And You Thought Research was Dull?
So, do you really believe novelists just make stuff up? After all, they call this fiction. We don’t know how it’s really done, so we fudge?
Well, that would be the easy way out, but truth is, novelists HATE those letters you write us that point out Ash Wednesday and Easter do NOT occur during the same week (I knew that!), or our heroines really can’t have a certain bust size and be the height and weight we claim (a good writer friend got that one recently, complete with charts.) Given that none of us want to make errors, a lot of research is necessary.
Before I began my mystery series, among other things, I participated in two citizen police academies, one in Ohio and one here in Virginia, to help with accuracy. Aggie Sloan-Wilcox is an amateur sleuth, but she does encounter Detective Kirkor Roussos in every book, often at the local police station. So police procedure is important, although not a major part of any of the books.
Still, more information is always valuable, so when I learned that the Mad Anthony Writer’s Conference in Hamilton, Ohio was going to have a two day writer’s police academy last week, I decided to go with my friends Casey Daniels and Serena Miller and see what new information I could pick up. After all Aggie is thoroughly rooted in Ohio, and the more I know about Ohio policing, the better.
I just returned, and let me say, I am exhausted. I’ve never been to a busier conference. We saw canine police demonstrations (see above), toured the police station and the morgue (I promise I did NOT take photos of everything I saw there), witnessed a felony police stop staged by several of our presenters–all real cops and most real authors, too–and took classes on handcuffs, SWAT teams, non-lethal weapons, body language and expressions, interrogations. . . I could go on and won’t.
The conference was relaxed and fun, the presenters were more than generous in what they were willing to share, and get this. . . the food was good. When was the last time you’ve been to a conference that did all those things well?
Will I use what I learned? You bet. But I have to confess, now I’m afraid to go back and look at the final scene in one of the novels I’ve already published. Did I make the mistake that Lee Lofland claims too many of us have made? I knew better. Still . . .
This much I can tell you for sure. If I did make a mistake, I won’t make it again. I know so much more than I did last week. Now to write that next mystery and share what I learned with you.
I’m so glad you guys had a good time and learned a lot. We certainly tried to make that happen. We especially tried to aim our presentations and demonstrations toward writers and their work. I hope to see you again next year.
Thanks to you Lee. For anyone who wants a funny, insightful instructor, Lee’s the guy.
Funny? Me? Getoudahere…