Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of getting your facts right, is brought to you by crime novelist Neil Yuzuk.
Getting It Right (part 1)
Just the facts. ma’am. So what do you write, Neil, what is your genre?
They are Police Procedurals, but they go beyond that genre.
They aren’t Mystery Novels, but they have mysteries in them.
They are not Suspense Novels, but they are suspenseful.
They are not Thrillers, but they have thrills in them.
They are not Romance Novels, but they contain romance.
They are not Action Novels, but they have action in them.
Someone recently asked me, “You’re not a cop, how do you get it right? If a writer can’t tour a police station, how do you describe what it’s like inside? Do you go “Touching Evil” or “Law and Order;” “New Tricks” or “Inspector Lewis;” “Luther” or “Foyle’s War”? Are any of those correct?”
The answer is quite simple, all are correct. You will find those examples and dozens more. It’s almost impossible to be wrong. The things that are consistent are:
1. There is usually a front desk sergeant (or officer) when you walk in.
2. There are temporary holding cells.
3. There are telephone operators/dispatchers.
4. There are locker/bath rooms.
5. There are desks for the detectives.
6. There are typewriters and/or computers on those desks.
7. There are all types of electronic equipment including fax machines, etc.
8. There are weapons lockers.
9. There are evidence safes.
10. There are people: police, support staff, bad guys, witnesses, etc.
If your police station contains the basics, take it wherever your story needs to go. Even without my list, you know what your police station needs, so write what you need. A wealthier department will have more toys and conversely, a poorer department will have less. Wealthy departments are rare. I have the inside track on police work, that most of you don’t have. My son and co-author David is a police officer in southern Florida.
For our series, I created a fictional small city, loosely based on the city where he works. How do you create a city, if you are not an urban planner? We have common knowledge about cities, we know what’s needed. However, your city can be new and shining or old and gritty—it depends on what does your story need.
Beachside is a city in southeastern Florida. It has streets, highways, nightclubs, strip malls, beaches, hotels, restaurants, garbage trucks, condos, a big mall, pools, a fire department, etc. Oh, and I threw in various national chains, CVS, Hooters, et al. I also used real restaurants in their real cities, when my characters travel outside of Beachside. Product Placement—I use real places and products all of the time; it gives a hint of authenticity. When I needed a unique restaurant with a signature dish. The dish was a beef chimichanga and I moved the restaurant, Casa Guadalajara, from San Diego to Beachside.
“Write the Truth”—That’s what Robert McKee wrote when he autographed his book, STORY, for me. I took it to mean get your facts right. Make sure you follow a proper timeline. Make sure your fiction is believable.
The original concept of “The Reluctant Knight” was “Schindler’s List with cops.” If Danny Phillips is going to change from a con-man and womanizing rogue, then it needs to be a series of events that change him from his arrogant ways. I refused to use “Deus ex Machina.” His final epiphany needs to be the result of a series of smaller ones, if it’s to happen, just as it does in real life.
Believability—when Danny has a concussion and broken ribs, he doesn’t leap tall buildings at a single bound the next day. If he was invulnerable, he’d be boring.
Timeline is important in keeping your story straight. You need to be consistent in your facts and characters. I read a novel recently where the author couldn’t keep facts about the characters straight. In three different places, three different reasons for a divorce were given as if each one was the only reason for the divorce. Other times information was presented as if it was new, when we already knew it. It was as if three different people wrote the book without consulting each other, ugh!
The key to getting it right is research and in parts 2 and 3 I’ll take you through some of my steps.
Thank you, Neil. I look forward to parts 2 and 3. 🙂
Neil L. Yuzuk was born in Brooklyn, New York. Now retired after twenty-two years, as a SPARK Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor, he wrote Beachside PD: The Reluctant Knight, after collaborating with his police officer son on a screenplay of the same name. The book was a finalist in the Global eBook Awards in the category of suspense / thriller.
The second book in the series is Beachside PD: The Gypsy Hunter and third book is entitled Beachside PD: Undercover. He has also written a screenplay: Fade To Light. Another book, Zaragossa: Fruit of the Vine is in the works.
Neil and his co-author son David are the authors of the Beachside PD series and their website is http://www.BeachsidePDBooks.com. You can also watch their video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20e_i39GaQA and their print and eBooks are available at Amazon.com.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
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