which the protagonist uses his intelligence and powers of observation to deduce information about crimes. But it is with Edgar Allan Poe that the detective genre takes on the characteristics that will make it popular: his short story "The Murders of the Rue Morgue" (1841) in fact introduces the character of Auguste Dupin, a private detective who solves crimes using deduction and logical analysis.


Dupin marks the beginning of a long tradition of literary sleuths that would include such iconic figures as Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, and Hercule Poirot, conceived by Agatha Christie in 1920. Both of these characters embody the image of the brilliant and observant detective, capable of solving the most intricate mysteries thanks to his analytical mind and deep knowledge of human nature.


Over the years, the detective genre has diversified, giving rise to numerous variants and subgenres. One of these is the so-called "whodunit" (who did it), in which the resolution of the puzzle is at the center of the narrative and the reader is actively involved in the search for the murderer. The most famous examples of whodunit include Agatha Christie's "The Mystery of the Blue Train" (1928) and Gaston Leroux's "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" (1907).


Another important subgenre is the "deductive detective story," in which the protagonist is a professional or amateur detective who uses his logical skills to solve crime. This subgenre is distinguished by its focus on analysis of evidence and deduction, and among the best-known examples are Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (1892) and Georges Simenon's "The Inquiries of Commissioner Maigret" (1931-1972).


Parallel to deductive detective stories is the development of the so-called "procedural detective story," which focuses on the methods and procedures used by investigators and police officers to solve crimes. In this subgenre, the focus is on the technical details and bureaucratic challenges faced by investigators, giving the reader a more realistic view of police work. Some of the most famous examples of procedural detective stories include "Crimes" (1956) by Ed McBain and "Red as Blood" (1971) by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.


Another important subgenre is the "puzzle novel," in which the mystery is central to the plot, but is solved through the intuition and ingenuity of the characters rather than through purely deductive methods. This subgenre is distinguished by its emphasis on psychology and character interaction, as evidenced by works such as Giorgio Bassani's "The Garden of the Finzi-Contini" (1962) and Ruth Rendell's "The Sixth Victim" (1971).


Throughout the twentieth century, the detective novel was enriched by the contribution of authors who were able to renew the genre by introducing social, historical and political themes into their stories. Prominent among them are authors such as P.D. James, whose Adam Dalgliesh series offered a deeper and more complex view of power dynamics within institutions, and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, whose character Pepe Carvalho became a symbol of the political and cultural evolution of post-Francoist Spain.


Finally, it is important to emphasize the role of women authors in shaping and innovating the detective novel. In addition to Agatha Christie, authors such as Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham helped to define the style and themes of the genre, while contemporary writers such as Tana French, Val McDermid, and Donna Leon have continued to explore new narrative territories, mixing the detective story with the thriller, noir, and other literary genres.


Before going any further, it is appropriate to make a brief point: detective novels have often been paired with names characteristic of the country, the culture of the period, or to identify their genre or subgenre. At times, this has led to some confusion. A few examples:

  • "Giallo" in Italy, thanks to the "Il Giallo Mondadori" series.

  • "Polar" in France.

  • "Krimi" in Germany.

  • "Tantei" in Japan, meaning "detective."

  • "Makjang" in South Korea, indicating a story with excessive and melodramatic plots, but often with thriller elements.

  • "Whodunit" in the English language, a term for a novel in which the reader tries to find out who is guilty of the crime committed.



1.2 The birth of the thriller and noir


The crime novel has developed through a series of historical and cultural stages, giving rise to a variety of subgenres and narrative styles. Knowing and understanding these transformations will enable you to appreciate the richness and complexity of the genre and provide you with the tools you need to develop your own voice and style as a thriller, noir, and mystery writer.


The crime novel is a very close relative of two literary genres: the thriller and the noir.


1.3 What is the thriller and what are its distinguishing features


The thriller is a narrative genre that focuses on creating tension, suspense and excitement in the reader while maintaining a fast-paced and engaging pace. Unlike the crime novel, which focuses primarily on solving a mystery or puzzle, the thriller aims to keep the reader glued to the pages through dangerous situations, conflicting characters, and unpredictable twists and turns.


A distinctive feature of the thriller is the importance of the plot, which unfolds through a series of intricate and often dramatic events. Plots are generally complex and layered, with numerous subtexts and secrets emerging throughout the narrative. Suspense is a key element of the thriller, and authors in this genre use several techniques to keep it high, such as information delay, false leads, and surprising revelations.


Another typical feature of the thriller is the presence of characters in conflict, facing extreme situations or threats to their safety. Often, the protagonist is a lone hero, who clashes with dark and powerful forces, whether criminal organizations, international spies, or sociopaths. This type of character is distinguished by his survival skills, intelligence, and ability to solve complex problems under pressure.


The thriller is divided into numerous subgenres, which differ in setting, theme and tone. These include the psychological thriller, which explores the dynamics of the human mind and relationships between characters; the action thriller, which stages combat sequences, chases and physical danger; the political thriller, which deals with issues of corruption, power and intrigue at the governmental level; and the technological thriller, which focuses on themes related to science, information technology and cybernetics.


To better understand the characteristics of the thriller, it is useful to examine some of the genre's landmark authors and works. Among the precursors of the modern thriller, we can mention John Buchan, author of "The Thirty-Nine Steps" (The Thirty-Nine Steps - 1915), a novel that combines elements of espionage, adventure and action in a breathtaking tale. Other important authors in the field of thrillers include Graham Greene, with works such as "The Third Man" (1949) and "Our Agent in Havana" (1958), and Ian Fleming, creator of the famous secret agent James Bond, the protagonist of such novels as "Casino Royale" (1953) and "Goldfinger" (1959).


Contemporary thriller writers include such names as Frederick Forsyth, author of "The Day of the Jackal" (1971) and "The Odessa Dossier" (1972), who helped define the political and espionage thriller; and Robert Ludlum, creator of the Jason Bourne series, which began with "The Bourne Identity" (1980). Other successful authors in the thriller genre include Patricia Highsmith, famous for her psychological novels such as "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1955); and Michael Crichton, who successfully blended thriller, adventure and science fiction in works such as "Jurassic Park" (1990) and "Timeline" (1999).


Reading these novels (and the others we will mention in this guide) will help you delve deeper into the genre and discover some of the secrets of the Masters.


Over the years, the thriller has evolved, incorporating different themes and styles. For example, the so-called "domestic thriller" focuses on stories of suspense and mystery set within the family or community, exploring interpersonal relationships and tensions hidden behind seemingly normal facades. Authors such as Gillian Flynn, with "Gone Girl" (2012), and Paula Hawkins, with "The Girl on the Train" (2015), have achieved great success with this type of thriller.


In addition, the thriller has often mixed with other genres, resulting in hybrid and innovative works. For example, the legal thriller, such as John Grisham's "A Time to Kill" (1989), combines elements of suspense and action with the realistic narration of court events; while the historical thriller, such as Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" (2003), weaves puzzles, conspiracies and the search for truth into a historical and artistic context.


1.8 What is noir and what are its distinguishing features


Noir is a subgenre of the crime novel and thriller, which is characterized by a dark and pessimistic atmosphere in which the line between right and wrong is often blurred or indistinguishable. The term "noir" comes from the French and means "black," reflecting the dark tone and disenchanted view of the world that pervades these works. Noir developed in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s, parallel to the emergence of film noir, with which it shares many themes and stylistic features.


