This week I went home for the first time in a while and picked up my contributor’s copy of The Best New True Crime Stories: Small Towns. As a reader I am one of a growing number who now prefer non-fiction to fiction. As a writer I enjoy both but cannot envisage a successful collection of short fiction stories about crime in small towns.
In some ways my story about The Carmarthen Mystery would work better as fiction. Then I would be able to delve into the motives of the characters, account for any of their seemingly illogical statements and, best of all, solve the mystery. Thinking about this made me realise that the attraction of non-fiction lies in the unanswered questions.
Fiction writers might leave loose ends to carry forward in sequels but generally their narrative shows what happened and explains why. In non-fiction we recount the events, but may never know why they occurred. Readers and viewers want to keep the mystery going so that they can speculate for themselves.
Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia.