Aversion to formula, or mere perversity?

There’s a book I brought with me on this trip. A real book, not the virtual ones I loaded onto my ipad before I left to save the weight. This real book I want for reference, not for reading: I want to scribble on it, turn pages down, use a leaky highlighter, do all the damaging things we do with real books that makes us possess them and feel part of them. Trouble is I haven’t opened this book yet even though I’ve been away for nearly three weeks and have had plenty of opportunity. I could be reading this book now instead of sitting here writing about why I’m not doing so. Something about this book is putting me off.

The book is about writing crime fiction. I bought it because I want to try this genre and my academic upbringing says that you should do research before you start a new project. So I bought the book, to find out how to do it. What am I afraid of? Part of it is that I have an exaggerated aversion to doing as I’m told. If someone says that this is the way to do something I instantly want to do something else. Part of it also is that I read too much crime fiction and recognise the formulas, which I don’t want to replicate. I don’t want to create a middle-aged protagonist with a dysfunctional family and a destructive personality, even though these create fruitful dramas to spice up the narrative and give it ‘depth’. I don’t want to hide ‘clues’ for earnest readers to find, or to divert the same earnest readers from a final chapter revelation. I don’t want to wrap everything up neatly at the end, tied with a ribbon or a rope, a prison cell or a gun.

And there’s something else I want to avoid. I don’t want to write about graphic violence, and I would love to avoid any violence against women altogether. Oh, and did I say I would like my crime fiction to win prizes and sell big?

If I could stop wittering and read the book on writing crime fiction all these immature assumptions about the genre might be exposed as immature assumptions, and I would be so relieved and inspired that I would start plotting and planning immediately. Or not. Maybe, seriously, I should think first and then read how it’s supposed to be. Reading the book might be easier, but I think I need to let this ‘cognitive dissonance’ fester for a little longer. That’s what I think right now. By next week I may have changed my mind. That’s what comes of being perverse.

Highsmith: of course. I need to read Highsmith. Any other genre-busting suggestions?

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