Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Between The Pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins


    In past columns I’ve stressed the importance of accuracy when writing fiction, particularly crime fiction. One of the basic rules in writing mystery novels has always been, “Get the gun information right.”

    For some reason the film industry garners a lot of slack when stretching believability but the written word is held to a much higher standard. Perhaps it’s because movies provide the viewer with a visual image designed to evoke an emotional response that overrides logic. An author can only hope to provide a mental picture.

     I have personally spent several hours following twisting paper trails just to find facts that might only be needed to support one paragraph or one sentence.

    One example comes to mind and that would be the description of a crime scene, murder to be specific.

     My killer was a methodical, calculating murderer and in order to achieve a realistic picture, the crime scene needed to reflect the personality of the perpetrator.

     I attended a lecture on Criminal Personality Profiling given by James T. Reese, Ph.D., FBI retired. Profilers analyze the physical evidence at the crime scene to piece together a picture of the killer’s personality. If the body is hidden or has been moved it might indicate that the killer was an organized person, above average in intelligence and in a controlled mood during the commission of the crime. If there has been no attempt to conceal the body and the scene is in disarray, it may well mean that the murderer is a disorganized type, in an anxious mood and socially immature.

    The character that I had created is a very organized and scheming person, everything he does is planned carefully. It was important that the crime scenes agree with his personality. It’s okay to take a few liberties as long as you don’t stretch things to the breaking point.

    Research can make or break your story and it’s not necessarily an unpleasant chore. Most of the writer’s that I’ve talked to welcome the chance to go hunting for facts because it gives them a change of pace.

    Thorough research is just one of the many factors that go into making of a successful story. It’s one of my favorites though.

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