Sure a detective gets to go to crime scenes. But what about the hours and hours it takes to bag and tag the evidence? And every single type of evidence has to be processed a certain way. Guns are processed differently than drugs which are different from blood samples which are different from samples of vomit, etc. etc. etc. Each and every piece of evidence has to be photographed, collected and identified on a property sheet.
Then once that’s done, the detective has to take the evidence and sort it, either for the crime lab, or the evidence section. Does it have to go into the crime lab refrigerator or can it just go into the storage locker?
THEN, the if the detective is lucky, he’ll have time to sit down and write a report detailing every action he took. Who did he talk to? Where did he gather the evidence? How did he gather the evidence? What about the different times the evidence was gathered. With some evidence, the detective has to note the weather, i.e., temperature, wind velocity, wind direction, cloudy or sunny. Who entered the crime scene. Why?
I realize such minutia could really bog down a good story, but what about putting in just one or two of the aforementioned details to make your story more realistic? Go to your local police records section and see if they will allow you to go through an old homicide case. They might not, but maybe they will. See exactly how much paperwork is generated by a case. Then spice up your work! How easy is that?
As a retired cop, and as a writer, especially as a mystery writer, I’ve been privileged to be able to see the lives of some of my characters from both sides of the fence. One fun question I get to play with while I’m populating my stories is whether my fiction is going to mimic real life or do I get to write the real lives of my characters as though they mimic fiction.
There were many, many times when I was handling a call where my partner would turn to me and say “You know, even if we put this into a book, no one would believe it really happened.” I’ve found that to be true. For example, during a writing seminar, I had the opportunity to discuss my books with one of my readers. She was teasing me about what a vivid imagination I had when it came to one of the chapters in the first book of my Credo series. My protagonist, Alex Wolfe, had to go undercover as a prostitute and my reader refused to believe that all of the situations my character found herself in had actually happened to either me or to some of our undercover vice detectives. This is a perfect example where fiction mimics the eccentricities of real life.
On the other hand, I’ve had more than one of my police colleagues ask me whether I’ve ever heard of internal affairs because many of the antics of the detectives in my novels would obviously get a real officer fired. My answer always brings a knowing smile and a wistful nod of their head. For twenty years, I had to toe the line. Heck, I was a sergeant in Internal Affairs for part of my career. One of my great joys as a writer is allowing my characters to act like most officers wish they could act if they were living in a fictional world. It’s very difficult to have to be polite to jerks or to have to call a sweating, foul mouthed idiot sir or ma’am.
What I enjoy even more while I’m writing, is allowing Alex to get even with “superior” officers, i.e. sergeant’s, lieutenants and above, who are less than a credit to their profession. Being a cop on the street is a little stressful but it’s also a lot of fun. Being a cop who has to put up with idiots for bosses is a lot stressful, and no fun. I love allowing my characters to mouth off, or to act unprofessional or even downright juvenile at times. I consider it one of the perks of the writing profession.
So what do you think? Should fiction always mimic real life or should we allow our characters to be a little off the wall and perhaps a little unrealistic? I’d love to hear your opinions on the subject.
I recently received this one from a friend of mine who is a retired marine. He also did a stint in law enforcement in his “civilian life”.
“Hey, about what TV cops do wrong, how about the way the main guy on (TV show omitted, but you can probably guess) hunches over his 9mm when he thinks he’s sneaking up on someone? (Ahem. Looks like a monkey <aheming> a football.) He fires it like that, he’ll need stitches in the middle of his forehead.”
I receive quite a few police pet peeves about the way fictional characters, whether on T.V. or in a book, handle firearms. If you are going to write about a cop using a particular type of firearm, go to your local shooting range and take some lessons. At the very least, ask some intelligent questions.
A writer friend of mine told me about a very embarrassing chapter in his *already published* book where he actually had his character “Pull back the hammer on his Glock.” For you non-gun people, a Glock is a semi-automatic weapon that never did, doesn’t now, and never will have a hammer. He can pull back the slide, charge the weapon, or, if the weapon is already charged, shoot the bastard, but he’ll never “pull back the hammer.”
And speaking about “stitches in the middle of the forehead”, add some color to your book by having the rookie cop tear up the skin between his thumb and index finger in the slide of his Glock because he had his hand in the wrong position when firing, or have the hammer of the bad guy’s Smith and Wesson snap down on the cop’s fingers as she’s trying to disarm said bad guy.
Remember, a poorly educated writer is a great inspiration for hysterical stories at a dinner party, so if you’re writing about guns, get out there and learn from the best.
Owning a business is hard work, and like it or not, being an author is a business. For the most part, an author is responsible for writing a book (hopefully a fantastic book), getting the book to an editor, working the edits once they return, publishing the book and most importantly, marketing. If you don’t market your blockbuster, nobody will know it’s out there.
There are many, many, many ways for a hermit to market her book, and I will try to touch on several of them in the next few weeks. One aspect of marketing that a lot authors seem to neglect is networking. Authors tend to be an introverted bunch so I’ve compiled a list of 5 networking essentials that even the most shy authorial hermit can try.
Networking Tips for the Authorial Hermit
- Here’s one that will put you at ease. Don’t try to network with hundreds of people. Joe the plumber who doesn’t like to read not only won’t pass your card around, he’ll probably flush it down the toilet. Better one good networking buddy than twenty Joe the plumbers. Find a few people who know the business, invite them to tea and pick their brain. I have four or five people whom I can call for advice and who will come running when I call. Why will they come running you may ask…..because of tip #2.
