Friday, 27 March 2009

Investigating Crime with Margaret Murphy

The Crime Writers’ Workshop, held on Saturday 15 March in Hanley Library, was a great success. About a dozen want-to-be writers turned up (including someone from London) and were entertained by, and learned from, Margaret Murphy. Margaret is the author of several crime novels, including The Dispossed and Now You See Me – copies of these two were available for purchase. We also discovered that Margaret is due to take over the Chair of the Crime Writers Association and that she was a founder member of the Murder Squad. The workshop was very relaxed and friendly. It’s a cliché, I know, but it is difficult to imagine such a charming person behind a series of crime books.

The workshop began with a look at villains, how to make them appear more natural – more human – rather than as ciphers. The first exercise was to write a paragraph or two to introduce the villain, who showed elements of empathy, a character who was perhaps monstrous but not grotesque. A few brave souls volunteered to read out their efforts.

After lunch, Margaret gave a talk about CSIs – they used to be called SOCOs in the UK, but our American cousins influence all aspects of our culture, including crime detection. Actually, a Crime Scene Investigator makes more sense than a Scene of Crime Officer since those involved now include civilian scientists and not just policemen and women. The talk, with PowerPoint presentation, covered advances in DNA and fingerprint evidence. Fascinating.

We discussed the extended metaphor, and then the final exercise of the day was to write a piece based on the elements covered earlier in the workshop. Margaret provided two opening sentences. Unfortunately, time was running out and there was no opportunity for everyone to read out their pieces.

Personally, I was surprised at how easily I found it to write in a crowded room. Of course, my piece was a tentative first draft and will require a lot of work, but it did provide an idea that I hope to use in the future.This was a jolly good session, and more importantly, it was inspiring. To find out more about Margaret Murphy visit her website.

© Peter Coleborn

1 comment:

  1. Hiya you lot! How good to be connected eh? I didn't know you were loitering about on here, so what a good surprise. Go smash em with your genre man! (and a few women of course) ;)