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Jon007
05-31-2008, 06:03 PM
Hi all,

Not sure if this is the right forum for this, but here goes.

Basically, my first novel was post-apocalyptic, and this gave me a whole world to invent. I now feel that I might like to write in the 'real world', but I'm having trouble getting over how things work - for instance, say person A witnesses a murder and he realises the murderer was after him but got the wrong person. First thing he'd probably do is tell the police (this is in the UK) and give them the evidence he has.

But I don't know how the police would react, what sort of questions they'd ask, who'd ask them, etc etc. This isn't supposed to be a crime novel, just a part of an idea that I've been thinking about. Nor do I know how to go about finding the answers to those questions.

So I guess this is a question of research - but, with the scenario above, for instance, how should I go about that research? Phone the police and explain what I'm doing and ask if someone could spare me some time? Ask on forums like this?

Thanks a lot, and hope this makes sense.

EDIT: The easiest way would be to have a character who works for the police and has all sorts of police powers - some kind of Inspector, ala Morse, Rebus, whatever - someone who can go about and puzzle things out (wouldn't be the central character) and give orders like 'I think this person's in danger, let's give him 24 hour police protection' or something. But I'm not confident enough with the accuracy to do that, even when it comes to the 'big' life threatening crimes.

BlueLucario
05-31-2008, 07:57 PM
But I don't know how the police would react, what sort of questions they'd ask, who'd ask them, etc etc. This isn't supposed to be a crime novel, just a part of an idea that I've been thinking about. Nor do I know how to go about finding the answers to those questions.

So I guess this is a question of research - but, with the scenario above, for instance, how should I go about that research? Phone the police and explain what I'm doing and ask if someone could spare me some time? Ask on forums like this?


Try not to get carried away with too much research. As for reaction, think of how a righteous person would think. If you have individual police officer characters, think of how they would react, not a generalized statement of how an officer should react.

Phone a police officer could be a good idea. Just have a set of questions ready for an interview, but don't limit yourself to those questions.

You could try watching a show called 'Cops' or whatever you find in the UK. I was told that it's probably not recommended, but it's great if you want to learn about the world from a cop's perspective.


As for writing books, try to keep in mind that you don't need to know everything about a certain topic, just take what you need and go from there.

Jersey Chick
05-31-2008, 08:04 PM
I don't know how it works in the UK, but here, a lot of police departments have officers who handle PR. You can just call your local deparment and ask to speak to the officer who handles that - they are usually pretty good about it, as long as you're professional about it.

Good luck.

Jon007
05-31-2008, 08:23 PM
Thanks - and I do like the idea of just going by gut feeling, giving a character some power in the police and not worrying too much about whether that's how things would actually work out.

In fact, I love that idea: I'd much rather use my imagination. But I'd basically be making it up, and police procedure may turn out to be completely different from what I've imagined. This strikes me as something I should avoid when it comes to a contemporary novel.

And I don't have individual police officer characters, because of all this - I genuinely don't know what they'd be doing, what the technicalities of their job are.

BlueLucario
05-31-2008, 08:30 PM
Thanks - and I do like the idea of just going by gut feeling, giving a character some power in the police and not worrying too much about whether that's how things would actually work out.

In fact, I love that idea: I'd much rather use my imagination. But I'd basically be making it up, and police procedure may turn out to be completely different from what I've imagined. This strikes me as something I should avoid when it comes to a contemporary novel.

And I don't have individual police officer characters, because of all this - I genuinely don't know what they'd be doing, what the technicalities of their job are.

You could make it all up. Heck, you can have police officers wear Tu-Tu's on the force. It's called world building, and can sometime be really difficult because it has to be believable. There's a worksheet I found on sff.net and Vision. (I forgot the link.)

Jon007
05-31-2008, 08:34 PM
I could make it all up, but I don't really want a 'fantasy' novel. I realise I don't have to be 100% accurate, but... yeah. I guess maybe giving the police a call might be the best bet, get a feel for how things are done.

dpaterso
05-31-2008, 08:34 PM
Try your local nick's community policing officer. And/or if you're a fan of online research, most if not all county or regional forces have their own websites (try Googling), you might find something there.

I'm gonna move this thread to Story Research forum for hopefully a wider set of responses.

-Derek

BlueLucario
05-31-2008, 09:07 PM
I could make it all up, but I don't really want a 'fantasy' novel. I realise I don't have to be 100% accurate, but... yeah. I guess maybe giving the police a call might be the best bet, get a feel for how things are done.
It doesn't have to be a fantasy. I know 1984 isn't a fantasy, but it has some pretty sweet worldbuilding there. The author just made up things that happened during the year 1984, and it was written in 1948.

