Overall report for SAWC Crime Story Beautifully Dangerous
Margaret Von Klemperer
This was not an easy competition: crime writing requires certain specifics, such as tension and pace, and there is not much room in a 1500 word piece to develop either. However, there were some good attempts. Crime is also a genre which lends itself well to humour – dark humour possibly – but something to lighten what is potentially depressing. I was disappointed that so few of the entrants used humour, with the notable exceptions of the winner and runner-up.
There was some clever plotting, and obviously a good deal of thought had gone into this aspect. Once or twice I felt that people were trying too hard to link beauty and danger, but in general, plotting was good. It was often better than characterisation, which didn’t always work, partly because of the constraints of the word limit. But there were some writers who managed to create appealing and believable characters.
However, my main criticism is with the poor standard of grammar and punctuation. These may sound like boring, pernickety things, but they are vitally important. If nouns and verbs don’t agree, if tenses are carelessly mixed up, sometimes within a sentence, and if apostrophes are left out or wrongly placed, it makes the reader think that the writer didn’t care enough to check their work. And if the writers don’t care, why should the reader? It is often a good idea to read something out loud to yourself once you have written it. The ear can pick up things the eye may miss, including poor grammar, repetition and the dreaded clichés.