Friday, October 28, 2011

Ten Things You Should Never Include in a Crime Novel

by Jean Henry Mead

I discovered an article in my files written by Andrea Campbell for The Writer magazine. It’s titled “10 Things Police Wish [Crime Writers would] Omit" and I’m going to paraphrase here so as not to plagiarize:

1. Don’t have your cops eating donuts. Most eat salads while on duty and they drink bottled water. They also work out to stay in shape, so have them at least mention visiting a gym.

2. Policemen and veteran crime writers hate over-dramatization and not many real life detectives fight over a case. Crime writer Daryl W. Clemens is critical of plots such as the film, “Bloodwork,” where cops have a tug of war over a case that’s taken place on their jurisdiction border. They already have more work than they can handle.

3. Revolver silencers are another point of contention, according to crime writer Barbara D’Amato. She says, “Since the rotating cylinder is not closed, you can’t baffle the gases” or muffle the sound.

4. Alcoholic policeman have been overdone and is another sore point for the police department. Former police officer and crime writer Robin Burcell wonders why so many fellow writers inject alcoholism into their plots.

5. Lone female detectives who search isolated areas without calling for backup is extremely foolhardy, according to writer Susan McBride. Make sure your woman detective alerts her partner or dispatcher of her plans and whereabouts.

6. Never tell a suspect to “Drop it, Pal,” because the gun could discharge when it’s dropped or tossed. Have the suspect place it on the ground and back away.

7. Never have police officers pointing their guns skyward, or what is referred to as “aiming at Jesus.” Police are trained to point a gun out and down, and directly ahead in preparation to discharge the weapon. Also, never have an officer jack a round into the gun’s chamber before entering a building. They always keep a round chambered, even in their holsters.

8. Don’t shatter a windshield. When hit by a bullet, there will be a small hole and spider web effect, even when hit several times.

9. Suspects are no longer called “perps,” unless your police department is located in New York, California, or a few other heavily populated areas. The term isn’t generally used anymore.

10. Police officers are burdened with lots of paperwork so made sure your cop does his or her share. According to Campbell, there’s “paperwork related to the Miranda warning before an interrogation; paperwork that police turn over to medical personnel at a hospital before interviewing a crime victim; and still more paperwork for requisitions and reports."

Readers of crime fiction are pretty savvy about police procedure. So do your research and don't depend on what you've seen in films and on TV. Sloppy research may result in readers passing up your next release in favor of writers who have done their homework.


вебпромо said...

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles.Keep up the good work!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

That was a great post, Jean. The cops in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series solve most everything by old-fashioned police work.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Be6npomo. You've made my day! I hope it helps other flegling crime writers.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Marilyn. The police work in your Rocky Bluff PD novels is very professionally done.

Sheila Deeth said...

What great advice!

Susan Sleeman said...

Thanks for sharing this. As a romantic suspense writer, it's good information to have.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Sheila. It's the small details that trip us up and turn off readers. :)

Jean Henry Mead said...

I'm glad you found the information useful, Susan. I certainly did, especially the donuts and "revolver silencer." :)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Jean, what a terrific article! Thank you. Those of us who write crime and mystery fiction can appreciate these tips.


Jacqueline Seewald
THE TRUTH SLEUTH--available at many libraries

Cozy in Texas said...

Great post. Janet Evanovich said she rode along with a policeman for several weeks to get a good feel for police procedure and actions.

Mike Dennis said...

Bubbling under this top 10 list, eager to make it into the magic circle, should be, Don't ever mention "the smell of cordite." Cordite was essentially a 19th-century product which hasn't been used in ammunition since World War I.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jacueline. Btw, I'm intruiged by the title of your new novel, The Truth Sleuth. :)

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Cozy. I was married to a highway patrolman once upon a time, so I learned quite a lot about police work. Every little of bit of information really helps.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Good tip, Mike. I imagine there are quie a few more tips still floating around out there that haven't been included on the list.

Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for all that info, Jean. I had to laugh about the donut one.

Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...

I did too, Morgan. Talk about a stereotype!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

You know, it really depends. I personally have seen a windshield shatter out after being shot once as well as have personally seen cops eat donuts. We used to have a homicide detective here in the complex who you would have had to beat senseless to get him to eat a salad or work out. he drank beer like I drink water.

Cliches work because there is truth in them.

I remember when the original article came out--as well as the pieces in other mags attacking it later.