Monday, 22 August 2011
TIME TRAVEL in CRIME FICTION Anne Cassidy
When you write a crime novel it’s often a good idea to start with a dramatic event. In my book JUST JEALOUS I started with a girl staring at a dead body in a children’s playground. This happened on the morning of New Year’s Day. The boy had been shot and the girl clearly felt responsible.
What’s it all about?
In order to find out what led to this situation we have to travel back in time to September. The events start when the girl, Elly, and her best friend Carl (her secret love) are at the trial of Elly’s brother who is sent to prison for GBH. The chapters then go through the months that lead up to Christmas and the events that culminate in a boy being shot in a children’s playground early on New Year’s Day.
Crime novels are like this. If we are to start at a dramatic moment then we must whiz back and forth in time to tell out story properly.
Time travel can also be used to manipulate the reader. LOOKING FOR JJ is a story about a ten year old girl who kills another child. The story starts when she is released from prison six years later with a new identity. The details of the crime are kept from the reader for about a third of the book. The story is told in the present and the reader meets Alice and, I hope, gets to like her, to feel sympathy for her. The middle of the book goes back to when she was ten and the events that led up to the killing.
So the reader’s sympathies are with the killer BEFORE they read about the killing. This was a deliberate act on my part.
I like time travelling. I read a novel once (not a crime novel) that started at the end and worked backwards. This might be interesting…