One of the distinguishing features of noir is the presence of complex and morally ambiguous characters who move in a corrupt and threatening universe. The heroes of noir, often private investigators, policemen, or criminals, are generally anti-heroes, marked by a difficult past and a cynical view of reality. These characters are trapped in situations where the distinction between good and evil proves problematic, and they are forced to make difficult choices and confront their inner demons.


The setting of noir plays a crucial role in creating the typical atmosphere of the genre. Noir stories are usually set in large, chaotic cities where violence, decay, and corruption reign. The city thus becomes a character in its own right, helping to define the identity and fate of the protagonists. Noir authors use detailed and evocative descriptions to evoke a sense of oppression and disquiet, emphasizing the contrast between the lights and shadows of the metropolis.


The language of noir is characterized by a direct and dry style, with sharp dialogues and short sentences, which lend a tight and pressing rhythm to the narrative. Noir writers make extensive use of symbolism and metaphors to express the emotions and subterranean tensions of the characters, while slang and slang contribute to a realistic and authentic atmosphere.


Noir's seminal novels include Dashiell Hammett's "The Curse of the Dains" (1929), which introduced the character of private detective Sam Spade, and Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" (1939), featuring famed detective Philip Marlowe. Other prominent authors in the genre include James M. Cain, author of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1934), and Cornell Woolrich (also known by the pseudonyms William Irish and George Hopley) with his novels between '42 and '48.


Noir evolved over time, influencing not only literature but also film and television. Beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, the genre was enriched by the contributions of authors who explored different themes and settings while maintaining the basic characteristics of noir. Prominent among them are Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith, who combine elements of noir and psychological thriller.


In the 1980s and 1990s, noir was renewed thanks to a new generation of writers who, while remaining faithful to the dark atmosphere and themes of the genre, managed to offer new perspectives and experiment with the narrative form. Among the most representative authors of this phase are James Ellroy, famous for "L.A. Confidential" (1990), and Walter Mosley, who with the Easy Rawlins series, which began with "The Devil in Blue" (1990), brings noir to the African-American communities of Los Angeles.


In the 21st century, noir continues to evolve, mixing with other genres and subgenres, and giving rise to new currents such as neo-noir and rural noir. Neo-noir is characterized by an increased focus on social and psychological themes, as evidenced by works such as Dennis Lehane's "Mystic River" (2001) and Stieg Larsson's "Millenium" trilogy. Rural noir, on the other hand, shifts the setting from big cities to rural areas and small towns, exploring the violence and corruption that lie behind the idyllic facade of the provinces, as in "Winter's Bone" (2006) by Daniel Woodrell and " The Devil All the Time " (2011) by Donald Ray Pollock.


A further variant of noir is the "roman noir" or "black novel," a term of French origin for works in which the elements of noir are combined with the structure and themes of the romance or social novel. The roman noir tends to focus on the personal and psychological events of the characters, their relationships, and the cultural and historical context in which they move. Authors who have explored roman noir include Jean-Patrick Manchette and Pascal Garnier.



2.1 Creating a compelling plot for a crime, noir or thriller novel - differences and similarities


Plot is one of the fundamental elements of a crime, noir or thriller novel, as it serves to capture the reader's interest and keep the emotional and intellectual involvement high. However, the ways in which the plot is developed can vary depending on the specific genre to which the work belongs. In this in-depth study, we will examine some differences and similarities in plot construction among the three genres mentioned, offering insights and suggestions for creating compelling and original stories.


First, it is important to note that all three genres share a focus on investigation, mystery, and suspense. However, the way these elements are introduced and developed can vary. In the crime novel, the plot usually centers on a crime-often a murder-and the subsequent investigation, conducted by a detective or amateur sleuth. The emphasis is on gathering clues, analyzing evidence, and logical deduction, with the goal of discovering the identity of the culprit and restoring social order. To create a compelling plot in a crime novel, it is essential to construct an intriguing mystery, disseminate clues and diversions, and develop believable, well-characterized characters.


In noir, the plot is more focused on atmosphere and characters than on the investigation itself. Noir stories are often characterized by a dark and disenchanted worldview, in which the line between right and wrong is blurred and the characters move through a corrupt and threatening environment. The noir plot unfolds through a series of intricate and unpredictable events that highlight the contradictions and inner conflicts of the characters. To create a compelling plot in a noir novel, it is important to develop complex and morally ambiguous characters, explore themes of alienation and disillusionment, and use evocative and symbolic language.


The thriller, on the other hand, aims to generate suspense and excitement through a tight narrative, full of twists and turns and situations with a high level of danger and tension. The plot of a thriller can range from espionage to political conspiracy, from persecution to sheer action, but in all cases the goal is to keep the reader in suspense and lead him or her to constantly question what will happen next. To build a compelling plot in a thriller, it is essential to develop a dynamic narrative structure, with sustained pace and moments of climax alternating with pauses for reflection, and to create characters that elicit empathy and identification in the reader.


Although the three genres have specificities in plot construction, there are also numerous common elements that can be exploited to create compelling and engaging stories. One of these is the centrality of conflict, which can occur internally (between the characters' desires, fears, and values) or externally (between the characters themselves or between them and the hostile forces around them). Conflict is the driving force behind the plot and helps to create suspense and tension, as well as offering insights into character development and growth.


Another element common to the three genres is the importance of internal consistency and plausibility. While allowing ample opportunity for inventiveness and surprise, it is critical that the plot adhere to the rules of the "world" you have created and that the actions and choices of the characters are consistent with their personalities and the context in which they move. The credibility of the plot is essential to maintain the reader's interest and to ensure that they remain emotionally involved in the story.


In addition, it is crucial to pay attention to the balance between predictability and unpredictability in plot construction. On the one hand, it is important to provide the reader with some points of reference and expectation, which will enable him to orient himself in the story and anticipate, at least in part, narrative developments. On the other hand, it is crucial to surprise him or her with unexpected twists and revelations that force him or her to revise his or her assumptions and remain attentive and curious until the end. The challenge is to strike the right balance between these two poles in order to create a compelling and exciting plot without lapsing into banality or gratuitousness.


With proper preparation and thorough analysis of reference works, you are able to develop original and engaging stories that reflect the complexity and richness of the literary genres you have chosen to explore. Remember that the success of a compelling plot depends on your ability to capture the reader's interest and keep him or her engaged and participating until the last page.


2.2 Decide what kind of detective novel you want to write and manage the particularities


Before you start writing a crime novel, it is essential that, by virtue of what you have read so far, you have in mind the direction you want to take the story and the specific genre to which it should belong. This will enable you to better handle the particularities of the genre and to create a coherent and compelling plot. The choice of genre can influence many aspects of the narrative, including characters, setting, tone, and theme.


On the contrary, it is risky-especially for beginners-not to have carefully studied what will be the main strand to be inspired by, as there is the (not remote) possibility of not getting a good work appreciated by devotees of the genre.


To help you assess where to place the story you have in your head, let's consider some differences and priorities among genres:


Classic detective story: The classic detective story is characterized by an investigation conducted by a detective, professional or amateur, who must solve a puzzle, often a murder. In this genre, priority is given to the detective's plot and logical deductions. The solution to the mystery is often surprising, but must always be consistent with the clues presented throughout the story. The reader is interested in "who the murderer is" and "how he did it." An example of a classic detective story is Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" (1934).


