How Much Blood Do You Need In A Crime Novel?

How Much Blood Do You Need In A Crime Novel?


Are you writing crime? In this post, we look at levels of violence and ask: How much blood do you need in a crime novel?

This is the first post in a series on How Much questions. In this post we’re talking about ‘how much blood do you need in a crime novel?’. In future posts, we’ll look at how much magic you need in a fantasy novel, how much profanity you need in a novel, how much detail you need in a novel, and how much sex you need in a sex scene.

Not all crime novels have gory murder scenes, but how do you know if you need to bring out the knives and guns?

How Much Blood Do You Need In A Crime Novel?

The crime genre is huge and is usually characterised by two characters who are on opposite sides, (often, but not always) of the law.

Some examples include: thief vs cop, murderer vs private investigator, kidnapper vs parents, con artist vs internet sleuth, serial killer vs medical examiner, hacker vs cyber-crimes unit.

There’s a lot of variety, but within all these stories the levels of violence will also vary. Consider the fact that Murder She Wrote and True Detective are both considered crime.

This is where we start working with sub-genres. Just like with our sex scenes the level of description will vary from sub-genre to sub-genre.

🩸Implied Violence

In these scenes, we rarely see a body. At most we will see the edge of a puddle of blood or a limp hand, a body bag, or a flutter of crime scene tape. We do understand what happened though.

🩸Reported Violence

You can make your characters talk about the crime or the crime scene and avoid the violent scene itself, but just make sure about the genre requirements. This is a good idea if your cosy mystery has a slightly more violent event.

🩸🩸Witnessed Violence

This would usually, but not always, be a scene where the characters and readers arrive after the fact. The face and or body of the victim would be visible/present, but it is up to you to decide how much of it is described.

🩸🩸🩸Graphic Violence

In these scenes readers are usually present when the violent act is being committed. They are either in the viewpoint of the perpetrator or in the viewpoint of the witness or even the victim.

Tips For Writing Violent Scenes:

  1. It is up to you decide how violent the scene should be. If you cannot stomach the idea of a violent scene perhaps you should consider one of the gentler sub-genres.
  2. Is the violent scene integral to the plot? Just like any other scene in the book it must have a function that drives the story forward.
  3. Get the logistics right. Who is where when what happens can get confusing, but we don’t need to know every single move.
  4. Research is important. If you are hurting a person or an animal you need to know what happens when they are hurt or when they die.
  5. Same goes for weapons. You can’t shoot a bazooka at a character and expect that the medical examiner will have something to work with.

The Last Word

Never lose sight of whose story it is. How violent the story gets is entirely up to you and your chosen genre. At most, you may have to re-evaluate your choice of genre. Crime is one of the biggest genres in fiction. It’s worth getting these scenes right.

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Mia Botha by Mia Botha

Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice

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Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.