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Transcript of DETECTIVE FICTION
SOME CRITICS USE THE CATEGORIZATION OF "DETECTIVE FICTION" TO SPEAK FOR THE WHOLE GENRE.
SOME CALL IT "CRIME" OR "MYSTERY."
SOME CRITICS SAY THERE ARE SUB-GENRES WITHIN GENRES.
THE THEORIST CARL MALMGREN HAS DIVIDED THE GENRE UP INTO WHAT HE SEES AS 3 MAIN TYPES
THE AGATHA CHRISTIE APPROACH
THE DETECTIVE STORY:
RAYMOND CHANDLER'S APPROACH
JAMES M. Mc CAIN'S APPROACH
CHARLES RZEPKA DIFFERENTIATES BETWEEN CRIME
AND DETECTIVE FICTION
i. Detective fiction has become almost synonymous with mystery. These stories relate the solving of a crime, usually one or more murders, by a protagonist who may or may not be a professional investigator.
ii. Crime fiction stories, centered on criminal enterprise, are told from the point of view of the perpetrators. They range in tone from lighthearted "caper" stories to darker plots involving organized crime or incarcerated convicts.
However you write your crime novel, the genre can be seen to have three basic elements.
Despite being considered pulp, and having no literary merit, detective fiction is one of the most diverse genres of writing.
Crime fiction began with English crime novels in Britain, then in the 1930's and 1940's something called Hard-boiled crime novels became popular in America.
There are Feminist and Cuban detective novels.
DETECTIVES AS FALLIABLE OR INFALLIABLE
capable of making mistakes.
never failing, always effective.
Despite the richness, popularity and ongoing study of the crime genre, there is a stigma attached to crime novels: they are considered low brow.
The English Crime Novel
Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The time she was writing in was considered the Golden Age of crime novels (1920's and 30's). Some say this period falls between the two World Wars.
A basic idea of golden age detective fiction is that "the human mind--reason--will eventually triumph over the chaotic phenomena of the world."
English Crime Novel
Isolated setting: In Christie's novels they included trains, more than one country estate, boats.
Christie's detectives, like Sherlock Holmes, for the most part are infalliable.
Some critics have called this the Literature of Reassurance because people are monitored by the detective, they catch the bad guy, and the community is safe once again.
There are definite lines between what is right and wrong.
SOME NOTES ON THE GOLDEN AGE
Criminals had to be caught and made to pay for their crime.
The innocent can always be distinguished from the guilty.
Golden Age detective fiction also operated on the rules of Fairplay
and were thought of as a kind of intellectual puzzle-game.
THE RULES OF FAIRPLAY
1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2. All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
THE RULES OF FAIR PLAY
6. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
7. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
8. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
9. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
All of these rules must have you feeling like there is a sort of formula for writing crime novels.
In fact, the best crime novels break these rules to surprise their readers.
So if you are going to break rules, break these ones.
From Father Knox's Decalogue
I. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow;
II. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course;
III. No more than one secret room or passage is allowable. I would add that a secret passage should not be brought in at all unless the action takes place in the kind of house where such devices might be expected;
IV. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end;
Father Knox Continued....
VI. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right;
VII. The detective must not, himself, commit the crime;
VIII. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader;
IX. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but only very slightly, below that of the average reader;
X. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them
These rules were put into place to counteract the abundance of crime novels that rely on these conventions, and therefore fall victim to being called bad writing.
Over the years it became increasingly difficult to write something new and inventive in the golden age of detective fiction. There were many copy cats, and even some of the greats repeated themselves when it came to plot and story line.
AGATHA CHRISTIE REPEATS
The surprise in her play "The Mousetrap." is also used
in Hercule Poirot's Christmas.
In Endless Night, she repeats some of the plot surprises from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
Despite this, she remains one of the most successful crime writers and innovators of the genre.
While Christie continued to write up until her death in 1976, we see a surge of American writers like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet writing something very different from Christie's cosy English crime novels in the late 30's & 40's.
Hardboiled crime fiction.
Christie had her murders played out in isolated settings: a country house, a boat, a train, etc.
The murders or crimes were generally contained incidents.
There is usually a large cast of potential suspects that are interviewed by the detective (Poirot or Marple).
Her murderers are either a surprise (Murder on the Orient Express) or someone established early on as the murderer (Death on the Nile) and the mystery stems from figuring out how the murderers committed the crime.