Hard-boiled: The hard-boiled novel is distinguished by the presence of a cynical and disillusioned protagonist, often a private investigator, who moves through a corrupt, urban environment. In this genre, the focus shifts from puzzle-solving to social dynamics and conflicts between characters. The reader is interested in "what the protagonist will do" to solve the case and "how he will do it."

Violence and realism are hallmarks of the hard-boiled novel, as evidenced by Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye" (1953).


Thriller: The thriller is characterized by a fast pace and a plot full of twists and turns and dangerous situations. In this genre, the main goal is to keep tension high and to engage the reader in an adrenaline-pumping story. Suspense and action are prioritized in the thriller, as evidenced by Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code" (2003). The reader, almost always, knows (or assumes) that he or she knows the killer and the mode; therefore, the question about which he or she is most involved is "what will happen next?" and "how will it end?"


Noir: The noir novel presents a dark and pessimistic atmosphere, in which characters are often victims of fate and their own weaknesses. Noir explores themes such as corruption, betrayal, and ambiguous morality, prioritizing the psychological analysis of the characters and the description of a decadent environment. Readers of the genre want to be drawn into the unique atmospheres that the author can offer them. "The Road to Los Angeles" (1933) by James M. Cain is an example of a noir novel.


Having clear in mind the direction of your crime novel and the genre to which it belongs will enable you to better handle the particularities of the genre and create a coherent and compelling story. As writer and literary critic Orson Scott Card states, "Genre is not a prison, it is a way to find your audience" (Card, "Character and Viewpoint").


Therefore, consciously choosing the address to which you address your story will help you reach an interested audience by pandering to their expectations while maintaining your narrative voice and style.


But remember: whatever genre or subgenre you choose, there is one common element you must learn to manage: tension.


2.3 How to create tension: techniques, tricks and tips


Tension is a key element in a crime novel as it helps to maintain the reader's interest and create an atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty. To generate tension in your novel, you can use a number of techniques that will help you engage the reader and create a compelling and intriguing narrative. Below, we will look at some of these strategies and give you some examples from successful detective literature.


Rhythm and structure: Effective management of rhythm and narrative structure is critical to creating tension in the crime novel. It alternates action scenes with more reflective ones, modulating the cadence of the story so as to keep the reader in suspense. An emblematic example of this technique is the novel The Silence of the Lambs (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1988) by Thomas Harris, in which the author alternates high-tension sequences with moments of introspection and psychological analysis.


Limiting information: Another way to create tension is to limit the information available to the reader, so that the reader is constantly searching for clues and answers. As bestselling author Harlan Coben suggests, "The secret of suspense is in asking the reader questions, and then delaying the answers as long as possible" (Coben, "Writing Tips by Harlan Coben"). Maintain a balance between revealed and hidden information so as to create a sense of mystery and anticipation.


Cliffhanger: Cliffhangers are situations in which a character is in danger or in a state of uncertainty, and the solution is postponed until the next chapter. This technique, widely used in serialized novels and modern thrillers, serves to keep tension high and compel the reader to continue reading to find out what will happen next. A famous example of a cliffhanger is found in Umberto Eco's novel "The Name of the Rose" (1980), in which the protagonist, William of Baskerville, is repeatedly faced with puzzles and dangers that test his intelligence and courage, and they are almost always placed at the end of the chapter.


Develop engaging characters: Tension in a crime novel is closely linked to the reader's empathy for the characters. Create well-developed characters with desires, fears, and inner conflicts that make them human and believable. As writer Stephen King observes, "If the reader and you care about the characters, that means you will care about the situations they are in, and that will keep everyone glued to the page" (S. King, "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft"). An example of an engaging character is Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot, whose eccentric personality and deductive skills capture the reader's imagination.


Exploiting Fear and Danger: Fear and danger are key elements in creating tension in a crime novel. Present threatening situations and put characters in danger, forcing them to make difficult decisions and confront their fears. Stieg Larsson's novels are an example of how the author uses fear and danger to maintain tension and suspense.


Use point of view: The point of view from which you tell the story can greatly influence the tension of the crime novel. You can choose to tell the story from the point of view of the detective, the victim, the perpetrator, or a secondary character. You can decide to alternate points of view to give the reader different perspectives and to increase the mystery and suspense. In the novel "Gone Girl" (2012) by Gillian Flynn, the author alternates the points of view of the two main characters, creating a complex and compelling narrative.


Time and Deadlines: The use of time and deadlines can increase the tension in your crime novel. Set a countdown or deadline that characters must meet, forcing them to take quick actions and make difficult decisions. An example of this technique is found in Dan Brown's novel "Da Vinci Code" (2003), in which the main character, Robert Langdon, has little time to solve an intricate puzzle and foil a plot that threatens world security.


Unexpected revelations and twists: Finally, to create tension in your crime novel, surprise the reader with unexpected revelations and twists that force them to revise their assumptions and remain attentive and curious until the end. In the novel "The Cuckoo's Call" (2013) by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling), the author uses a series of twists and turns to keep the tension high and to push the reader to question the true identity of the culprit.


Learn from the best: Creating tension in a crime novel requires a combination of techniques that, when used with skill and originality, can help make your story compelling and engaging. Study carefully the works of authors who have mastered creating tension in their crime novels, note what strikes you, read their works from a "technical" point of view, and try to learn how they use words.



3 Beyond tension: how to create fear and plot twists


As we read in the previous chapter of this guide, tension is a key element in a crime novel as it helps to maintain the reader's interest and create an atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty. This element is often pushed to its extreme limit: creating fear and surprise through twists and turns. WriTribe's goal is to tell you which techniques and readings will help you master fear and twists.


3.1 How to create the emotion of fear in the reader


Creating the emotion of fear in the reader is one of the most interesting and complex challenges a writer can face. To know how to use it, you need to know its operating principles.We can say that fear is a primary emotion, present in all human cultures. It has been described as a natural response to a threatening stimulus, characterized by a feeling of anxiety, apprehension or terror.


Fear is regulated by a complex neural system involving several areas of the brain. One of the main players in this system is the amygdala, a brain structure located in the lower part of the brain. The amygdala is a kind of sensory processing station that receives information from the sense organs and evaluates it according to its relevance to survival. When the amygdala detects a threatening stimulus, it activates a series of physiological and cognitive-behavioral responses to protect the organism.


Fear can be triggered by a wide range of stimuli, including physical danger, the risk of losing something valuable, the unknown, embarrassment, and social criticism. This list of elements is what you will need to connect-through empathy-between your character and the reader: what the character will feel must be felt by the reader.


To succeed in evoking this emotion in readers, you need to know how to work on narrative tension and engagement. Here are the nine areas you must control to create the emotion of fear in the reader:


Setting: Setting plays a key role in the creation of fear. Isolated, dark, claustrophobic or inhospitable locations can trigger a sense of unease and fear in the reader. For example, Stephen King's "The Shining" is a novel set in an isolated hotel haunted by paranormal presences, which contributes to a sense of dread and terror.


