Sunday, August 18, 2013

Keeping It Real


Today homicide/narcotics detective and author of a new mystery is my guest.  Please welcome C. L. Swinney.
 
Author C. L. Swinney
Author C. L. Swinney Is Keeping It Real:
 
I was a reader far before I became a writer.  I read quickly and often finish a book in a day or two.  My favorites are mystery, suspense, and thrillers.  But, I’ve got a bone to pick with crime scenes portrayed in many of these books today.  I see many people get poor reviews for their work because they make a crucial mistake when writing about a crime scene.
 
First, I’ll add my “expertise” in this topic.  I’m currently a homicide/ narcotics detective, been so for five years, and I’ve been in law enforcement for almost fifteen years.  I’ve investigated everything from street level drug dealers to cartel leaders.  I’ve wiretapped people’s phones and listened to things that would make your blood boil.  My point, I know what a cop, investigator, detective, fireman, coroner, evidence tech, and all other folks would or should do at a crime scene because I’ve been to hundreds of them and investigated most of them.
 
Here are my tips: 
 
A)              A clever girlfriend/reporter/significant other that happens to be dating your protagonist wouldn’t walk through a crime scene, manipulate evidence, then walk out without being handcuffed and stuffed in a patrol car.  Crime scenes are sacred grounds, you do things like this in a novel and people who know what should really happen will find it hard to believe.  This attacks your credibility.  I get fiction “isn’t real,” but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be believable.
 
B)               Every single element and angle of a crime scene is labeled, photographed, cataloged, processed, photographed again, and collected.  In major scenes, evidence technicians will do this, not a beat cop.  If you want to use the beat cop, you need to explain (or better yet, show) why s/he is doing it instead of the expert.  Readers of suspense, thriller, and mystery novels are educated and find it misleading when an author cuts out some or most of these steps.  If the evidence scene isn’t important, take it out all together.
 
C)               Within the yellow lines of a crime scene, the atmosphere is somber and the people working are focused.  Too many books have people smoking and joking next to a dead body.  A real law enforcement official wouldn’t do that.  Investigating tragedy and death is not a funny matter.  We take it very seriously and owe it to the victim to remain professional.
 
D)              When writing a crime scene, stick to common sense actions or feelings by your characters.  For instance, don’t have a hardened detective whose “seen it all” pass out or freak out when s/he sees something bizarre at a crime scene.  Most cops with any time on have “seen it all.”  Experienced cops have been through hairy situations causing them to digest bizarre, gross, heinous, whatever you want to throw at them with ease.  I don’t even blink when I see that kind of stuff.  It’s sad really, but it’s also the truth.  If you want to say your character is shocked or caught off guard, show why that is.  Detective X’s faced turned white as the coroner lifted the sheet revealing his brother.
 
 
I am a fiction writer but I spend a lot of time trying to make the overwhelming majority of what I write realistic.  I feel it adds to the story and I owe it to the reader to take pride in my craft.  So please, when you want to include a crime scene in your novels, make an effort to avoid the pitfalls I’ve listed above.  I think you will find your story will be better and people will talk about how you nailed it!
 


While on a fly fishing vacation to Andros Island in the Bahamas, narcotics detectives Dix and Peterson discover their fishing guides were killed when a sudden blast of gunfire fractured their speedboat, Gray Ghost. Local gossip has it that Gray Ghost went to the ocean floor with a hundred million dollars worth of cocaine in the hull. Dix and Peterson are drawn into helping their island friends, and chase down leads in Miami as well as the Bahamas until they identify the diabolical plot of the man known only as The Caller…and then the trouble really starts.
"When two Miami narcotic officers take a fishing trip to the Bahamas, they can't leave the drug world behind...Deftly told by the author, detective and avid fly fisher Chris Swinney, this book will hook any reader of mystery fiction." —Sunny Frazier, author of the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries
 
Links for book:
 
Learn more about C. L. Swinney:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 

21 comments:

  1. Chris,
    Excellent post!
    I was the manager of a sporting goods department for many years and I've sold one heck of a lot of rifles, shotguns and handguns. So, although I'm not an expert, I do know the difference between a revolver and a semi-automatic. It sets my teeth on edge when an author apparently doesn't.

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    1. That's super important Patricia. Drawing on our own experience (if we have it) adds strong credibility to our work!! Thank you for stopping by :-)

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  2. Great advice, Chris. Thanks for your professional know-how. Many writers try to wing it, writing about specialized areas they don't know much about, and it's a mistake. They'd be well advised to consult with a pro, such as yourself.

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    1. Hey John! Hope you are well. I think some writers are nervous about consulting with law enforcement folks, which I totally get. However, my email (or door so to speak) is always open!

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  3. Thanks for helping those of us who only know crime scene investigation from TV shows! I don't know any local law enforcement officers, so could I just contact the police station and ask for help? I do want to get it right, but my resources are currently limited to the Internet. Yikes! Great post. I have your book in my TBR queue!

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    1. Sharon, you can ask me anytime about questions. I've helped people like John Brantingham and Sunny Frazier (both prolific researchers and Sunny was in the bizz for awhile). You can ask the locals, and you may just find some who will help. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you like Gray Ghost.

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  4. Great advice and tips. Copied and saved them for reference. Good luck with you book.

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    1. Thank you Earl. I hope something helps with you latest WIP. Have a terrific day.

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  5. Thanks! Common sense and expertise go a long way towards authentic sounding books without too much techie jargon. Enjoyed this post.

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    1. I couldn't agree more Vonnie. I like clean and to the point!

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  6. I usually ask my hubby about guns and self-defense stuff, but since you've offered, Chris, you may be getting a lot of stupid questions from me. Glenn will be thrilled I'm not bugging him for information every ten minutes.

    Great blog. Thanks for being my guest. Grey Ghost is on my TBR list for this fall also.

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    1. You've got an "inside source" then!!! I hope you do ask me stuff! I'm here to learn and help. THANKS SO MUCH for this great opportunity.

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  7. Excellent advice, Chris. There's a lot of good information available on the Internet and from books. But getting it from a professional is even better, especially when they throw in little extras like personal stories. Grey Ghost is also on my TBR list.

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    1. I agree the internet is a wealth of knowledge. I'm a fan of using the internet, to a point, then I want to talk to live people to really hit upon details. I hope you like Gray Ghost. I loved your Sooner Than Gold!

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  8. Great post, Chris, but I would expect no less. As others, I've copied your tips so that I don't make a mistake in future books. I'm starting on Gray Ghost next week. Looking forward to it.

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    1. Thanks Jim. You appreciate finer details in your writing so you get what i'm talking about. The stories are good, but can be made great with a little more effort. Take care buddy!

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  9. Adding my thanks for the great advice. I think I've managed to avoid all of those in my own books, but it's good to be reminded of them. I know I stopped reading one book a while back when the police detective let a civilian touch the body and remove something from a pocket, and no one seemed to have any problem with it. Yes, it's fiction, but it's not good fiction when things like that jerk the reader out of the story.

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    1. I wonder if we were reading the same book when I finally snapped!!! It's not like I'm re-inventing the wheel, just was hoping to gently remind some folks about the importance of credibility in our stories. So many readers ask me "is this right" that I know it is important to them. If it's important to the reader, it should be important to us. thanks for the comment!

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  11. This is just great, Chris. So much great information for mystery writers. One of my students retired from being the chief of homicide for a large New York county. I edited his first novel and read so much about crime scenes. Not that I could remember all that if I decided to write about one myself. Thanks for sharing these important details -- for the writer and the reader.

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