Crazy Wall Memoir Writing

Crazy Wall is the catch-all term for the boards on which investigators pin up and plot out all their clues in crime and spy thrillers, and recently it has become unthinkable for almost any serious TV drama not to have some sort of board for the characters to contemplate as they try to work out the kinks of a theory.

What is a Crime Wall?

A Crime Wall is an extensive space (usually several whiteboards or corkboards grouped together) covered with facts, notes, maps, interrogations, and photos of people, places, and evidence—all placed together on a wall. Much like a Mind Map, a Crime Wall strings together and organizes evidence, linking together all possible connections.

If you are a fan of Vera you have seen her standing in front of a wall. Indeed, if you watch any crime series you have seen the complicated crime walls that the detectives create. In True Detective, Matthew McConaughey’s character Rust Cohle had a storage locker containing all his conspiracy-clutter evidence of a “sprawl” of child abuse and murder, three walls of chipboard, newspaper cuttings, “Missing” posters, vintage video equipment, notes, maps and photographs, all set off by satanic-ritual gear and lit by industrial arc lights.

Kitty the Retro Writer lists some of the things that go on her Crime Wall?

  • Character Sketches – including excerpts from interviews with my characters, and photos drawn from my favorite artist
  • Relevant Newspaper Clippings for reference
  • Picture & Maps of areas I am writing about
  • Symbols, Accessories, etc. included in story
  • Corresponding Notes Post-Its
  • Timelines
  • Story’s Social Structures

Crime Wall Applications

If you feel overwhelmed by the notion of writing a memoir and have no idea where to start you are not alone. It can feel as though you need to have the skills of an investigative journalist or detective to unravel the interconnecting threads.

One strategy to keep on top of this is to create a crime wall of the kind you see in TV dramas. You can get some blu tack and create a board with photos that you may want to put back in the album and then include all sorts of interesting ephemera.

Great for office use, or in your kitchen or bedroom at home, cork boards allow you to quickly and simply pin information up. I set up boards in the toilet of all places and have them filled with lots of cards and priceless bits and pieces that had lain stashed in cupboards and storage boxes.

For more great ideas do check out the Jami Gold article. There are some fun ideas to play with.

One comment

  1. What a great idea. I’m going to start one this week (we’re in lockdown, alas, so plenty of time to play). I will dig out my photos and old letters and see where they take me. It feels good to have like minded people sharing. Bye for now.


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