Suspense: Suspense is an essential tool for creating fear in the reader. Maintaining uncertainty about the fate of characters and the outcomes of events causes a sense of apprehension and worry. As the master of thrills Alfred Hitchcock stated, "There is a bomb under the table, and the audience knows it, but the characters do not. That's suspense" (Truffaut, "Hitchcock/Truffaut").


Emotional Involvement: To elicit fear in the reader, it is essential to involve him emotionally in the story and the characters. If the reader identifies with the characters and cares about their fate, it will be easier to make him or her feel fear. In-depth characterization of characters and empathetic writing are effective tools for emotionally engaging the reader.


Description of emotions: Describing the emotions felt by the characters can help the reader empathize with their fear. Using evocative and engaging language to describe the physical and psychological sensations associated with fear can intensify the reader's emotion. An example of a description of fear is found in Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (1897), when Jonathan Harker realizes that he is a prisoner of Count Dracula and feels an "icy horror" that "invades his soul."


Element of surprise: The element of surprise can trigger fear in the reader, as unexpected and unexpected situations test our sense of safety and control. Unexpected twists, shocking revelations, and moments of high tension can create an atmosphere of fear and dread. An example of surprise generating fear can be found in Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Black Cat" (1843), when the protagonist discovers the walled-up corpse of his wife along with the black cat, an unexpected event that heightens the reader's horror.


Conflict and Danger: Another way to elicit fear in the reader is to confront the characters with situations of conflict and danger. This can be through situations of physical violence, psychological threats, or situations of danger to the characters' lives. For example, in Robert Bloch's novel "Psycho" (1959), the author creates fear in the reader through the constant threat posed by the character of Norman Bates and his dual personality.


Mystery and Secrets: Mystery and secrets are key components in creating the emotion of fear in the reader. Presenting enigmatic, obscure or incomprehensible situations can raise tension and anxiety in the reader, who will feel driven to discover the truth. An example of mystery generating fear is found in Daphne du Maurier's novel "Rebecca" (1938), where the shadow of the male protagonist's deceased wife hovers over the present and fuels the sense of dread and anxiety.


The use of language: The language used can have a significant impact on creating fear in the reader. Using evocative and disturbing words, phrases, and images can help build an atmosphere of fear and terror. For example, H.P. Lovecraft's writing is characterized by the use of rich and evocative language that evokes an atmosphere of cosmic horror and fear.


Rhythm and structure: The rhythm and structure of the story can influence the emotion of fear in the reader. Alternating moments of tension and calm, as well as using short, punchy chapters, can keep the reader in a state of constant apprehension. An example of managing pacing to create fear is found in James Ellroy's novel "Once Upon a Time" (1993), in which alternating between moments of violence and introspection keeps the reader in a constant state of tension.


With these tips in mind, you can create an emotion of fear in the reader that will keep him or her glued to the pages of your crime, noir or thriller novel. The ability to evoke fear in the reader is a crucial element in making your story compelling and memorable.



3.2 The exercise

Let's try developing a small exercise together, which you can repeat perhaps to construct a scene in your next novel using seven of the nine elements we have listed.


Setting: [creates a suitable location for the scene] a rural mountain town. In particular, a house is located far from the town, isolated, reachable only by a path that runs alongside a dense forest. Beyond the forest a deep cliff suddenly opens up.


Suspense: [creates a cause for apprehension for the reader] a serial killer is on the hunt for his next prey. In his routine he kills a victim every Friday, and today is Friday. The reader knows that he has arrived in the village and that none of the villagers suspect his presence.


Emotional involvement: [Insert elements to increase involvement] The little house is inhabited by a mother who is stuck in a wheelchair. Every day the woman waits for her two little children to return from school. They are an eight-year-old girl holding hands with her six-year-old brother. They are on the path when a thunderstorm surprises them. The two little ones seek shelter from the rain by taking refuge in the woods.


Description of emotions: [Tell what the characters feel] Mom is very worried about the storm, calls a friend to go meet the children. The man, in the rain, calls and looks for the babies. The little ones are in the darkness of the woods. They are scared, soaked. There are strange noises. Someone is watching them.


Element of surprise: [Insert surprise, increase tension] The friend finds a trail of the children and goes into the woods. The children flee from the noise of the beasts. They hear a voice calling them but do not understand the direction. Finally the man sees them, runs, the ground gives way under his feet and he slides down to the cliff.


Conflict and danger: [creates danger and conflict] Man is clinging to a branch. The storm is violent. The children huddle together, alone, terrified. Someone is still watching them, surreptitiously.


Plot twist: [Amaze the reader with an unexpected ending] A phone call reaches the police station: the killer has killed again, as he does every Friday. The caller was the man who, after getting to safety, rescued the two children. Unfortunately, when he brought them home he discovered their murdered mother.


3.3 Creating the twist


The twist is a key element in the writing of this kind of novel. It is an unexpected event that surprises the reader, reversing his or her expectations and radically changing the direction of the story. The previous exercise helps you understand the dynamic: while the focus is on the children and their friend, as danger looms (seemingly) over them, the ending completely changes the expectation. In this case we used the technique of "Diverting Attention." Knowing the different techniques for creating an effective twist is an important aspect for any author or writer.


Diverting the reader's attention: One of the most common techniques for creating a twist is to divert the reader's attention by directing it to a false clue or secondary character. This strategy, also known as "red herring" or "false lead," allows the reader to be fooled and surprised when the truth is revealed. A classic example of this technique is found in the short story "Scandal in Bohemia" (1891) by Arthur Conan Doyle, in which Sherlock Holmes is deceived by the protagonist Irene Adler.


Changing the point of view: Another gimmick for creating a twist is to alter the point of view of the narrative by revealing hidden information or showing an event from a different perspective. This ploy can be used to reveal the truth about a character or to clarify a previously insoluble mystery. An example of this approach is found in Paula Hawkins' novel "The Girl on the Train" (2015), in which the narrative switches between three different characters, gradually revealing the truth about the murder at the center of the story.


Revealing a secret: A twist can also be achieved by revealing a secret hidden within the plot, which changes the reader's understanding of events and characters. This technique requires careful planning and skillful construction of information within the story so as to surprise the reader without being forced or far-fetched. A famous example of a secret revelation is found in Gillian Flynn's novel "The Hidden Truths" (2012), in which Amy's character reveals that she orchestrated her own disappearance to frame her husband Nick.


Reversal of situations: The twist can also result from the reversal of situations in which the characters find themselves, creating an effect of surprise and disorientation in the reader. In this case, it is important that the reversal is justified by the development of the plot and is not simply a narrative device. An example of situation reversal is found in the novel "The Silence of the Lambs" (1988) by Thomas Harris, in which the character of Hannibal Lecter manages to escape from prison just as the FBI is on the trail of another serial killer.


Use dramatic irony: Dramatic irony is a narrative technique of making the reader aware of a fact or situation of which the characters are unaware. This awareness creates increasing tension, which can culminate in an unexpected twist. A well-known example of dramatic irony is found in Agatha Christie's novel Murder on the Orient Express (1934), in which the reader learns the identity of the murderer before the detective Hercule Poirot, generating suspense until the final revelation.


Taking advantage of narrative time: Playing with narrative time can be an excellent device for creating plot twists. This can include the use of analepsis (flashback) and prolepsis (flashforward) to reveal crucial information in unexpected ways. An example of manipulation of narrative time can be found in Dennis Lehane's novel "Shutter Island" (2003), in which the fragmented time structure helps to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and gradually reveal the truth about the island and the protagonist.


