Monday, June 8, 2015

When is a Crime Story not a Crime Story?

I haven't found any markets the past couple of day so I thought I'd throw a question out here and maybe start a discussion.

Here's the question - Are literary/mainstream writers given greater leeway in writing crime stories than mystery writers?

The reason I'm asking is that I started reading "Best Friends Forever" by Jennifer Weiner and four chapters in I'm about ready to toss this book in the corner.  Chapter one has a guy being tricked into dropping his pants then having his picture taken.  He comes to on the ground bruised and bleeding and promising to seek revenge.  In chapters two and three an old friend shows up on a woman's doorstep with blood on her coat.  We have numerous flashback and the woman answers the same door to the same woman three times.  We still don't know why there's blood on the friend's coat.  Then with chapter four we have a new character.  A cop dealing with a woman who can't unlock her car.

Now if a crime writer did this to their readers they'd catch hell.  So why are other writers given such leeway?

11 comments:

Dusty said...

It's a literary thing. You wouldn't understand.

sandra seamans said...

That could very well be, Dusty, but there are literary crime novelists like Megan Abbott who actually follow the crime genre rules of telling the story without throwing the reader out of the story with a bunch of flashbacks and abrupt POV changes.

If you're telling a crime story, or any story for that matter, you should at least give the reader an idea of what is going on.

Dusty said...

I was being facetious.

sandra seamans said...

Yeah, I figured :) But I still wonder why people who write "literary" tend to skip the story part in favor of "prose".

Rob Brooks said...

I'm a big fan of Elmore Leonard's advice to skip the parts that people don't read. I don't have an answer to why there are different standards. But I know that when I start a book and I don't know what it's about, I don't go recommending it to a bunch of my friends.

sandra seamans said...

Leonard's advice is great, especially for a short story writer, Rob. And I'm the same way about books! I only recommend the best ones, at least the ones I think are the best :)

Fiona Glass said...

Actually, most genres impose very stringent rules or formulae on their authors, who seem only too happy to comply. Perhaps the lack of such rules is what marks out 'literary' fiction as different, rather than anything else?

sandra seamans said...

That could be it, Fiona. I find it odd that a genre that thinks so highly of itself doesn't have some sort of rules that they write by.

David Cranmer said...

I'm working on an article concerning three literary writers who turned to noir and police procedurals for standalones. In all three I see stylish prose and philosophical thought being pushed to the forefront and the details of the crime considerably less important.

sandra seamans said...

Yes, I've seen that, too, David. Benjamin Black's (John Banville) Christine Falls comes to mind. I just picked up Banville's The Sea at a recent book sale and I'm curious to see how they differ. Funny how literary writers don't want to use their real names when writing genre :)

Brenden Smith said...

Wow !!! Its really a nice post. Thanks for sharing
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