3 of Michael Connelly’s Favorite Bits of Writing Advice

In his ThrillerFest session “The Series Character: How to Do it Right,” Michael Connelly (author of the Harry Bosch series) offered three of his favorite bits of advice that he’s collected from other writers.

“I’ve carried these with me for decades,” he said. “I think they really sum up where you should be if you’re going to do this”—especially if you want to write crime fiction.

1. The best crime novels are not how cops work on cases; it’s how cases work on cops.
–Joseph Wambaugh

In other words, Connelly said, it’s all about character. Character is key, especially in series fiction. Readers don’t return to your work because of a plot twist—they return because of character.

2. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
–Kurt Vonnegut

Regarding series characters, Connelly said this ties into a character’s sense of searching (which, he added, when unfulfilled, is what draws people to the next book).

3. When you circle around a murder long enough, you get to know a city.
–Richard Price

Connelly said this was Price’s reply when asked why a great writer would spend their time writing crime fiction. He pointed out that a writer should have a higher aspiration in their work—to use the form to say something about society, something about one’s city.

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