Monday, August 2, 2010

Writing Crime Scene Investigation - Part 2

If you try to please everyone, you’ll actually please no one. When writing you need to write a book that pleases you.

There are multiple choices in how your crime novel can go. Many of the major TV productions use not only the investigation of the crime but the courtroom trial afterwards. If there’s to be no courtroom trial, and you’re simply going to blow the bad guy away then the specifics of an investigation are not near as important.

However, if you do plan on that court room drama, Part 1 will be very important in winning your case. The most important testimony a jury hears comes not from the eyewitness, but from the investigating officers. And a good defense lawyer can twist and turn that testimony until not even the officer is sure of what really occurred during the investigation. And it takes very little to create “reasonable doubt”.

Details or No:

I personally am not a “detail” reader. I like a story that keeps moving, and the color of the wallpaper at a murder scene doesn’t really interest me. I like good conversation between the characters that tells me what’s going on and shows me through their eyes. However, there are thousands of readers who like details. The choice is, of course, your choice. What do you like?

If your detective is a rogue or not a rogue, you’re going to need to follow some of the rules. And you probably need to include at least the crime scene investigation and autopsy in your story. If you’re going to have a courtroom drama afterwards you need to familiarize yourself with courtroom trials, and processes.


You’ve probably heard that term on TV shows, and it springs up all the time in real courtroom trials. Hearsay is anything that you overhear, but have no corroborating witness, in other words, the person who said it isn’t there to say “yes, I said that”. Thus, the missing witness. It doesn’t matter what the witness said to the police officer, unless the witness can be called upon to verify the statement, a defense attorney is going to have that thrown out as hearsay. With one exception.

Death bed statements. It is presumed that someone dying will not lie. I’m not sure why we make that presumption, because it seems to me that if someone were dying and wanted their last act to be harm to someone they hated, then of course they would lie. There are two major rules to a death bed statement being allowed in the courtroom—the person making the statement must know they’re dying, and they must indeed die.

There are great books out there, written by former police officers and forensic examiners. Read them. Familiarize yourself with terms and processes. Don’t assume that the reader of your books will be unfamiliar with those processes.
If you don’t want to invest in books, there are literally thousands of on-line articles and resources available at your fingertips. Google “murder scene investigation New York City” or “crime scene analysis Detroit, Michigan”. I haven’t googled these but I’m sure there are articles written by someone along those lines.

Check your facts. Just because your story is fictional doesn’t mean you can get by with cutting corners on how things really proceed at a crime scene. If you’re going to be inventive, make sure your invention is at least feasible.

All this sounds like a lot of work to write what may be only one chapter of your novel. However, that first chapter is what will pull your readers in, or push them away. Too much detail is boring, too little leaves the reader thinking your character is inexperienced and doesn’t know police procedures.

Have questions, feel free to contact me. If you’d like a critique of your first chapter, feel free to contact me. I love working with new authors.

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