IN YOUR OWN STORIES IT MAY HELP TO BEGIN
WITH A QUICK OUTLINE.
who is protecting
who is unaware that
is deeply jealous of
is attempting to frame
who hated the victim,
but is being foiled by an alibi provided by
The personality of your detective is extremely important. Take 10 minutes and do a character sketch of your detective.
Whoever they are, they have to be interesting enough
to listen to for 200 pages.
Are they falliable, infallible, amature, professional?
WRITING TIPS TO CONSIDER WHEN
WRITING CRIME NOVELS (OR ANY NOVELS, REALLY).
How do you avoid creating stock characters and writing authentic characters?
MOTIVATION OF THE CHARACTER
Detectives need to move the plot along, they have to have a certain appeal.
We have seen detectives that amatures, professional, falliable and infalliable detectives.
Do a character sketch of a detective for your story,
and write a few lines to introduce them to the class.
OPENING LINES OF THE BIG SLEEP
It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved, and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
CHARACTER DESCRIPTION OF POIROT
He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible.
The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police.
Occupation: Private detective
· Retired Detective
· Former Police officer
Religion: Roman Catholic
GOLDEN AGE vs. HARDBOILED
TELEVISION, THE STAGE, AND LITERATURE
In the 80's we had successful television shows with detectives from various backgrounds: Jessica Fletcher was an author, Matlock a lawyer, and Columbo a homocide detective.
Agatha Christie's whodunnit, The Mousetrap is the world's longest running play.
Crime novels have always been popular, since Edgar Allan Poe (arguably) began writing the first stories in the 1800's which were called "Tales of Ratiocination."
Golden Age detective fiction had a tendency to become predictable, and characters aside from detectives lacked depth.
THE BOW STREET RUNNERS
THE BEGINNING OF CRIME FICTION
THE BOW STREET RUNNERS
THIS GROUP BEEN CALLED LONDON'S FIRST PROFESSIONAL POLICE FORCE.
FOUNDED IN 1749 BY AUTHOR HENRY FIELDING.
THEY REPRESENTED A FORMALIZATION AND REGUALIZATION OF EXISTING POLICING METHODS.
FIELDING BROUGHT TOGETHER THE FIRST FORCE DEDICATING TO CATCHING BUT ALSO PROSECUTING OFFENDERS.
HARDBOILED CRIME FICTION
THE FIRST HARDBOILED DETECTIVE NOVEL WAS "THE SNARL OF THE BEAST" in 1927
OPENS WITH GUNFIRE AND VIOLENCE IN THE CITY.
THIS IS A DRASTIC SHIFT TO CHRISTIE'S CONTAINED CRIME NOVELS.
YOU COULD SAY THE VILOLENCE OF CHRISTIE'S COUNTRY HOUSES SOMEHOW FOUND ITS WAY INTO THE WORLD AND IS RUNNING RAMPANT
IN CHRISTIE'S STORIES, CORRUPTION IS PUNISHED AND ORDER IS RESTORED, SOCIETY IS SAFE AGAIN.
IN CHANDLER'S THE BIG SLEEP, MARLOWE CRACKS THE CASE AND SOLVES THE MURDER, BUT NOTHING HAS IMPROVED IN THE WORLD.
IT IS AS IF THE CITY PROMISES TO REVEAL MANY MORE MURDERERS.
HARDBOILED CRIME FOCUSES ON "THE THREATENING CHAOS OF THE OUTSIDE WORLD."
THE DETECTIVES ARE FALLIABLE, THEY MAKE MISTAKES.
THE CHARACTERS ARE GIVEN MORE CHARACTERIZATION AND DEPTH.
THERE IS NO "WATSON" IN HARDBOILED CRIME FICTION. READERS ARE GRANTED DIRECT ACCESSTO THE DETECTIVE'S PERSPECTIVE.
HER MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTIC IS THAT SHE NEVER REALLY IS WHAT SHE SEEMS TO BE.
THE BIG SLEEP
EXAMPLE OF CHANDLER'S PROSE
Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead. It was a wide room, the whole width of the house. It had a low beamed ceiling and brown plaster walls decked out with strips of Chinese embroidery and Chinese and Japanese printed in grained wood frames.
There were low bookshelves, there was a thick pinkish Chinese rug in which a gopher could have spent a week without showing his nose above the nap. There were floor cushions, buts of odd silk tossed around, as if whoever lived there had to have a piece he could reach out and thumb. There was a broad low divan of old rose. It had a wad of clothes on it, including lilac covered silk underwear. There was a big carved lamp on a pedestal, two other standing lamps with jade green shades and long tassels. The room contained and odd assortment of odors, of which the most emphatic at the moment seemed to be the pungent aftermath of cordite and the sickish aroma of ether. On a sort of low dais at one end of the room there was a high-backed teakwood chair in which Miss Carmen Sternwood was sitting on a fringed orange shawl.