Unlike other genres, the structure of a detective or thriller or noir novel cannot be improvised. The plot, its interweaving, and the creation of plot twists require careful planning and a good knowledge of narrative techniques. Experimenting with these strategies and studying the suggested examples can help you develop your ability to create effective and memorable plot twists that will surprise and fascinate your readers.







Gender characters.

As with any novel, including the detective, thriller or noir, a well-developed and convincing protagonist can make the story more compelling, while interesting secondary characters can enrich the plot and add depth to the work.


4.1 Five elements to build a detective protagonist.

We will concisely examine some techniques for creating three-dimensional characters since elsewhere in WriTribe the topic is already covered extensively. Instead, we will focus more on analyzing some examples of memorable protagonists in genre literature.


  1. Characteristics of the protagonist: A typical protagonist in the detective, thriller, or noir genre is often an investigator or detective, who may be a professional or an amateur. This character should be intelligent, astute, and observant, with strong personal ethics and a keen ability to deduce. However, it is also important to give the protagonist flaws and weaknesses, which will make him more human and realistic in the eyes of the reader. For example, the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle, is brilliant and methodical, but also eccentric and unsociable.


  1. Develop personality and background: To make characters three-dimensional, it is essential to develop their personality and background. This includes creating a credible and detailed personal history that influences the characters' behavior and actions throughout the novel. For example, Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot is a Belgian refugee in England during World War I, and his background influences the way he thinks and solves cases.


  1. Creating relationships between characters: Relationships between characters are another crucial element in creating three-dimensional characters. These relationships can be friendships, rivalries, loves or family ties, and they must be consistent with the personality and background of the characters involved. An example of a well-developed relationship is that between detective Philip Marlowe and his friend and colleague Terry Lennox in Raymond Chandler's novel "The Long Goodbye" (1953). Their friendship, based on a sense of loyalty and solidarity, is central to the development of the plot and helps define the character of both characters.


  1. Use dialogue to characterize: Dialogue is a powerful tool for characterizing characters and showing their interactions. Through dialogue, you can reveal characters' personalities, humor, wisdom and vulnerability, as well as reveal important plot information. An example of effective dialogue can be found in James Ellroy's novel "Judgment Night" (1981), in which intense and lively dialogues between characters help create a realistic and engaging atmosphere.


  1. Develop character arc: Each character, especially the protagonist, should undergo a transformation over the course of the novel, learning from experiences and mistakes. This evolution of the character makes him or her more interesting and engaging for the reader. For example, Stieg Larsson's protagonist Lisbeth Salander faces personal and professional challenges that lead her to mature and strengthen her character.


4.2 The most famous protagonists and their characteristics.

Below, you will find a list of memorable protagonists of the detective, thriller and noir genre literature and the main characteristics that made them famous:


  1. Sherlock Holmes (created by Arthur Conan Doyle): The protagonist of numerous short stories and novels, Holmes is a British private detective with extraordinary deductive and analytical skills. His encyclopedic knowledge in various fields, his powers of observation, and his scientific approach to solving cases make him a unique and fascinating character.


  1. Hercule Poirot (created by Agatha Christie): This Belgian detective is featured in many of Agatha Christie's novels and short stories. Poirot is distinguished by his attention to detail, his ingenuity, and his unerring logic. His eccentric personality, impeccable mustache, and French accent make him an unforgettable character.


  1. Philip Marlowe (created by Raymond Chandler): Marlowe is a Los Angeles private detective who appears in several of Chandler's novels. He is known for his honesty, his moral code, and his ability to juggle the dangers of the criminal world. His introspection and sarcasm make him an example of a hard-boiled protagonist.


  1. Sam Spade (created by Dashiell Hammett): The protagonist of "The Maltese Falcon" (1930), Sam Spade is another example of the hard-boiled detective. He is cynical, courageous and sometimes ruthless in his pursuit of justice. His loyalty to his principles and his moral ambiguity make him a complex and fascinating character.


  1. Lisbeth Salander (created by Stieg Larsson): Lisbeth is a young hacker and private investigator who appears in Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy. Her reclusive personality, extraordinary computer skills and troubled past make her a unique and engaging character.


  1. Miss Marple (created by Agatha Christie): This elderly English lady is the protagonist of numerous Christie novels and short stories. Miss Marple uses her knowledge of human nature and her intuition to solve intricate cases. Her apparent frailty and insight make her a surprising and fascinating character.


  1. Harry Hole (created by Jo Nesbø): Harry Hole is a Norwegian detective who appears in a series of novels by Nesbø. He has a troubled past, struggles with alcoholism and has difficulty with personal relationships. However, his talent for investigating complex cases and his persistence in pursuing the truth make him an unforgettable protagonist.


  1. Commissioner Maigret (created by Georges Simenon): Commissioner Maigret is a French detective who appears in a long series of Simenon's novels. Calm, thoughtful and endowed with great empathy, Maigret is able to penetrate the minds of criminals and understand the human motivations behind crimes. His deep knowledge of human nature and his dedication to his work make him a highly regarded character.


  1. Commissario Montalbano (created by Andrea Camilleri): Montalbano is a Sicilian police commissioner who appears in a series of novels by Camilleri. His love of good food, strong sense of justice, and biting humor make him a fascinating and complex character. His wisdom and humanity allow him to explore social and moral issues through his investigations.


  1. Kay Scarpetta (created by Patricia Cornwell): The protagonist of a series of novels, Kay Scarpetta is a forensic scientist and investigator who handles murder cases. Her ability to combine forensic science with traditional investigation makes her an innovative and fascinating character. Her determined personality and courage in the face of danger make her an example of a strong female protagonist.


  1. Kurt Wallander (created by Henning Mankell): Wallander is a Swedish police commissioner who appears in a series of novels by Mankell. Plagued by personal problems and the weight of the investigations he conducts, Wallander is a human and complex character. His persistence in seeking the truth and his commitment to fighting crime make him a memorable character.


  1. Alex Cross (created by James Patterson): Alex Cross is a psychologist and police detective in Washington, D.C., who appears in a series of novels by Patterson. His intelligence, empathy, and ability to investigate difficult cases make him an engaging and fascinating character. His dedication to family and his desire to protect the innocent make him a compelling hero.


  1. Clarice Starling (created by Thomas Harris): Clarice is an FBI agent who appears in Harris's novels "The Silence of the Lambs" (1988) and "Hannibal" (1999). Her intelligence, courage, and determination to defeat the most dangerous criminals make her an iconic character. Her interaction with Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant serial killer and psychiatrist, adds depth and complexity to her character.


  1. Kinsey Millhone (created by Sue Grafton): Kinsey Millhone is a private investigator who appears in Grafton's Alphabet series of novels. Her tenacity, independence, and sense of humor make her a strong and recognizable female character. Her personal life and relationships add depth and realism to her character.


  1. Inspector Rebus (created by Ian Rankin): Detective Inspector John Rebus is a character in Rankin's series of novels set in Edinburgh. Rebus is known for his stubbornness, cynicism, and troubled past. His ability to navigate the maze of bureaucracy and unravel hidden secrets make him an unforgettable character.


