Walking back into the GWN office after summer vacation was a mixture of relief, familiarity, and excitement. It was the first workshop of the year, Crime Fiction writing. There were more new faces than old; some excited, some nervous. My mentor Jess and I sat in our usual spots near the window and chatted about what we anticipated in this workshop. The first exercise was to create a character, starting with a name, age, and gender. Then we were asked to personalize them more with defining physical characteristics, favorite outfit, hobbies, talents, friends and enemies. After several minutes developing our characters, it was announced that our job was to kill them! I knew we were in a room filled with writers when almost everyone gasped; we had already grown fond of our characters. A wave of giggles and chuckles started off the first craft-talk of the year, with author Katia Lief as the guest speaker.
Katia Lief did an excellent job explaining what exactly goes into a crime fiction novel. She stressed the importance of making the first page an attention-grabber, so that the reader wanted to continue reading. She also told us about what goes into a crime fiction novel, and how one must know how to make the crimes interesting yet believable based on real facts that relate to crime solving. After Katia’s Q&A, as a group we created a chart on what must be included in a crime fiction novel.
For me, the most helpful part of the craft talk was when we discussed drawing in the reader from the first page. I think every writer could benefit from the exercise she gave us, which was to complete or change this opening line: “Jennifer walked into the __________ wearing her red shoes. She looked __________. The minute she saw Dexter she threw her bag on the floor, reached in and pulled out her __________.” The prompt helped us create a character and a story that was engaging.
As a junior in high school and a mentee returning to GWN for my third year, I thought the crime fiction workshop was a great way to kick off the year. The best part of the workshop had to be when the new mentees and mentors were paired up. Hand waves and aww’s from the GWN staff made the start of the 2011-2012 year a welcoming and exciting one.