Writing Ethical True Crime-Inspired Fiction and Crime Memoir

A portrait of Ruth McIver
22 March 2020 - 10:00 to 4:00 PM
Ruth McIver
While true crime is nothing new, over the past few years true-crime inspired fiction and true-crime memoirs such as Emma Cline’s The Girls (2015) and Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (2016) have become a best-selling and award winning sub-genre. I propose that fictionalising true crime and real lives in a way that is both ethical and artful, can capture the complex cultural topography surrounding sensational crime events – and this imaginative and personal response to private and collective trauma, is both necessary and cathartic.

Learning Outcomes:


  • The pros and cons of writing true crime fiction and crime memoir – and why they differ from ‘straight’ crime fiction and memoir
  • Mapping out the ethical terrain of fictionalising crime and incorporating the real into fiction for publication
  • Research techniques for true crime – how to balance the real and the fictive
  • Techniques commonly used by writers in this genre – reframing, renaming and getting to the essence of the project
  • What to represent? How our rhetorical choices show our ethical intentions

Before attending this course, Ruth suggests checking out some or all of the following books:

JP Pomare, 2020, In the Clearing.
David Whish Wilson, True West, 2019
Laura Elizabeth Woollett, 2016, The Love of a Bad man.

Michelle McNamara, 2018, I'll be Gone in the Dark.
Claudia Rowe, 2017, The Spider and the Fly: A reporter, a serial killer and the meaning of murder.
Carolyn Murnick, The Hot one: A Memoir of Sex, Friendship and Murder.


About Ruth McIver

Ruth Mary McIver is a Dublin born, Melbourne-based writer represented by Jacinta Di Mase. She recently completed a PhD at Curtin University, where she wrote I Shot the Devil, which was the winner of the Richell Prize (2018). Her first novel, Nothing Gold, was runner up in the inaugural Banjo Awards, with Harper Collins (2018) was selected as one-in–seven to be pitched at Bloody Scotland (2014). Ruth’s novel-in-verse, The Sunset Club (2014), is a DIY publication that was adapted for the stage and highly commended in the Anne Elder category by the Fellowship of Australian writers. Besides researching and writing true-crime inspired fiction and memoir, she’s a musician and emerging podcaster, coffee fanatic, animal lover and 48 Hours Mystery obsessive.

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