Linda Adams
05-31-2008, 09:16 PM
Start with the library. You can read some books that talk about crimes committed, personal experiences of police officers. There's a lot of interest in the subject, so it won't be hard getting familiar with it. There are also at least five or six books available for writers on various aspects of police investigations. Just a couple from looking at the main book page of Writer's Digest:

Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation (http://www.writersdigest.com/article/Police-Procedure/)

What a Detective Does (http://www.writersdigest.com/article/Police-Procedure-excerpt/)

I wouldn't make up details as Blue suggests, though--the audience reading books in this category are fussy about the details being right.

BlueLucario
05-31-2008, 09:28 PM
I wouldn't make up details as Blue suggests, though--the audience reading books in this category are fussy about the details being right.

I'm not saying that he should 'make up details', I was telling him about world building. He wanted to find out how a police officer would react to a situation, I told him that if he's making individual characters in his story that are police officers, he should write how those people would react rather than a generalized idea of their reactions. That's not an excuse to not research. Even when your creating some made up world, you still have to research

I agree with your suggestion. I did say that before, until I removed it. I wasn't sure if it's possible to find such a topic in a library.

Read 1984 by George Orwell, like I said it has some excellent worldbuilding.

Jon007
05-31-2008, 09:40 PM
Thanks all for your suggestions (and please continue to give them). As I say it won't be a crime novel, but people do tend to get shot in my writing, and in the present day, I'd like any response to be reasonably accurate...

I'm thinking about No Country for Old Men right now (Cormac McCarthy), he has a sheriff investigating crimes, presumably that sort of thing is accurate? It seems a very simple way of doing things - just a guy thinking about how the person might be killed and following his instincts. There was hardly any 'police procedure' in that at all - is it a reasonably accurate portrayal of how things go, or are several liberties taken?

Cheers

PS. I have read 1984 :)

EDIT: That book you linked is very useful. Any ideas if there's a UK equivalent? Haven't found one yet, I'll keep looking...

---

Website: http://www.jonathandalton.co.uk/
Blog: http://jonathandalton007.blogspot.com/

BlueLucario
05-31-2008, 09:56 PM
I'm thinking about No Country for Old Men right now (Cormac McCarthy), he has a sheriff investigating crimes, presumably that sort of thing is accurate? It seems a very simple way of doing things - just a guy thinking about how the person might be killed and following his instincts. There was hardly any 'police procedure' in that at all - is it a reasonably accurate portrayal of how things go, or are several liberties taken?


PS. I have read 1984 :)


Is that a novel? Using another novel isn't always the best idea if you plan to use it for research. Like Linda said before, try going to the library and see what you can find.

(I'm happy to hear that you read 1984.)

RJK
06-02-2008, 07:08 PM
Jon007:
I'm a retired police officer. If your MC witnessed a homicide, and particularly if the murder were meant for him, The police would be very interested in him. Questions you need to answer:

Was this a crime of passion?
Was it a professional hit?
Does the suspect know he missed his target?

These and other facts will control what the police will do about protecting your MC.

In any case they will want to interview him extensively. You can handle this with a few sentences of dialog such as "I spent the entire evening in police headquarters and they want to see me again tomorrow." Or, you can spend chapters on the investigation, depending on where you want to go with your story.

Jon007
06-02-2008, 09:38 PM
Fantastic RJK, thanks so much for replying. I can say that - at the moment at least (until I know where the story goes) - the main char can think of nothing that would make someone want to kill him. He doesn't know who the killer is, all he knows is that someone was shot next to him and the killer addressed this person with the MC's name before leaving the scene. The police do not know this killer, either.

Given that, could you perhaps suggest a few things the police might suggest or force on the MC? I'm sure it's possible that the MC missheard the killer in the panic of the moment (or the police might consider this, given that the MC can't think why someone might want to kill him) - is it possible the police would send the MC home with some kind of panic alarm, or would they likely suggest greater protection?

As I say, I don't want to labour the point. I don't know much about how the police work and the novel isn't a crime novel - but I do want to keep things reasonably accurate when this sort of event happens.

Thanks a lot! (feel free to PM if this is getting too specific to be of help to anyone else)

WriterX316
06-02-2008, 10:04 PM
I recommend you carefully research this one. Even apocalyptic societies have order. What? Yes its true. Those with power prey on those without it. So if you have a police force that even corrupt they fall upon police ideologies and practices and putting those in makes the reader trust you have some sense of understanding about them. Being a forensic investigator we study case reports of third world countries where such apocalyptic situations occur. Believe me my statement above is true. There is always order and its who has the gun and who doesn't.