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ChristineR
05-15-2009, 07:08 PM
I'm having trouble with this in my WIP, and a large part of it is that I just don't know what would really happen. Maybe the answer is that someone knows a good book on the subject.

My MC has discovered a body. She was in a place she really shouldn't have been, and it looks suspicious, but otherwise there is nothing really to make her a suspect (no motive, etc.).

Would she be instructed by the police not to talk about what she saw? Just about everyone wants to know what happened.

When would she be questioned? When would she be allowed to go home? Would she be likely to be arrested and held for a while?

RJK
05-15-2009, 07:27 PM
You haven't provided enough info for me to give you a solid answer. I assume your MC reported her find to the police. Did she have a reasonable excuse for being in this restricted place? Does she know the deceased? What was the cause of death? What was the time of death? Lots of questions need to be answered befor I could answer yours.

ChristineR
05-15-2009, 07:41 PM
She was tricked into coming to the place where the body was. Someone called her and asked her to come. The building was locked; she had to be let in. Phone records will support her claim, but the person who phoned her and let her in is lying about it. My MC calls the police immediately.

The crime scene is the victims office; the office has been ransacked, but nothing obvious is missing. (We find out later what was missing.)

She knew the deceased quite well at one time, but hasn't seen or spoken to him in nine months. However, there's no proof of that, she could have been seeing him secretly.

The deceased had his head bashed in with a blunt instrument, which is also missing. Time of death is about 45 minutes before she gets there. In theory, she could have gone home and faked the phone calls and then come back and "discovered" the body, but this would be dumb, because if she'd done this it would be likely that no one would ever have connected her to the crime.

She has never been romantically connected to the deceased, but he and his wife had separated, so the possibility will come up.

RJK
05-15-2009, 07:50 PM
Your MC received a call to come to the office (legitimate business) She comes to the office and finds the body and call the police.
The detective will want a detailed statement from her and he will verify the phone call.
Yes, he will ask your MC to keep quiet, but has no authority to stop her from talking.
No, he has no reason to arrest her.
The detective will follow up on the phone calls, as they are his best lead as far as I can see from what you've told me.

ChristineR
05-15-2009, 09:11 PM
Okay, that's pretty much how I have things now. Thanks.

smcc360
05-16-2009, 04:38 AM
I was taught to start with very general questions and let them answer however they want, looking for things they focus on, things they skip over, things they repeat, etc. then follow up with more specific questions. Build a timeline, and look for inconsistencies, omissions, and impossiblities.

"Tell me what happened tonight."

"Well, I got a call, asking me to come to his office, and when I came in, I found him lying there like that. So I called the police."

-Who called you?
-How do you know the person who called you?
-What time did they call you?
-What number did they reach you at? Was it the cell phone you called us with? What's the number of that cell phone? May I see your cell phone? Is the call you received still in the call log?
-Where did you come from? Was anybody there with you?
-How did you get here? Did anyone come with you?
-How did you get into the building? Did someone let you in? Who? do you know that person? How do you know that person? Did that person come to the victim's office with you?
-Was his office door open? Was it locked? Do you have a key? May I see that key?
Were the lights on when you came in? Did you turn on the lights?
Didi you touch anything inside the office? What did you touch? Can you show me what you touched?

The whole object for the investigator is to gather the information he/she will need to write a detailed chronological report which answers all the obvious questions the detective will be asked ('What was she doing there?' 'How'd she know the vic?' 'Where's the guy who let her into the building?' 'Did she seem rattled or calm?')

Summonere
05-17-2009, 12:55 AM
Man, this kinda thing happened to Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe all the time. Aside from being greatly entertaining, you could read a few of his books to see how he handled this sort of thing.

ChristineR
05-17-2009, 08:49 PM
I've read Chandler. It usually ended with Marlowe being beat up by corrupt cops, and then having his buddy on the police force help him out, then they let him go with a nasty lecture. While having my petite heroine be punched out by the police might be entertaining, I actually consciously thought I should avoid making the whole thing too-Chandleresque. Don't want to be accused of being derivative. :D

RJK
05-17-2009, 09:11 PM
I agree with Christine for another reason. Chandler was one of the best and was very entertainig, but he wrote in a different era. Cops simply cannot act that way in today's world, nor can private detectives. Today we have new technologies to help us solve crimes, but we have laws and civil moralities to prevent us from taking the shortcuts they used to use in Chandler's day.

Summonere
05-17-2009, 09:27 PM
Hmm, I rather much had the dialogue in mind, as opposed to the pummeling.

Gatita
05-18-2009, 12:12 AM
Having read about a million police interview transcripts (OK, hundreds), I agree with smcc's version of the kind questions that would be asked.

Probably polite questions if the cops had no adverse history with her before this. They would likely not detain her but they'd ask if she's going to be around for follow-up. They might ask her to let them know if she's leaving town.

Of course if the cops don't like or trust her for some reason I don't know about, their tone can get quite nasty or accusatory, or conversely, over-friendly in attempt to catch her in a lie.

In most cases, they'd only detain her if there was overwhelming evidence she did it or she had an outstanding warrant or parole/probation violation when they called in her ID. I'm assuming your character has none of that.

dgiharris
05-18-2009, 12:21 AM
I just wanted to throw this in...

In situations of high stress --Like finding a dead body. Individulas are almost incapable of lying effectively and revert to an almost childlike state with obvious tells/indications.