Plot is obviously the central focus of writing a crime
novel. Plot needs to move from A to B, have a beginning, middle and end.
Plotting in a crime novel is extremely important for keeping suspense high, tension building, and for revealing pivotal information at the correct time.
Plot in a story is the sequence of even in which the story unfolds.
What is the goal your detective needs to achieve?
What is the consequence if the detective does not achieve their goal?
Start thinking about this by describing what needs to happen so your detective can reach their goal.
LETS LOOK AT THE PLOT OF THE BIG SLEEP
1. Marlowe goes to General Sternwood's house. He's been hired for a job. Geiger has naked pictures of Sternwood's daughter, Carmen. Geiger's been blackmailing Sternwood with them.
2. General Sternwood mention that his son in law has run away (this is another plot that develops alongside the blackmail plot.)
THE BIG SLEEP PLOT OUTLINE
Marlowe stakes out Geiger's Rare Book Shop (which is a front for a porn shop.
4. Marlowe follows a man leaving the shop to Geiger's house, finds Geiger dead. Carmen Sternwood is there and high on ether.
5. Owen Taylor, the Sternwood's chauffer is found dead in Vivian Sternwood's car
THE BIG SLEEP PLOT OUTLINE
6. Marlowe meets Joe Brody, but Brody is killed moments later.
7. Marlowe finds out Brody was planning to take over Geiger's business. It's revealed he was killed by Geiger's homosexual lover, Carol.
8. Carol goes to jail and Marlowe takes the pictures.
9. The papers release the story about Geiger.
THE BIG SLEEP PLOT OUTLINE
10. Marlowe's job for Sternwood is done, but he becomes curious about the death of the son in law.
11. A second plot kicks in about the son-in-law.
12. Marlowe continues to investigate, and he is followed by a man named Harry Jones. He has info about where Silver-Wig, gangster Eddie Mars's wife is being hidden.
THE BIG SLEEP PLOT OUTLINE
13. Marlowe thinks this is important because there are rumours the son-in-law ran off with Silver-Wig.
14. Marlowe finds that Silver-Wig and the son-in-law didn't run off together and than Eddie Mars is hiding his wife to protect himself--to try to make everyone think the son-in-law and Silver-Wig had run off together.
15. Harry Jones is murdered by Eddie Mars's bodyguard, Lash.
16. Marlowe finds out Silver-Wig's whereabouts, goes to see her, and is caught by Lash.
THE BIG SLEEP PLOT OUTLINE
17. At Silver-Wig's hide out, Marlowe kisses her. She helps Marlowe escape and he kills the bodyguard.
18. Everything is revealed when Marlowe goes back to the Sternwood's to teach someone to shoot a gun. It is revealed the son-in-law is lying at the bottom of one of the Sternwood's oil wells on their property.
19. Marlowe let's the murderer's accomplice go as long as the murderer is put into an insane asylum.
WRITE OUT A FEW MAJOR PLOT POINTS FOR YOUR STORY BASED ON THE DETECTIVE YOU HAVE CREATED.
PEOPLE GENERALLY SAY THAT EDGAR ALLEN POE'S "THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE" (1841) IS THE FIRST DETECTIVE STORY.
BUT CRITICS NOTE THERE ARE EARLIER PRECURSORS.
FOR INSTANCE, THE BIBLICAL STORY
OF SUSANNA AND THE ELDERS.
WHEN SUSANNA IS ACCUSED OF ADULTERY
BY CORRUPT JUDGES, A MAN NAMED DANIEL EXPOSES THE JUDGE'S LIES.
EMILY ST. AUBERT IN "THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO" (1794) COULD BE SEEN AS AN EARLY EXAMPLE OF AN AMATURE DETECTIVE AS SHE GATHERS CLUES ABOUT HER FATHER' DEATH.
WHAT IS GENRE FICTION?
Genre fiction is also known as popular fiction. It is plot driven, and usually written to fit in with certain expectations and conventions.
Screen writer Robert McKee sums up genre conventions this way: "specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their sub-genres."
Crime fiction can be considered to have many sub-genres: thrillers, police procedurals, courtroom dramas, the whodunnit, and hardboiled crime fiction.
