The Value of Reverse Engineering When Writing a Crime Novel

There is no such things as a perfect crime, says award-winning author Micki Browning, which is good for novelists wanting to bring a resolution to their crime or mystery novel. The villain must be found out to have a complete story that will appeal to readers. To craft a tightly written crime story or mystery, Browning recommends "reverse engineering", or plotting the story from the perspective of the villain or antagonist. It is the villain's motivation and actions that will drive the story forward. The story itself should be told from the protagonist's point of view, which will naturally put your protagonist in a reactive mode and will allow the story to unfold as it should. As the writer, if you don't have the details of the crime outlined ahead of time you won't know what clues to provide to your reader along the way, or how to include setbacks for your protagonist. It's too hard to play catch-up, Browning says, once you start writing.

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  • This is excellent advice.  I have a number of true crime stories in my "possibility" files. One is a complete story in a few paragraphs. The hard part is expanding it into a novel..

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