  1. Jack Reacher (created by Lee Child): Jack Reacher is a former Army officer who now makes his living as a private investigator and vigilante. His hand-to-hand combat skills, intelligence, and sense of justice make him a fascinating and adventurous character. His adventures take him to different parts of the United States, allowing him to explore a variety of environments and situations.


  1. Harry Bosch (created by Michael Connelly): Detective Harry Bosch works in the Los Angeles Police Department and appears in a series of Connelly novels. Bosch is a complex and deep character with a tireless dedication to justice and a painful past. His multifaceted personality and his relationships with colleagues make him a fascinating and engaging character.


  1. Paddy Meehan (created by Denise Mina): Paddy Meehan is a young Scottish journalist who appears in a trilogy of novels by Mina. Her determination, ambition, and desire to uncover the truth make her an interesting and realistic character. Her personal and professional growth over the course of the novels adds depth and complexity to her character.


  1. Adam Dalgliesh (created by P.D. James): Detective Adam Dalgliesh is a British detective who appears in a series of novels by P.D. James. Dalgliesh is known for his intelligence, empathy, and methodical approach to investigation. His passion for poetry and his complex personal life make him an intriguing and profound character.


  1. Dave Robicheaux (created by James Lee Burke): Dave Robicheaux is a police detective and a former lieutenant in the New Orleans homicide division. He appears in a series of Burke's novels. Robicheaux is a character haunted by the past, loss, and personal demons, but he is also a man of deep compassion and loyalty. His investigations often bring him face to face with the shadows of the past and explore the dark sides of his personality.


  1. Tom Ripley (created by Patricia Highsmith): Tom Ripley is a complex and fascinating character who appears in the series of novels known as "Ripliad." Although not a detective by profession, Ripley is a con man and murderer who often finds himself at the center of intricate criminal intrigue. His intelligence, his ability to manipulate others, and his ability to reinvent himself make him a unique and engaging character.


  1. Robert Langdon (created by Dan Brown): A professor of religious symbology at Harvard University, Robert Langdon is the protagonist of a series of thriller novels by Brown. Although not a professional detective, Langdon uses his academic knowledge to solve puzzles and mysteries related to conspiracies and secrets of history. His intelligence and adventurousness make him an interesting and dynamic character.


  1. Mikael Blomkvist (created by Stieg Larsson): Swedish investigative journalist and co-star of Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy. Blomkvist is determined to uncover the truth and expose corruption and abuses of power. His integrity and commitment to justice make him a memorable and admirable character.


  1. Stephanie Plum (created by Janet Evanovich): Stephanie Plum is an amateur bounty hunter who appears in a series of novels by Evanovich. Her lack of experience, sense of humor, and resilience make her a fun and adventurous character. Her investigations bring her face to face with bizarre situations and quirky characters, adding a light touch to the genre.


  1. Charlie Parker (created by John Connolly): Former NYPD detective turned private investigator, Charlie Parker is the protagonist of a series of novels by Connolly. Parker is a dark and troubled character with a strong connection to the supernatural. His investigations often lead him to unravel mysteries involving dark and evil forces, adding an element of suspense and horror to the series.


Finally, we want to close this long roundup by dedicating a special place to Pepe Carvalho. Pepe Carvalho is a literary character created by Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Carvalho is a private investigator who appears in a series of novels and short stories set mainly in Barcelona, but his adventures also take him to other parts of Spain and the world.


Carvalho is a complex, multidimensional character who combines several unusual characteristics for an investigator. Before becoming a private investigator, Carvalho had an adventurous and tumultuous life, working for the CIA and as a member of the Spanish Communist Party. This politically charged past and his involvement in various organizations give him a broad knowledge of power dynamics and politics, which he uses in his investigations.


Another distinctive aspect of Pepe Carvalho's character is his love of gastronomy. Passionate about cooking and good food, Carvalho delights in preparing fine dishes and finding quality restaurants during his investigations. This culinary interest enriches the narrative and adds a touch of color and authenticity to the novels.


Carvalho is also a man of letters, with an extensive knowledge of literature and philosophy. However, his attitude toward books is ambivalent: on the one hand, he considers them valuable and indispensable for understanding the world; on the other, he has been known to burn books in his stove when he feels disappointed or frustrated. This contrast reflects the complexity of the character and his constant inner conflict.


Pepe Carvalho's investigations often address social and political issues, reflecting the author's concerns and the tensions present in post-Francoist Spain. Through the character of Carvalho, Vázquez Montalbán explores issues such as corruption, abuse of power, alienation, and the struggle for justice in a rapidly changing society.


Closing this chapter devoted to the protagonists, we can say that the more fascinating and complex they appear, the deeper and more multifaceted they are, and the more iconic they become.


4.3 The importance of secondary characters in the crime novel.

Secondary characters in serial crime novels cannot be underestimated, as they play a crucial role in bringing the plots to life and in the development of the protagonist. In this section, we will examine the different roles that secondary characters can play and how they contribute to a compelling and engaging reading experience, and while the general rules you have already read in other character-related sections of WriTribe apply, within this genre some considerations are very specific.


One of the most important roles secondary characters can play is to provide a sidekick to the protagonist, offering a different perspective or complement to the protagonist's investigative skills. This dynamic allows for interesting interaction between the characters, making the narrative more realistic and engaging. Often the assumptions of the two become confrontation, other times confrontation. The same goes for methods of investigation, or how they relate to each other.


In addition, secondary characters can help the reader better understand the protagonist's personality and values through their relationship with them.


Secondary characters can also serve to add depth and nuance to the narrative world. The presence of well-developed and three-dimensional secondary characters can help make the setting more realistic and vivid, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in the story. They can represent a variety of social, professional and cultural spheres, expanding the scope of investigation and offering new narrative insights. For example, in the novels of Commissario Ricciardi, born from the pen of Maurizio De Giovanni, the protagonist is joined by Brigadier Maione. The former is of noble origin, the latter is humble, and this allows the reader to observe 1930s Naples by exploiting two complementary points of view.   


In addition, secondary characters can serve as catalysts for the development of the plot and the protagonist. Their actions, decisions, and discoveries can push the story in new and unexpected directions, creating tension and suspense. At the same time, secondary characters can influence the protagonist's personal journey, prompting him to question his beliefs or to grow and change over the course of the series.


Finally, secondary characters can provide moments of comic relief or emotional introspection, balancing the intensity of investigations and dangerous situations typical of detective novels. These moments can help the reader empathize with the characters and become more involved in the story, making the reading experience more rewarding and engaging.


Here are ten secondary characters, ten sidekicks, who greatly contributed to making the protagonist memorable.


1.     Dr. John Watson (Sherlock Holmes): Watson, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is Sherlock Holmes' faithful friend and colleague. Through Watson's eyes, the reader discovers Holmes' exceptional intelligence and extraordinary deductive skills. Watson also serves as a human counterweight to Holmes' eccentric personality, making the narrative more balanced and accessible.


2.     Captain Hastings (Hercule Poirot): Created by Agatha Christie, Hastings is Poirot's assistant and friend. His loyalty and naïve enthusiasm for investigation serve to underscore Poirot's genius. Hastings also serves as narrator in many of the stories, helping to create suspense and intrigue.


