Monday 14 October 2019

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Research Matters


I've talked about research before as a crime writer (piece found here) but I wanted to touch on it again because it's something that I think bears repeating, and it's been a while since I wrote that piece and the way I approach things has changed slightly. So settle in and let me tell you a few things I've learned about research and why it matters to the crime writer.

I've read a lot of crime books over the years and one thing that has rung true about all of them, is that they needed facts that might not have been available from just Googling the info. I personally have a couple of people I know in the UK police force that I can go to, just to make sure that what I'm writing has a hint of realism to it. That's not just for my crime books, but for any book that involves an air of mystery. For example, in the Cramping Chronicles series, I needed to know more up to date stuff and different things than I did for the Dying Thoughts series. One heavily used the police force, the other doesn't really have much contact with them. But in both cases, I talked to my contacts and made sure that the facts I was using, were correct, and would stand up to the plot.

This can be applied to a lot of things, writing rules included, but for the purpose of this piece, I'm talking about the actual rules that apply to things like collecting evidence, or moving a body, or what order the officers arrive in, or how cases are divided up. You get the picture. If you need a certain thing to happen in a certain order, then you need to be doing the research to know if there's a reason that can or can't happen. And if it can't, you might be able to work out a way it can, but just be careful with how far off procedure you go because readers will notice that.


This isn't just about research, but it's also a good idea to have a backup plan just in case you find out that your original idea doesn't hold water, or doesn't execute the way you expected it to. This can be having an alternative way for the evidence to lead them to the killer, or it can be a different motive for the crime, whatever you can think of that keeps your story intact but also allows for some wriggle room. I know that when I was writing Dying Thoughts - Eighth Ending, I didn't have a backup plan for the way things went down, and as it turned out in edits, that was a huge mistake as things had to be rewritten and rechecked through my contacts to make sure it would end up working.

When it comes to research, you want to be making sure you're making the most of what you have at your disposal. Whether that's Google, or books, talking to people in the field, or making connections with other crime writers, or Facebook groups that deal with checking facts. I have used all of these as tools to make sure that I have what I need, and I can help other people when it comes to checking their own facts. You need to be sure that you have good contacts and that the utilise all the tools you have, otherwise you might find your story falling short and no one wants that.

I can't tell you the amount of times that I've gone to write something, that I know from past experience is right, to only look or ask and find out that I'm wrong, or the information I was given is only part of the story. So even if you've got a really good contact and you're really sure that everything is correct, always just double check it. It's better to spend a little time doing that, than to find yourself with only part of the truth, or worse, out of date information especially for the time period of your story. It's saved me a number of times, and I know it could save you.

So there you have it, my five tips on why research matters and how to make sure that the research you do is up to date, is correct, and allows you for a little artistic license. Research is a vital part of the crime writing process, but it's also awesome in other types of fiction. Overall, the best thing to do is be diligent and make sure that you have what you need.

Lemme know in the comments your tips on research and the best places you've found for research!

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