Remember when you were 7 and just got into the cookie jar. You've got chocolate all over your face, there are cookie crumbs all over the place, and you are trying to come up with an explanation for why this is the case.

Basically, my point?

If your character is trying to hide ANYTHING from the police during this time, it will be obvious to any detective worth their salt. She will stutter without knowing it, she will avoid eye contact, she will try to change the subject. All the while, in her mind she will think she is being 'smooth' just as that 7 year old did.

So if she is trying to hide ANYTHING or fudge any facts, the detective will notice. And what should be of note is that Police, especially detectives get extremely suspicious when someone lies. In fact, the act of lying is more suspicious then the actually lie itself.

Just food for thought

Mel...

ChristineR
05-18-2009, 05:07 PM
My character doesn't lie, but she does have a tendency to mouth off. The main strike against her is that the person who called her and asked her to come to the office is lying (badly, I might add). But I'm thinking that that person has to leave before the police get there, because I don't want her to be thrown in jail, at least not in the first chapter.

RJK
05-18-2009, 05:22 PM
@ Summonere et. al. - Even the dialog of Chandler's day wouldn't fly under the restrictions the police must work under today. Today, the suspect has Miranda rights, and can "Lawyer up." The police can't bluff like they did back in the 40's and 50's.

This is a common mistake with inexperienced authors. They read the old classics and think the cops can still do the things they used to do. It's good entertainment, but not realistic at all.

Summonere
05-18-2009, 06:32 PM
Well, there goes that idea. Maybe I had rather the spirit of the dialogue in mind...

By the way, when does this story take place? Sounds like it must be contemporary, and I'm guessing mid-sized to large city, and that the interrogator is no limb-cracking Steven Segal?

ChristineR
05-18-2009, 07:32 PM
So far it's in a mythical small to mid-sized city in the northern U.S. I'm still thinking about this one, as some of the places are based on actual places but I don't want to imply any real people might be involved. If I give the name of a real street, in a real city, then people will be able to "find" the murder site, for example. The police are nice enough, the real issue is that a lot of people suspect the MC, even though there's not much reason other than that some of them dislike her and the clumsy attempt to make it look like she was involved.

I think the scene keeps coming out boring. By the time the police are involved I've already shown the reader everything that my MC can tell them, so repeating it is pointless. The whole point of the scene was that she's a suspect and she's pretty defensive about it, but really, the police have no particular reason to hassle her about it.

One thing about Chandler and his in-your-face interrogations is that Marlowe is always rescued by the honest cop buddy who promises to keep him in the loop if he shares everything he finds and hands the bad guy over in the last chapter. I was thinking that I could have that sort of dynamic, with the police detective being a secondary character, but looking at it now, there's no clear reason for it and I don't think I really need it.

Summonere
05-19-2009, 09:49 PM
By the time the police are involved I've already shown the reader everything that my MC can tell them, so repeating it is pointless. The whole point of the scene was that she's a suspect and she's pretty defensive about it, but really, the police have no particular reason to hassle her about it.

Aha. Your main character reports a dead body and the circumstances are such that she’s a suspect, she’s defensive about it, and maybe the cops don’t hassle her, but I imagine they’d probably ask some pretty pointy questions, per Gatita’s response…


Of course if the cops don't like or trust her for some reason I don't know about, their tone can get quite nasty or accusatory, or conversely, over-friendly in attempt to catch her in a lie.

…especially since your character likes to mouth off.

So it seems you have at least two ways to approach this. One would be to quickly and boringly mention that questions were asked and the cops let her go.

The much more common one:

Have the cop ask questions in a manner that reveals his growing aggravation through an increasingly and deliberately skewed interpretation of the crime scene, implicating your MC by her presence there. Your mouthy-offy MC could push this scene all over the place. Or not. Depends on what you’re after.

This ploy is used a lot to make more interesting the going-over of details we’ve already seen, added advantage being that it produces two new levels of conflict, one existing in the transaction of dialogue, the other existing in the fear that it generates in the reader that things may turn out badly for the MC, in all kinds of legal ways, if the suspicions turn into stickable accusations. In the absence of any real cause to arrest or detain you character, though, the interrogating cop in question would have to let her go.

P.S. to this, are you aiming for a novel in a realist mode (despite the made-up locale), or something other?

ChristineR
05-20-2009, 05:19 AM
Yes, Summonere, I think that's exactly what I'm after. I think I'm going to have to make my detective more interesting and all-around less helpful.

This is basically a realistic novel, although I have a tendency to get philosophical. The murder takes place in a church, and church and religious conflicts basically drive the whole novel, so some characters interpret events as supernatural.

TheIT
05-20-2009, 10:15 AM
I think the scene keeps coming out boring. By the time the police are involved I've already shown the reader everything that my MC can tell them, so repeating it is pointless. The whole point of the scene was that she's a suspect and she's pretty defensive about it, but really, the police have no particular reason to hassle her about it.


I don't have anything to add about the police procedures, but something to consider writing-wise is whether or not the interrogation needs to be written as a full-blown scene. If you're repeating what the reader already knows and not adding anything new, then perhaps this section should be done in narrative ("She spent three hours talking with the police and ended up with nothing but a headache" or something).

You could show her being defensive in a different manner. Maybe they call her the next day with some follow-up questions and she reacts poorly?