Thursday, April 14, 2022

Left Coast Crime 2022

 The Beloved Spouse™ and I have become regular conferencegoers, so we pretty much knew the drill for our inaugural Left Coast Crime. I’ve been to more panels than I can remember, so the number of new things I hear or learn gets a little smaller with each event. Still, I am always looking to learn, and LCC did not disappoint. Here are the things that popped out at me, based on my scribbled notes. They often paraphrase what was actually said, and I was unable to get attributions for all of them. My apologies to those whose names were omitted. No slight intended.



Police Procedurals

I got my panel out of the way right off the bat, and it gave the rest of the conference a tough act to follow, if I do say so myself. James L’Etoile moderated T.K. Thorne, Frank Zafiro, and me in a discussion of the tropes of police procedurals, for better or worse. The four of us hit it off right away, Jim set things up expertly, the audience was into it, and a good time was had by all. So much so that the panelists had a “reunion” in the lounge later in the day.


I was supremely chuffed to be included on a panel with actual LEOs, and by the people who approached later to ask questions or pass along a compliment. Maybe my most rewarding panel ever. Thanks to all who were there.


Writing a Series: Keeping it Fresh

William Kent Kreuger will write a standalone when an idea speaks strongly enough to him.


Glen Erik Hamilton set out to write  a standalone but had so much fun world building he decided to turn it into a series.


Matt Goldman – If you pick the right time and place, things will take care of themselves.


Kreuger spoke of “Domestic Exotica,” stories set in the US but in places no one knows much about.


Kreuger was advised to “Write what you know.” He knew Minnesota and the dynamics of farming and people, so he ran with it.


These authors generally write for themselves and trust the readers will follow. They also don’t worry about things from past books. What’s done is done.


Celebrating the Short Story

James D.F. Hannah says many of his stories deal with “death by sporting goods.” He goes into Dick’s and looks around wondering “Could I kill someone with this?”


Robert LoPresti mentioned a writer who goes through each page and kills the weakest sentence. “Why is this sentence here?”


Stephen King has compared unfinished short stories to cups with no handles. He sets them aside until a handle comes to him.




All books must be readable as standalones. Repeat the descriptions of continuing characters. Regular readers will just skip over.


The longest continuous occupation of an American city after a race riot is Cambridge MD.


Writing for the Screen

Lee Goldberg – Advice to authors: If offered an option, take the money and run. Tell the producer/showrunner you’re willing to be as involved, or uninvolved, as they want.


Lee Goldberg - The upcoming film Fast Charlie (Pierce Brosnan) is based on Victor Gischler’s novel Gun Monkeys. Apparently very loosely, though Gischler is good with it.


Lee Goldberg – Many things that are changed from a book to screenplay are due to budget or scheduling considerations.


Lee Goldberg – The key to a screenplay is to capture the essence of the book, not to create a slavish recreation.


Lee Goldberg – A screenplay is a blueprint for the director, cinematographer, etc. to work from. The writer’s job is to tell the story through action and dialog.


Lee Goldberg now writes the first drafts of his novels as screenplays, then fleshes them out. Says it gives him a better idea of the pacing and how well the story holds together.


The best pilots feel like Episode 7 on the screen. Best pilots ever: Justified, Magnum, Hill Street Blues, though many excellent pilots never get made.




Matt Coyle – Everything that happens to a character has to matter.


The Contradiction of Humor and Crime: How do you know what’s funny?`

Cynthia Kuhn – Common advice for thrillers is to make things more serious for the protagonist all the time. In comedies, make it more absurd.


Location as Character

Johnny Shaw & Craig Robertson – If you only have a few days to research a place, go to bars. (Audience member asked about where else to go if they (or their character) didn’t feel safe in a bar. Other places were discussed, but the takeaway I got was if you or your character don’t feel safe in a place, maybe that’s not the kind of case/story they should be working on.


There was lots more, but some wasn’t as new to me, and much of the truly entertaining stuff fell into the category of “You had to be there.”


Next week, individual callouts for those who helped to make this a memorable conference.

1 comment:

Colin Conway said...

Great post, Dana. I noticed how you kept your notes at the conference and was meaning to chat with you about it.

I missed the Location as Character panel. I love the advice from Johnny Shaw and Craig Robertson! I agree wholeheartedly. Some of the best and honest experiences in new towns came from being at a bar.

Also, I loved Cynthia's advice about absurdity.