Turning a Crime into a Story

A few years ago, I attended a crime writers conference where one of the speakers told us true crime stories were less interesting than crime fiction.

Although true crime stories hold a certain fascination for some – there will always be people who want to know all the gory details about who was having sex with whom and how that led to murder or whatever – the point the speaker was making was that, in the main, most real crime is committed for very banal reasons by fairly stupid people. A straight retelling of such stories generally does not make for a good reading experience.

So, what’s a crime writer to do with all that true crime material the world delivers each day? 

You select a crime and turn it into a story using your imagination. You rewrite the boring bits into a story with a few unexpected twists. You transform the fairly stupid people into interesting characters and give them some less banal motivations for their criminal activities. And, you add in the dimension of seeing it through the eyes of the investigators, which allows the story to unfold and draw you into sorting out the mystery of how the crime came into being.

Let’s consider an example from the Stella Bruno Investigates series: A Gun of Many Parts. This story is based on the facts of a true crime committed in Australia.

The basic facts of the crime are:

A man fired a pistol in a suburban street after an argument with a woman and drove off in his car.

The incident was reported to police, along with the registration number of the car of the shooter.

The police pulled over the car and discovered the driver in possession of a Glock pistol, a prohibited import in Australia.

The shooter wouldn’t divulge details of how he’d come into possession of the pistol.

At this point, we’re dealing with a crime committed for a banal reason – an argument – and a stupid act by someone smart enough to keep his mouth shut. But the story took a twist when the police examined the pistol – the three main components of the Glock had different serial numbers.

To most of us, that little fact doesn’t mean much, but to a police ballistics expert it was a red flag, because when a Glock leaves the factory in Austria, those component have the same serial number.

This led to the uncovering of another crime, one committed by three men with a brilliant idea that unravelled thanks to the stupid act of one of their customers, their own lack of foresight, and meticulous record keeping by Glock.

So, what did I do with those facts? First, I shifted the scene of the crime into South Australia, where Stella Bruno does her thing. Then, I invented the characters I needed and wove their story around the bare bones of the real crime.

You can see how it turned out in A Gun of Many Parts.

A World of Ideas to Keep a Crime Writer Busy

Crime writers will not have to worry about a lack of source material for their story ideas any time soon.

Now that the pandemic and the protests are slipping down in the news headlines, we’re seeing the normal run of everyday crimes getting some media attention again.

Despite the lockdown, we still seem to be murdering each other and stealing other people’s stuff, while our political and corporate leaders continue playing their corrupt power games. 

While most of us have been happily surfing the web to distract ourselves from or to follow the pandemic and protests, several state actors have been actively engaged in cybercrime, espionage, and the dissemination of false information across social media. And, that’s without mentioning the antics of that man in the White House.

There are story ideas everywhere you look. 

Guess I’ll be writing a few more books like the Stella Bruno Investigates story I’m currently working on.

Can we get life to resemble fiction?

In crime fiction, we tend to portray the police as the good guys. Our characters are dedicated investigators bringing perpetrators of serious crime to justice. After all, that’s what our readers expect to find in a murder mystery. They’re not looking for stories of police brutality.

Unfortunately, what we’re seeing in real life is examples of the police as perpetrators of violent crime. We’re seeing videos of police officers murdering people on the streets of America. We’re seeing footage of heavily armed officers brutally attacking peaceful #blacklivesmatter protesters with batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas. 

It’s tempting to see what’s going on as an American problem. It’s not. It happens in too many places, across all forms of government. It’s happening where you live, even if it’s not happening to you.

Continue reading “Can we get life to resemble fiction?”

What Do You Think Is Happening?

There appears to be a lot going on in the world at the moment.

I suspect that what we think is happening depends on who we are, where we are, and what we use as our information sources.

I believe we can only come to a common understanding by listening to each other. There is no right or wrong answer since none of us has all the details. There is only a multiplicity of views which, when woven together, will create our common whole.

So, this week, instead of telling you what I think is going on, I invite you to share what you think is going on in the comments below.

Resuming Control of Your Story

If you listen to the news media or spend your days scrolling through social media posts, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the sky is falling. It’s not.

If you’re finding the news depressing; turn it off.

If you can’t trust what your friends and others are sharing on social media; do your own research or stop reading the fake news posts they share.

If Trump’s tweeting and the media coverage his insane tweets attract are driving you to distraction; ignore him. In the greater scheme of things, Trump is irrelevant. He’s only a bit player in the story of your life – even if you live in the USA.

Tino Renato | DTS
Continue reading “Resuming Control of Your Story”

Be Responsible

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Being responsible is taking responsibility for your words, thoughts, and behaviours.

It means no more blaming others for any aspect of your life.

It means knowing you always have the power to choose how you will respond to any life event or any person’s behaviour.


Be Open

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Being open helps you to be peaceful as it allows for diversity.

Being open-minded allows you to learn new things and enjoy new experiences.

Being open-hearted allows you to be loving and compassionate.

Being open allows things to flow through you and manifest in your world.

Be Present

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Being present is choosing to have your attention in the here and now.

It’s what allows you to hear what the person in front of you is saying, and not just with the words being spoken. 

Being present is the ultimate gift you can give to another. It’s how you say: I see you. I hear you.

It’s also the ultimate gift you can give to yourself.

Be Mindful

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Being mindful is paying attention to what’s going on in your life as it’s happening.

It’s about focusing on the task at hand and not time travelling down memory lane or into distant future scenarios.

Being mindful enhances the enjoyment of living as it allows you to savour experiences instead of living through them while wishing you were somewhere else.

Be Grateful

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Being grateful is being able to say ‘thank you’ for whatever happens.

Sometimes it’s not easy, especially when things don’t go the way you want, but every life circumstance holds something you can be grateful for.

Better to look for that something than spend the rest of your days complaining.

Being grateful is simply remembering life is a gift and saying ‘thank you’ every day.