3.     Pete Marino (Kay Scarpetta): Marino is a police detective and longtime friend of Kay Scarpetta, star of Patricia Cornwell's series. Marino provides a police perspective, and his gruff, outspoken personality adds tension and drama to the stories.


4.     Bubba Rogowski (Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro): Bubba is a character created by Dennis Lehane in the series of novels centered on private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Bubba is a criminal with a violent past, but his friendship with Kenzie and Gennaro provides an interesting contrast between legality and illegality. His presence adds depth and nuance to the stories.


5.     Clara Rinker (Lucas Davenport): Rinker is a character created by John Sandford in the series of novels centered on Lucas Davenport. Clara is a professional assassin and adversary of Davenport. Their complicated and ambivalent relationship adds depth and tension to the stories, exploring the fine line between justice and revenge.


6.     Hawk (Spenser): Hawk is a character in Robert B. Parker's series of novels centered on private detective Spenser. Hawk is a mercenary and friend of Spenser, and the two often work together in investigations. Their friendship and contrasting dynamics add depth to the stories and highlight Spenser's qualities.


7.     Connie Rosato (Bennie Rosato): Connie is the partner and friend of Bennie Rosato, the protagonist of Lisa Scottoline's series of novels. Their friendship and professional collaboration provide a unique female point of view and add depth and realism to the stories.


8.     Joe Pike (Elvis Cole): Joe Pike is a character created by Robert Crais in the series of novels centered on private detective Elvis Cole. Pike is a former Marine and police officer and Cole's best friend and partner. Their friendship and different investigative skills create an interesting team dynamic, enriching the stories and providing valuable support for the protagonist.


9.     Isidore "Izzy" Spellman (The Spellmans): Izzy is a character created by Lisa Lutz in the series of novels focusing on the Spellman family, a family of private investigators. Izzy is the older sister of the main character, Isabel Spellman. Their sibling relationship, often confrontational but also affectionate, provides moments of humor and levity to the stories, making the narrative more engaging and varied.


10.  Sergeant Lewis (Inspector Morse): Sergeant Lewis is a character in the Inspector Morse series of novels, written by Colin Dexter. Lewis is the loyal assistant to Inspector Morse, an Oxford police detective. Their working relationship is based on a deep friendship, with Lewis often acting as the voice of reason and moral honesty, balancing Morse's eccentric and sometimes impulsive genius. Lewis' presence in the series adds balance, realism, and an interesting dynamic between the two main characters, making the stories more compelling and exciting.



Style and language of the crime novel.


The style and language used in thriller, noir, and detective novels are essential elements in defining these genres and distinguishing them from other types of fiction by helping to create a unique and compelling atmosphere for the reader. Indeed, the main goal of these genres is to keep the reader glued to the pages, eager to find out what will happen next.


Remember: readers of detective stories, thrillers, and noirs are often technically literate (thanks to their many readings) and are very detail-oriented. So you must also pay attention to language and procedural aspects.


5.1 Distinctive elements of the language

In terms of language, novels in these genres tend to adopt a direct and concise style, avoiding excessive turns of phrase or long-winded descriptions. This minimalist approach allows them to focus on the action and characters, while keeping tension and suspense high. Raymond Chandler, one of the fathers of the noir genre, is famous for his incisive and sharp style, which has influenced countless subsequent authors.


Another distinctive element of the language of these genres is the use of specific vocabulary related to the world of investigation and crime. Technical terms, slang, and professional jargon help create a realistic and engaging atmosphere, immersing the reader in the environment in which the story takes place. For example, in the case of noir, the language may be crude and disenchanted, reflecting the cynical and pessimistic view of the world typical of the genre.


The use of narrative perspective is another important element in the style of these novels. While the classic crime novel tends to favor an omniscient third-person narrator, the thriller and noir often adopt a first-person perspective, allowing the reader to identify more closely with the protagonist and follow his or her emotions and reflections. This narrative choice contributes to the intimate and engaging atmosphere that distinctively characterizes these genres.


The style and language of novels can vary greatly depending on the author and the cultural context in which the work was written. For example, the novels of Dashiell Hammett, one of the pioneers of the noir genre, have a drier and more detached style than those of more recent authors such as James Ellroy, who uses more raw and violent language. Similarly, Scandinavian crime fiction is distinguished by its more introspective and reflective ton o, as opposed to the more brisk pace of the works of Anglo-Saxon authors such as Ian Rankin or Michael Connelly.


A special feature of this genre is also the presence of a strong sense of place, which helps define the atmosphere and tone of the story. For example, novels set in Los Angeles or New York are often characterized by urban language and evocative descriptions of cities, while novels set in rural settings or small communities may use more colloquial language related to local tradition. This sense of place helps to make the work even more engaging and realistic, offering the reader a glimpse into a particular social and cultural context.


Interestingly, while having common characteristics, the language and style of novels can differ even within the same genre. For example, a noir novel may feature a more lyrical and atmospheric language, rich in metaphors and symbolism, as in the case of the works of James M. Cain, or a drier and more realistic style, such as that of David Goodis. Similarly, a thriller may be characterized by a frenetic pace and adrenaline-fueled narrative, as in the case of Lee Child's novels, or by a slower, more psychological tone, as in the works of Ruth Rendell.


Despite these differences, the style and language of thriller, noir, and detective novels continue to hold great appeal for readers because of their ability to create suspense, excitement, and involvement. These genres offer a wide range of linguistic and stylistic expression, allowing authors to experiment and find their own narrative voice.


5.2 Procedural aspects and consistency.

In tackling the writing of a crime, thriller or noir novel, it is essential that you, as the author, acquire a thorough knowledge of procedural, investigative and criminological aspects. This knowledge will enable you to create an accurate and believable narrative, ensuring a compelling and immersive reading experience for the reader. In this in-depth discussion, we will examine the importance of knowing these aspects and how mastering them can affect the quality of your novel.


First, it is essential to know the procedural elements related to the justice system and law enforcement. This knowledge will enable you to accurately describe the stages of investigation, arrest procedures, and the interactions between the various actors involved, such as police officers, lawyers, and judges. For example, knowledge of basic laws and rights, such as the right to silence or the presumption of innocence, will enable you to develop realistic dialogue and situations consistent with the legal context in which your story takes place. An example of an author who has mastered these aspects is Michael Connelly, who in his series of novels starring lawyer Mickey Haller, demonstrated a deep understanding of the American justice system (source: Connelly, Michael. "The Lincoln Lawyer." Little, Brown and Company, 2005).


Second, familiarity with investigative techniques is essential to realistically describe the work of the investigator who is the protagonist of your novel. Knowledge of evidence-gathering techniques, interrogation methods, and analysis of exhibits will enable you to construct a solid and credible plot. It will also allow you to include interesting details that will enrich the narrative and make your novel more engaging. Patricia Cornwell, author of the series of novels starring forensic scientist Kay Scarpetta, is an example of a writer who has successfully integrated investigative and forensic elements into her works (source: Cornwell, Patricia. "Postmortem." Charles Scribner's Sons, 1990).


Criminology, as a discipline that studies crime and criminal behavior, is another key aspect to know when writing a crime novel. Understanding criminological theories and the characteristics of criminals will help you create believable and complex characters that reflect the reality of criminal phenomena. It will also allow you to explore the motivations of criminals and delve into the psychological and social aspects underlying crime.

