ArticlesTips for Writing A Crime Drama

Tips for Writing A Crime Drama

There has never been a better time for crime drama on telly! Inspired by Happy Valley's success at the Baftas we would like to invite you to write your own opening scene for a crime drama. 

Here are our top tips:



Grab your reader straight away - read more about hooking your audience from the start.

Have a crime and a reason - Have a reason for your protagonist which is full of human contradictions, the more conflicting emotions aroused by your audience the better!

Create characters that your audience will empathise with we don't read crime stories because we like the characters in them, we are drawn to heroes that we empathise with. What is it that makes you empathise with people in real life? Perhaps they're funny, selfless, strong in the face of adversity? Use characteristics you observe in real life. Read more about bringing characters to life

Choose a perspective that doesn't give too much away!

Outline your plot and clues perhaps more than in any other genre, plots are critical to crime dramas. Briefly describe an exciting crime scene and then ask yourself questions about how this situation arose. Who did it? Why did they do it? What happened? When? Where? Why? How?

Describe the crime scene but more than this, think about the atmosphere that your setting and the different locations in it will lend to your whole story. The very specific location of Happy Valley is a core part of the programme's appeal. In fact, many of the most popular crime dramas in recent years like The Bridge, Shetland, The Killing, Hinterland and Wallander have been set in locations which give each of those dramas not only a specific look and sense of local culture, but also specific tensions such as being very cut off or dislocated. Read more about evoking a sense of place.

Read, watch and listen to lots of crime drama! Have a look at the brilliant scripts for Happy Valley to see how Bafta winning TV is written and get inspiration from CSI writer Ed Whitmore.

Start your script with the BBC Writersroom: Script Gym


Please note that The BBCWritersroom team will set you Script Gym challenges each month, but we will not be involved in reading or giving notes.

You can also join the other Mixital writing communities, including Doctor Who and Class.