In Golden Age crime novels, the crime usually occurs in an isolated setting and referred to as "country house mysteries." The crime sometimes in a locked room, and are referred to as "locked room mysteries."
In Hardboiled tradition, crime happens everywhere, it is not contained, and everyone has an agenda. The outcome is generally grim for everyone.
The genre is incredibly diverse!
In his essay "The Typology of Detective Fiction" Todorov argues that there are actually two stories in detective fiction.
1. The story of the crime.
2. The story about solving the crime.
So when you write crime novels, you are writing two stories.
Start by looking and listening to the people around
you. What are they doing, saying? Writing itself is kind of like detective work.
Things like dialogue tags slows down the interaction between the characters, and can dilute the tension.
It's important to think about the way people talk. The emotion and intensity of what is being said should come through the dialogue.
In crime fiction, it is the action of the characters that pushes the plot forward.
When you are planning out the plot
of your crime novel, you may want to do a sketch of even minor characters in the beginning to see how they are connected to each other.
I would personally plot out events and do character sketches first for this kind of fiction.
Then you have their motivations for the crimes they are commiting.
There are oldies but goodies: adultery, some kind of betrayal, money, protecting the family name, protecting a loved one, REVENGE, or maybe the character just likes killing?
LISANE RADICE'S DO'S AND DONT'S
Do know the world you are writing about.
Do get your facts straight: Spend a day in court.
Do make sure your forensic information is correct.
Do make sure your science is correct.
Don't have any long descriptions that hang up the plot.
Do read widely.
WHAT WE DO HAVE IS A FIGURE CALLED THE FEMME FATALE.
EXAMPLE OF DIAGLOGUE
"What do you mean?" Vivian said suddenly
"You know what I mean," I said tensely.
"No, I don't think I do," Vivian said vehemently.
"I saw our sister was out the night of the murder," I said accusatorily.
"You're mistaken. My sister was with me all night," Vivian said nastily.
"What do you mean?" Vivian asked.
"You know what I mean."
"No, I don't think I do."
"I saw your sister out the night of the murder."
"You're mistaken. My sister was with me all night."
"So how was your sister's night on the town last night?" I asked Vivian.
EUGENE FRANCOIS VIDOCQ
Some of Christie's stories included maps of rooms, documents, the lay-out of the murder scene.
NOTE: Owen Taylor's murder is never solved.
EUGENE FRANCOIS VIDOCQ
Eugène François Vidocq July 23, 1775 – May 11, 1857)
-Was a convicted criminal.
-In the early 19th century became the chief of Surete.
-He was also head of the first known private detective agency.
Vidocq is the prototype for fictional detectives: Poe's Augustine Dupin, Sherlock Holmes (to varying degrees). He also inspired writers like Balzac and Alexandre Dumas.
WE USE THE TERM "GENRE FICTION" TO SEPARATE SCI-FI, ROMANCE, WESTERNS, AND CRIME FICTION FROM LITERARY FICTION.
"LITERARY FICTION" IS A TERM USED FOR WORKS OF WRITING CONSIDERED TO HAVE LITERARY MERIT.
Agatha Christie: Genre fiction
Joseph Boyden: Literary Fiction
With the formation of Fielding's runners in 1749 came a focus on policing, and a man named Sir Robert Peel estalished Sir Robert Peel's Metropolitian Police for in 1829.
In France, a man name Eugene Francois Vidocq was also organizing a plan to fight crime....
So writers took inspiration for their writing from real life in some cases.
(FROM EARL F. BARGAINNIER'S "GENTLE ART OF MURDER")
Both are considered conventions of the genre.
Hercule Poirot is considered a infalliable detective. Nadya Aisenburg notes that although there is no real magic used in detective fiction "it does permit one magical device: the infalliable detective."
Literary theorist Angus Fletcher views the detective as a "watered-down medicine man."
While famous detective Sherlock Holmes presents himself as being infalliable, he has been known to make mistakes from time to time.
He did not think of himself as infalliable, but despite this Watson still regarded Holmes's detective abilities with awe.
Phillip Marlowe--, while a very good detective-- is falliable. For instance, one murder in The Big Sleep goes unsolved: Owen Taylor's.
A "stock character" is a character in literature, theater, or film of a type quickly recognized and accepted by the reader or viewer and requiring no development by the writer.
In my opinion, they are generally flat, there is none, if any depth to their character, and they have one main motivation in the story.
Think of cartoons from your childhood. There is a hero, a princess, and a villain. Or, for our purposes, a detective, and their sidekicks can be seen as stock characters.