I’ve previously commented about the risk of a writer being trapped by the genre in which they achieve success, but I was wondering how much what we write reflects our characters. We might not look like our books, but do they represent what we believe and dream about?
Recently, I’ve been re-reading my five Cornish Detective novels, partly to assess the effect of weeks of editing, as well as to bolster my confidence that they’re worth publishing. I’ve completed another round of querying, so know my ‘product’ inside out.
I’ve tackled various crimes in my stories, including murder, kidnapping, human trafficking, burglary, arson, slavery, prostitution, theft, forgery, drug running, gun running and illegal distillation of alcohol. Researching these things means I’m now equipped to become a master criminal! The most surprising fact was that cannibalism isn’t against the law in the U.K.
True crime and fictional crime stories have long been sources of entertainment, dating right back to the mid-16th-century in the UK, when literacy rates improved and printing became more efficient. Tales of crime appeared in affordable pamphlet form, often with a moral message.
Nowadays, with my own writing, I could easily self-publish my books online to a potentially large audience of readers…provided I cracked the dreaded marketing needed to make them aware they exist. How much of a moral message my stories contain is hard for me to judge. It’s inevitable that part of me is reflected in the thoughts and actions of my characters…both the goodies and the baddies!
It’s long been said, that ‘You are what you eat‘ so I wondered if ‘You are what you write.’ The Chinese have a proverb that says “见文如见人” which literally means “Reading the document is the same as seeing the author.” One’s personal characteristics seep into the language we use.
Crime novelist P.D. James said: “What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.” That’s what my main character seeks to achieve in the criminal investigations he runs. Ultimately, he’s after peace of mind—which is something that I seek. Happiness is all very well, but it’s transient; long-term contentment is better.
Does the genre you write in allow you to express who you are?
What messages about society do you try to get across?