12 Elements of Crime Fiction
By j.a. kazimer
Fresh, unique ideas sell books, right? Not necessarily. Even the freshest idea must follow specific ‘rules’ or elements of the genre. Don’t believe me? Then explain why in almost every romance novel the main character has one or more dead parents? And why the poor orphan is often raised by a kindly/odd/distant aunt or uncle? Or better yet, tell me why in an urban fantasy, the female lead is always haunted by something, whether it’s a real ghost or the ghost of boyfriend past, or in some cases herself?
But I write crime fiction, you say. Crime fiction is unique. It’s special. There are no ‘rules’.
Nice try. But crime fiction is perhaps the worst offender. And that’s why I love it. These elements and rules are what define the genre. They give crime fiction its grit and style. Thanks to the greats like McBain, Poe, James Ellroy, and Elmore Leonard to name a few who gave us these rules that make up a genre in which anything is possible, as well as real, gritty and familiar.
Mind you, not every one of the elements I list below will be in every book. But I bet that if you pull a copy of any crime novel off your bookshelf, you’ll find at least one and likely many more inside.
- The hooker/thug with the heart of gold
- Substance use/abuse
- A dirty cop
- A bottle of booze hidden in a desk/cabinet/toilet tank
- A femme fatale
- The term “Doll face” or “Baby doll”, really just some reference to a doll
- A description of a woman’s legs, in vivid detail
- A lounge/bar/nightclub/strip club
- A guy named “Fast” something, usually Eddie
- A dead partner/lover and/or betrayal by a former partner/lover
- Pipe/cigarette smoking hero and/or villain
- A dead body in the first 10 pages
j.a. kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. With a master’s degree in forensic psychology, j.a. has worked as a private investigator, bartender, and at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Books include The Junkie Tales (2010), The Body Dwellers (2011), CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale (2012), and Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons (2012). The next book in the F***ed Up Fairy Tale series, FROGGY-STYLE, is forthcoming from Kensington in 2013. Learn more about j.a. Kazimer at http://www.jakazimer.com.