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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > June 2017 > Creating the PERFECT CRIME

Creating the PERFECT CRIME

The basic building blocks of crime fiction, explained by creative writing tutor Henry Sutton, aka author Harry Brett


There is an often misquoted line from F Scott Fitzgerald that goes: ‘Plot is character and character is plot.’ What Fitzgerald actually said is: ‘Plot is character in action.’ It’s worth thinking about this if you want your novel to move with pace, determination and energy. Who controls the plot? What is plot? This is another often misunderstood concept. Plot is not an event. It is why an event might happen and what impact that event has on a character or characters. EM Forster was very good on this. John Le Carré wasn’t bad either. He came up with the definition: ‘The cat sat on the mat,’ is not the beginning of a plot, but ‘the cat sat on the dog’s mat is.’ There is an equation I use, borrowed from a Russian Formalist, which runs: Story + Conflict = Plot. What is conflict? Can be internal or external. It might or might not be an inciting incident. The easiest way of thinking about this is by having a character want something and then contemplate what might be in that person’s way.

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