I'm reading daily crime stories in newspapers, just to have an idea to write a detective story. But the crimes I read about aren't helpful to create a plot.

I mean, they are really boring and all the same. I don't have that kind of mind able to build something around a "normal" crime. How can I use real life crime to come up with ideas for writing a detective crime plot?

  • Do you want to write about the criminals or the detectives?
    – CHEESE
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 14:03
  • detectives. I would create an introspective plot...you know, something concerned the detective instead the crime itself
    – Vito
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 14:09
  • So how much does the strangeness of the crime actually matter to your plot?
    – CHEESE
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 14:10
  • I don't know, I would create something interesting. You can't tell something good rounded by bad thing
    – Vito
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 14:11
  • 1
    Go watch Leverage, which is a show about five thieves/bad guys who turn Robin Hood and commit crimes to help people, and read creator Jon Rogers's blog, kfmonkey.blogspot.com. He talks a lot about the writing and research process. Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 14:11

2 Answers 2


A crime written in the newspaper is largely boring. Someone stole something, killed someone, the more interesting parts of the crime are hardly written in public papers.

If you want to write good crime story, make it irregular, give it something new.

How is the body found?

In one of Kathy Reichs books she's part of a team investigating on an airplane crash. During their work, Tempe Brennan (the main actor) figures out, that there were more bones on the crash site, than there were people on the plane. In another book (yes, I read a lot Temperance Brennan books) she's part of a crew investigating an old grave in a graveyard. A nun should be blessed, and Tempe was to verify, it was the correct corpse. It was not, of course. But who was it then.

What are the circumstances of the crime?

Crimes consist of at least two persons. A victim and a criminal. They have social connections. Where are they from? What do they do for a living? Hobbies? Are they related? Were they colleagues? If so, were they working on something spectecular? Did their kids join the same school and the victims childs bullied the criminals child, so the criminal took revenge? One of my detectives (if I ever finish a story) is about to investigate a murder with a semi religious background. Descripe in your story the religion, if it's more than the regular sunday morning prayer.

How was the crime performed?

A single bullet to the head will work for a TV show, but it'll get boring after a while. There are a billion ways to kill a person. Make it a serial killer. Or make it a nearly impossible theft, if you're not into killing person.

Now, to the detective. He's not the average suit and tie type. Give him quirks. I love Tim Roth in "Lie to me". He's a magnificent character. Take a look at Hercule Poirot. Or Tempe Brennan and her partner Andy Ryan (if i remember correctly). He doesn't need to have superpowers. He just has to be a not so very normal type.

So, take a look at other crime authors. Read some of them, figure out, why the victim is not just a dead body, the criminal not just a mad man with a gun.

A good crime story comes to life with the things that are not written in the newspaper.




I have worked as a police inspector for some time and I can tell that there is no normal crime. When you start exploring the motives and the criminal's psychology it becomes very interesting. I'd suggest that you try learning as much as you can about the specific crime because the most important things are in the details. I think what will make an interesting story is what makes an interesting story from everything - answer the question Why about everything. And when facts end, start with your imagination. I am not interested in writing criminal stories but I'd suggest that you try going below the publications, maybe even try to experience things first hand like visiting crime scenes and feeling the locations, knowing people from the same social groups your characters are etc.

  • @Vito If, as you say, you "don't have that kind of mind able to build something around a 'normal' crime", then maybe you don't have the imagination to be a writer. When I read your question, I thought exactly what Teddy answered here: that there are no normal crimes and that every life is extraordinary for the person living it. When I read the newspaper, every news story lights a firework of imagination in my mind and ideas for stories I want to write flow without effort. If you do not know what to write, then maybe you do not need to write.
    – user5645
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 14:37
  • Excellent point! The writers for the TV show "Criminal Minds" have managed to squeeze 12 seasons out of mostly the same crime ("someone is murdering prostitutes") by focusing on the "why". Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 17:49
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    Probably I'm not a writer, you get the point. But I have this need to let my characters talk, and I know, my setting scene MUST be a crime scene. Yes, I'm not C.Doyle, but I know I can produce something good. And you know, only writing by writing you learn how to build plot, links and book. But I need some spark to begin this long walk. I have written only little stories, now I want to make the next step and I asked here some tips to make my walking easier. Now I can say you I'm not a writer but I don't know if tomorrow I'll become it.
    – Vito
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 11:07

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