- Always be willing to help other people. The idea of networking is an exchange of ideas. Try to discover what you know that someone else might need. Are you really good at WordPress? A lot of your fellow authors need help with their website. Photoshop? Help someone with their book cover. I absolutely guarantee if you help other writers, help will return to you tenfold.
- Networking is not always face to face (whew, I can see you wiping your brow over that one) Much of today’s networking is done on the internet. Read blogs and if you see someone with a question or a comment that you can help, do so. If someone has information you think might help you, shoot off an email. One major caveat however, keep the email short and sweet. I once received a request for help from someone who sent me a four page letter explaining what he needed. Remember, other people are just as busy as you are. That said, once you have an established networking friend, don’t be afraid to buy them a coffee so you can chat.
- You don’t need to apologize every time you ask for help. Introverts always think they are bothering people and extroverts always think people are thrilled to hear from them. Generally, if you don’t take up too much of a person’s time, they are more than happy to help you over whatever problem you’ve gotten yourself into. Go on, try it!
- Finally, Follow Up! People like to know there is someone out there watching out for their best interest. If you help someone, call or email to find out if what you suggested worked. If they helped you, a quick note to say thanks and to say how much you appreciated their help will do wonders for future meetings.
Thank you for visiting with me as I’m touring with one of my Alex Wolfe Mysteries, Credo’s Hope. I’m traveling across the country as I write this, meeting wonderful people and enjoying the many different cultures and personalities found in each of the charming regions I’m traveling through. Have any of you ever noticed how incredibly friendly the people of the Midwest can be? A total stranger in Oklahoma spent almost an hour of her own time helping me find a pet friendly hotel while a young man in Missouri ran through a farmer’s field after my Chihuahua who’d decided she wanted to take her own tour of the Show Me state. As I drove through the southern states, people with wide smiles and heavy southern drawls were only too happy to repeat themselves as many times as necessary to make themselves understood by my uninitiated ears.
One side benefit to meeting such an eclectic group of people is the shear number of interesting personalities and quirks I can use for new characters in my novels. Take for example the waitress in a small town in northern Texas. We’d pulled into a Mom and Pop cafe on the main street of town. What made this town unique was there were no McDonalds, Subways or Taco Bells lining the main thoroughfare. We had the choice of this clean little place with sky-blue naugahyde booths, old-fashioned music players on each tabletop, and hand printed, laminated menus or a dirty little greasy spoon across the street. We chose the Mom and Pops.
The waitress who met us at the door wore blindingly white polyester pants and blouse with a sky-blue trim that matched the color of the booths. She had a pretty, round face and a sparkling gleam of mischief dancing just behind her greenish brown eyes. Our conversation went something like this:
I pointed to the menu and asked, “So, what do you recommend?”
The waitress smiled, and instead of answering my question, asked one of her own. “You’re not from around here, are you?” She didn’t have the typical small town Texas accent, and if I had to place her, I would have said Valley Girl from California.
“No, We’re from Arizona. Why?”
We were the only ones in the dining room, but she still glanced around to make sure we were alone. Looking back at me, she raised carefully plucked eyebrows, silently expecting me to get her meaning. I raised mine in return, telling her I didn’t have a clue what she was trying to say. Very slowly, and with exaggerated meaning, her eyes slid to the greasy spoon next door. I followed her gaze, and for the first time noticed their parking lot. It was filled with cars and trucks and people standing around both inside and out laughing and jostling each other.
Just about that time, the owner/chef of our clean little diner stepped into the room and all of us turned toward him. The portly man had the same round face as the waitress, except where hers was open and laughing, his was pinched with an angry scowl and lowered, glowering eyes. He didn’t say anything to the girl, just motioned with a little waving flick of his hand for her to hurry up.
“Be right there, Uncle Brett.” She turned back to us as he retreated into his kitchen. Standing there with her pen poised over her notepad, she smiled conspiratorially at me, pointed across the street with her chin and said sotto voiced, “So, that’s what I recommend.” Her eyes sparkled. “They’ve got a killer chicken fried steak and Ms. Porter makes the most wonderful gravy in the world.”
I looked across the street at their full parking lot, then glanced at our lone car sitting in the lot of the cafe looking like a lonely fourth cousin at a family reunion. My attention shifted back to our waitress. “Uncle?”
She looked over her shoulder toward the kitchen, then leaned in to whisper, “He takes all my tips and keeps them for himself. I’m only here for another two weeks then I’m outta here.”
I nodded, stood up thanked her quietly, then sauntered over to the crowded restaurant where I had the most mouth watering chicken fried steak and gravy I’d ever tasted.
And that my friends, is exactly where I get the kinds of characters for my books, such as Credo’s Hope, that have my readers writing to say they wish they could actually be friends with my main protagonist, Alexandra Wolfe and her friends who help turn Alex’s everyday life as a detective upside down.
Amazon Asks Site Owner To Remove Kindle From Domain Name By Steven Lewis | Book Marketing Strategies and Tips For Authors
Today’s post is an important one for you to read on many levels. It goes to the heart of what this blog is about. As you build your brand, the lessons you learn in this post are priceless and will set you ahead of the curve with most authors and others with a web presence.
Recently, a friend and colleague of mine, Steven Lewis, was contacted by Amazon and asked to change his domain by removing their trademarked “Kindle” from his domain name. Can you imagine having to change months, or years of posts and link relationships? When you read this, you’ll realize just what a daunting task this can be.
I approached Steven about sharing his story with us for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that Steven’s site is such a great resource for authors that I genuinely wanted to do what I could to help spread the word of his domain change. But second, this is a rare opportunity for me and my readers to learn, first hand, the “whys” and “hows” of a move like this. You truly have a unique seat at the feet of someone willing to open up and share this amazing experience with you.
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