In addition to these aspects, it is important to know specific elements such as weapons, poisons, and medical dynamics related to death, such as rigor mortis. Mastering these details will enable you to make crime scenes and descriptions of weapons or modes of death more accurate and vivid. For example, knowing the characteristics and effects of different toxic substances will enable you to accurately describe the symptoms of victims and the mode of action of poisons, increasing the authenticity and impact of crime scenes. Agatha Christie, with her training in pharmacy, is an example of an author who was able to use her knowledge of poisons to create compelling plots and surprising twists (source: Christie, Agatha. "A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie." Bloomsbury Sigma, 2015).


Finally, mastering the procedural, investigative, and criminological aspects will enable you to avoid errors and inaccuracies that could undermine the credibility of your story and disappoint the reader. A well-documented and detail-accurate crime novel offers the reader a feeling of realism and authenticity that engages and immerses him or her in the narrative world. In addition, knowledge of these aspects will enable you to compare yourself with other authors in the genre and grasp the nuances and innovations that characterize the most successful works.


Of course, all this involves research and documentation work. Our advice is to turn to people with expertise in the field you are addressing or to document yourself with essays and technical manuals. Usually, collaboration with experts is the preferred route and-usually-people are enthusiastic about collaborating to build a novel.




6.0 Constructing a serial novel

In writing a series of crime, thriller or noir novels, one of the most important aspects is creating a recurring protagonist and structuring the series in a consistent and compelling manner. Approaching the logic of a serial novel requires careful planning and the ability to weave plots and subplots that unfold over the course of several volumes, maintaining the reader's interest and creating a sense of continuity and progression.


The first step in creating a series is to develop a recurring protagonist who serves as a common thread between the different novels. As always, this character must be well-defined and three-dimensional, with characteristics and facets that make him or her interesting and engaging to the reader.


At the same time, it is important for the protagonist to have room for growth and evolution over the course of the series, so as to maintain the reader's interest and offer new narrative insights. An example of a successful recurring protagonist is Michael Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch, whose character and personal and professional vicissitudes develop over the course of several novels (source: Connelly, Michael. "The Black Echo." Little, Brown and Company, 1992).


Thus, in contemporary novels, the character transformation arc finds its resolution in the last volume and not at the end of the individual novel. Not completely, at least.


Once the protagonist has been created, it is important to plan the structure of the series, defining the number of novels planned and the development of the main plots and subplots that intertwine with each other. In this sense, it is crucial to strike a balance between the resolution of events in each novel and the deepening of themes and situations that continue throughout the series. This keeps the reader's interest and creates a sense of continuity and progression that characterizes the most successful series.


To effectively structure a series, it is advisable to follow certain guidelines that facilitate the organization of narrative material and the construction of coherent and compelling plots.


First, as mentioned, it is useful to establish an underlying narrative arc that develops over the course of the series and involves the protagonist and the other main characters. This narrative arc may concern the protagonist's personal life, his relationships with other characters, the development of his professional career, or his struggle against a recurring enemy. For example, in De Giovanni's Commissario Ricciardi series of novels, the protagonist evolves his arc through the controversial love experiences that involve him.


Second, it is important to create a main plot in each novel that is self-contained and offers the reader a satisfactory resolution of the events presented. This main plot may relate to a specific case that the protagonist must solve, a conflict that he or she must face, or a mystery that he or she must unravel. The resolution of this plot allows the reader to have a complete and rewarding reading experience while maintaining interest in future developments in the series. Basically, each novel will have a crime (or a crime, a killer, a mystery) and this will be solved, but the protagonist's arc or a related story will remain unsolved.


Parallel to the main plot, it is essential to develop subplots that intertwine over the course of the different novels and that deepen aspects of the protagonist's and other characters' lives, offering additional narrative insights and creating a sense of continuity and progression.


These subplots may concern romantic relationships, professional challenges, ethical or moral issues, or personal problems faced by the protagonist. It is important that these subplots be consistent with the underlying story arc and contribute to the evolution of the characters and plot over the course of the series. The evolution of a secondary character can also mature through the events of multiple novels.


Another key aspect in structuring a series is the choice of a setting that is consistent with the genre and tone of the novels, and that provides an appropriate backdrop for the events narrated. The setting can be a distinctive element of the series and help create an evocative and engaging atmosphere. For example, the series of novels starring Andrea Camilleri's Commissario Montalbano is set in contemporary Sicily, and the atmosphere and landscapes of the island are an integral part of the novels' appeal.


Finally, it is essential to pay attention to the writing and narrative style in order to create an enjoyable and engaging reading experience, but one that does not change over the span of the novels: it may be risky to change your voice between volumes. It is an experiment that we advise against.


7.0 The checklist

This lengthy guide can be summarized in a series of short points that will help you remember the basic rules for writing this kind of novel.


  1. Decide on the type of crime novel to be written: define whether it is a thriller, noir or classic detective story and handle the particularities of each genre.

  2. Putting on the role of the murderer, the killer, the antagonist: committing the crime and creating the conditions to avoid prosecution or escape capture, perhaps by creating false leads, or shifting the blame to others.

  3. Creating a simple plot.

  4. Bury the plot using the different of the culprit, the environment, the situation.

  5. Add tension in the novel to keep the reader's attention high and emotionally engage the reader in the narrative.

  6. Evoke, if appropriate to the genre, the emotion of fear in the reader.

  7. Creating twists and turns.

  8. Developing three-dimensional characters.

  9. Carefully define the arc of the protagonist's transformation through chance (which scene or scenes in the novel will change him).

  10. Reflect to their role of secondary characters in the narrative and how they can enrich the story.

  11. Study the style and language of the chosen genre.

  12. Inquire about procedural aspects pertaining to storytelling. Insight.

  13. Choose an appropriate setting by helping to create an engaging atmosphere.

  14. Pay attention to balancing technical and procedural descriptions, action and introspection.

  15. If you want to create a series of novels: create the common thread between the different volumes by exploiting the main character.


8.0 The famous quotes

"The perfect crime is one that remains unsolved." - Raymond Chandler, American writer and screenwriter, author of crime novels starring detective Philip Marlowe.


"The detective story is a kind of chessboard on which the reader can exercise his skill in the game of deduction." - Agatha Christie, British writer, author of many detective and crime novels starring Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.


"The solution to a murder mystery is always obvious once it has been found." - Dorothy L. Sayers, British writer and author of crime novels starring detective Lord Peter Wimsey.


"The crime novel teaches that it's not about figuring out who committed the crime, but finding out why they did it." - P.D. James, British writer and author of crime novels starring Detective Adam Dalgliesh.


"The detective must never say, 'I know that you are guilty'; he must say, 'I have found a curious fact; could you explain it to me?'" - G.K. Chesterton, British writer and literary critic, author of the series of short stories starring Father Brown.


"In a good detective novel, nothing must be irrelevant, and every word must serve a purpose." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British writer, creator of the character Sherlock Holmes.


"A detective story must give the reader an intellectual challenge and emotional relief at the same time." - Ruth Rendell, British writer and author of detective novels starring Inspector Reginald Wexford.


"Logic and intuition are the fundamental weapons of the detective in a detective novel." - Georges Simenon, Belgian writer, creator of the character of Inspector Maigret.



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