Thursday, October 23, 2014

Homicide detective murders romance novel plot

Hello everyone! I don't know if you remember, but in September I posted about the Citizen's Police Academy (CPA) class I was taking. You can check the post out here, but to summarize: the Durham Police Department offers an introduction on all its many pieces and parts that runs for six weeks. You learn about everything from the bicycle unit to forensics and it's awesome. If your police department offers one, you should take it.

The last day of the class was October 2nd. I missed it (because I had to work), but I got my certificate and a nice photo at the second-to-last class.


Now I'm applying all the research to my writing. The results have been messy.

When people ask me about my process and my research, I tell them that I research as I write and that's true. Usually that serves me fine. Usually I have enough understanding to sketch the basics of a plot and scene to fill in later with details as I do more and more research.

Yeah. That's not working with this book.

I knew television cop dramas weren't accurate. I knew I only had the foggiest idea what an actual police department did and how a homicide was investigated. I knew all this and I had a detailed sketch of my novel anyway. Because how off could I be? This method had worked for me for five other books.

Then I talked with a homicide detective about the specifics of the book I was working on and he murdered the plot. Shot the poor thing dead. 

So now, instead of writing, I've been revising the plot to fit the actuality of police detective work. And it's a messy process.


The left notebook is my notes from both the detective and the CPA class. There's a laptop in the upper right with what I had of the book open so I can go through it scene by scene.The bottom notebook has a new detailed outline of each scene (with some scenes deleted and others added) to make what I'm writing fit the real world. And there are post-its to remind me not to forget to account for something later in the book.

I have an office and a desk, but for some reason all this is taking place at my dining room table.

Here's a little excerpt from the book. I tried to find an excerpt that wasn't going be modified with my research and wasn't successful. The feeling of the book will stay the same and this should give you a good sense of the feeling the book starts out with.
Every Wednesday at eleven o'clock in the morning, two things happened in Detective Howie Berry's cubicle. First, the weather radio beeped and a scratchy female voice sounded out a test. The all-clear was always immediately followed by phone call. The bustle of the room would halt—as if by the magic they claimed not to believe in—and then Howie would strain to hear the words of another scratchy, hard-to-understand female voice through the phone.

I'm curious about what you guys and gals think of police departments in books and on television. Do you read a lot of romance novels with cops in them? Does the representation of the police in romance novels fit with your expectation and does your expectation come from personal experience or (like me) from cop shows on television?

4 comments:

Mary Preston said...

This would be fascinating, even to me the non-writer.

Natalija said...

Great post! Loved it.

Jennifer Lohmann said...

The class was fascinating--and it was offered for the community. There were people in it for all kinds of reasons. I'm so glad I took it!

And thanks for the compliments about the post.

Claire McEwen said...

That sounds so interesting! My experience with police comes from working closely with them when I was a junior high principal in a neighborhood where the kids faced a lot of challenges. I had students who were on parole or who committed crimes on campus. I gained a lot of respect for many of the officers. Most of them were so kind and patient with the kids, sometimes more than I was!

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