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Promoting Victims Awareness in Writing by Debra Black

Today (April 10, 2016) starts National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Some of our regular readers might be aware that The Final Twist Writers Society tends toward mystery based fiction. This genre is a fertile ground for crime-based drama and suspense. It can be a real treat to follow a good mystery through to the end and see the victims of the crime given a concrete answer to the who or how.

Not everyone, however, considers the ramifications of the mental and social impacts that the victims of a crime can suffer after the crime has been solved. Has the sentence or resolution been satisfactory enough to count as “Justice”? Will the perpetrator be free in the future to commit another crime if they do not reform? How many of those close to the victim are supportive and sympathetic throughout the healing process? How many blame the victim and seek to free the perpetrator?

All of these questions and so many more can be explored with writing. For those who are thinking of a person in your life that may have suffered victimization, perhaps you realized the lack of material that is available to assist in dealing with the financial, physical, and psychological impacts.

Writing mystery fiction that educates readers on victims’ rights can contribute to allowing someone to come to a sense of peace or reduce the burden of guilt and social stigma associated with being involved in a crime. It is not just those who are victims that can benefit. Individuals that were never involved can sometimes make it seem as if they are justified in blaming the victim for actions or even just thoughts that precipitated the crime. This is an absurd and damaging attitude. Victimizing another human being is senseless. It can happen without reason, provocation, or warning and regardless of preventative measures.

Use the mystery you create to not only raise someone’s pulse with that last-second deduction, but to also highlight how much understanding and sympathy can alleviate the burden that victims can be forced to undertake if their lives are turned upside down by crime. How your characters react to a resolved crime situation can go a long way toward paving the path for those who are reading the story to behave. Not only that, but how you address some of the possibilities for victims’ rights education can lead to a mind bending sequel!

Some educational resources:

Crime Victim’s Rights in America, A Historical View

The National Center for Victims of Crime

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When Writing Fiction, Start at the End (Huh?) (L. Stewart Hearl)

To get anywhere, you first have to know where you are going. If you don’t know how your story will end, your story will simply drag the reader along on, what will quickly seem likely to your reader, a pointless journey. You want the reader to be with your main character, moving toward a specific goal. The goal is up to you. (Examples of goals: He/She solves the mystery, finds the treasure, wins the girl, survives the disaster, achieves success, etc.)

Setting the Hook

After you’ve chosen your goal, you must let your reader know what that anticipated goal is. The fact that you have a map (outline) doesn’t help the reader at all unless the reader has some idea where your main character is going. The actual destination may not be where the character winds up, but it is the main character’s motivation to move ahead in the story. This bit of information you provide to the reader is called a hook. Its intention is to literally hook your reader into going along for the ride. Very important – you must place your hook as early in the story as possible. In a novel, it’s usually in the first 5 pages. Examples: “Your mission, Mr. Bond is to…”, “Gosh! This thing looks like a treasure map!”, “Billy…look at her neck. Two holes! I told you there’s a vampire here in Middleton!”, “Her name’s Mary Watson. She’s so beautiful, and even though I’m 5 inches shorter than she is, have a problem with body odor, can’t talk to girls and am covered with boils, I’m gonna make her mine!” (Remember, I said some goals aren’t always achieved.)

L. Stewart Hearl
Author of “Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge”

L. Stewart Hearl is a 64-year-old genius (certified by MENSA). He is also crazy (certified by the Texas State Institute for the Bewildered). If you enjoyed his short story, check out his novel Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge. His short stories “Invasion” and “Good” (co-written with Cash Anthony) appear in Underground Texas.

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