Many years ago, writers could make up just about anything about anything they wanted for their books. Those days are long gone!
The reader and the jury pool are both knowledgeable today are sophisticated about police procedure and scene of the crime. This is due to many shows like CSI, the Law and Order Series as well as the forensics shows on TV and the many books now available to authors and the reading public.
And, if you watch all or many of them as I do, for heavenís sake do not rely on these series alone for your mystery. Get your facts correct.
For a number of years I worked in canine search and rescue. I worked in recovery-finding dead bodies. So, I am knowledgeable about the internal workings of a rescue search, dog training and the facts about recovery.
I canít count on fingers and toes the television scene when the dogs are on the trail of a dead person and they search right in front of the camera and the lead characters.
Once in the TV show I watched, there must have been about five dogs all working within 15 feet of the lead TV investigators and one of the dogs finds a dead body just within four of where the actors were standing.
Trust me if a dead body in various stages of decomposition were that close to the characters, they wouldnít have needed a dog, the characters should be able to smell they wouldnít need a search dog.
I wanted to scream to a script writer who conveniently added a dog into the scene without taking a moment to research how they work. The use of the dog was totally wrong and I knew other members of NASAR were also screaming. (NASAR-National Organization of Search and Rescue)
And your reader will scream, if you donít take the time to fully research your book.
In my library I have any number of crime related books from Scenes of the Crime with photos to books on poisons, forensics, the whole Whodunit Series and murder. (If anything ever happens to my husband and the cops get one look at this library, Iíll be in jail faster than I can say, ďthey are only for research.Ē)
At one time an author had to go through thousands of books on research; today the internet gives this information at our fingertips and in many times visuals with music and sound.
To make my press conferences real in my books, Iíve logged in many hours of watching police press conferences and combined the information I gleaned into the scene I was writing.
In my current work in progress, I needed to fine tune elements like how to eat a crawfish, how to Cajun dance and a voodoo ceremony. All are now available on u-tube and online. How the internet has changed our lives!
Getting it right is priceless and will increase your readership.
Letís not forget the library and our tireless research librarians. They are a valuable source of unsung heroes who will answer your questions and send you in the right direction.
If you have read the books, researched online but still not sure, about an element in your book, call your local police, fire departments or local university. Most departments have a public relations department or a media specialist. Identify yourself as an author and I can assure you, these agencies will be delighted to hear from you and will help you get the facts correct.
Also, take advantage of the experts at writerís conferences. Sleuthfest,for instance offers a forensics track with an opportunity to listen to the experts on firearms, medical examiners and FBI. Sleuthfest is held each year in South Florida around February/March, its one of the best conferences for mystery writers.
Check out Writers Conference near you and if you are put in charge of a local conference why not invite the medical examiner or local FBI Special Agent.
I believe it is true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Do sloppy research in your novel and your reader will never buy another book of yours again.
Iím closing with a number of organizations that I recommend you.
These organizations for writers have a wealth of knowledge that is shared and conferences to hear authors like myself discuss various elements in creating the novel.
To locate local, regional conferences or groups contact the following via the internet. These are a few of the organizations, I am a member of and recommend to you:
Romance Writers of America
RWA- online Kiss of Death Chapter
Mystery Writers of America
Sisters In Crime
International Thriller Writers, Inc. -ITW.
You canít go wrong in adding to your own crime library with any number of wonderful books for writers. Look into Writerís Digest Books for great books on writing.
Feel free to ask any questions on research today or tell us your experiences in getting it right in your novel.
Tomorrow we will be covering how to create an ending that satisfies.
Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!
Excellent post and advice! I make every effort to get even the smallest fact correct and I have been known to pick the brains of those who know what I don't. In my case, it helps to have dozens of cousins including a LEO who provides police background facts for me!
Leeann, I am so delighted to see the very comprehensive research you are doing! Bravo!
Another book, I like to recommend is When You Are the Only Cop in Town by one of my favorite authors, Debra Dixon.
I can't wait to read some of your books, Leeann, thank you so very much to commenting on this very important aspect of "getting it right."
Oh goodie, I'm glad I'm not the only one that has a few questionable books in my library. I'll have to check out a few of the groups you mentioned, as I know I can use them for my WIP. I'm already a member of my local chapter of RWA.
Telly, definately check out the RWA's online chapter, the Kiss of Death.
Its excellent with two classes a month on all sorts of subjects!
Definitely! I love to do research, but the hardest problem I have is going to talk to someone, when a phone call will not suffice. I'm legally blind and do not drive, so any research I can glean from the Internet or library is a plus.
Telly, you can also email the professionals.
But sounds like you are doing very good resources as it is, so make sure you are satisfied with your research and the reader will be too!
Fantastic, you are an inspiration! Linn