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Author Topic: Research in Crime, or "Never lets facts get in the way of a good story"  (Read 5391 times)
norby
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« Reply #30 on: August 30, 2006 »

Oh I know what you're saying.  My husband was Military Intelligence for seven years.  His job was to predict enemy response to various types of attack.  He can identify pretty much any type of weapon there is.  He is impossible to watch any sort of movie that involves anything to do with the military.  Or ambushes.  Or tactical maneuvers.  Or guns.  Or raids. 

What's worse, I've picked up enough tidbits of knowledge from him that I find myself criticizing the same things he does.  And I've never been in the Army. Undecided
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Sandra mre
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« Reply #31 on: August 30, 2006 »

Oh, I hear that Norby!  Kevin's former military too, and even watching basic stuff with him is a nightmare.  Between him critiquing guns and weaponry, and firefighter shows, and me moaning and groaning about cop shows, we're a nightmare to watch TV with.  I mean, I enjoy Law & Order and I loved Lenny Briscoe, but the way he held a gun?  It's laughable.  If you've ever fired a gun, I don't have to explain it to you.  Arm dangling down at your side, hand held up just enough to have it pointed in the general direction - you weren't planning on using that thing, were you?  Roll Eyes

Biggest thing that gets stretched on anymore is that it typically takes 40 days to get an autopsy report back - sometimes longer.  For the purpose of a story you often have to accept that lie of fiction - I felt I needed to make an excuse to justify having tests rushed, and I'm still certain someone will find that unacceptable.
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chelbel
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« Reply #32 on: September 01, 2006 »

Sandra, if you didn't rush those tests you'd have 40 days of padding to conjour up...  id rather you put a rush on any day.
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moneill
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« Reply #33 on: September 02, 2006 »

Oh I know what you're saying.  My husband was Military Intelligence for seven years.  His job was to predict enemy response to various types of attack.  He can identify pretty much any type of weapon there is.  He is impossible to watch any sort of movie that involves anything to do with the military.  Or ambushes.  Or tactical maneuvers.  Or guns.  Or raids. 

What's worse, I've picked up enough tidbits of knowledge from him that I find myself criticizing the same things he does.  And I've never been in the Army. Undecided

Norby but how is he with Mary Shelley or Jane Austen?  Or, for that matter, the way women talk in Martin Amis's books?

j/k
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jensmunster
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« Reply #34 on: September 08, 2006 »

This IS an interesting thread. And it will be even longer, as there of course is no final answer to the question.

It is a question of taste, as many have pointed out. It is a question of the reader’s education – of course you get irritated, if the writer gets the details of your line of work wrong, whether you are an artist or a scientist. And of course you have to accept that even facts have to apply to story, plot and characters.

Could it be a question of the writer’s intentions? If he wants to make up a credible (though still fictional) reality he has to make use of accurate details to a certain degree. In criminology technical evidence is very dominant in our time – just think of the DNA-possibilities. A credible, realistic crime fiction of today will have to deal with this fact –and the writer probably will have to research a lot of forensic subjects.
If your intention as a writer is to base your crime fiction on other fields than forensic evidence, you may have to leave out the element of police altogether – put you characters on a lonely police-free island, or start off with killing the only policeman around. Or the police will appear unreasonably stupid – which of course also could be a writer’s intention. Well…

But of course you do not have to know every detail of hacking into another person’s computer to write about it. Nor write every detail even if you know how to do it. A crime novel should not be a hacker’s manual – not for ethical reasons, but for the reasons of entertainment. Maybe some wrought or plain wrong details of hacking might offend your hacker-readers – but they will be few and they will have to tolerate it, for reasons of entertainment. I guess most policemen shake their heads on reading most of the crime fiction around.
Credibility in fiction can only be measured within the chosen realm of the writing (I hope this makes sense – I am Danish and not exactly fluent in your language…). Only if you claim to be accurate – like in documentaries – you have to be.

Being credible is not always being accurate. Nor is being accurate always being credible…

With kind regards

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PracticeJack
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« Reply #35 on: September 08, 2006 »

Oh I know what you're saying.  My husband was Military Intelligence for seven years.  His job was to predict enemy response to various types of attack.  He can identify pretty much any type of weapon there is.  He is impossible to watch any sort of movie that involves anything to do with the military.  Or ambushes.  Or tactical maneuvers.  Or guns.  Or raids. 

What's worse, I've picked up enough tidbits of knowledge from him that I find myself criticizing the same things he does.  And I've never been in the Army. Undecided

thats so cool
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norby
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« Reply #36 on: September 08, 2006 »

Oh I know what you're saying.  My husband was Military Intelligence for seven years.  His job was to predict enemy response to various types of attack.  He can identify pretty much any type of weapon there is.  He is impossible to watch any sort of movie that involves anything to do with the military.  Or ambushes.  Or tactical maneuvers.  Or guns.  Or raids. 

What's worse, I've picked up enough tidbits of knowledge from him that I find myself criticizing the same things he does.  And I've never been in the Army. Undecided

Norby but how is he with Mary Shelley or Jane Austen?  Or, for that matter, the way women talk in Martin Amis's books?

j/k

He has no interest in those.  Mary Shelley, maybe, but the others would get the "I'm watching this because I love you and I'm humoring you" look.
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Sarah H
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« Reply #37 on: September 11, 2006 »

Quote
By way of example, let me name and shame Dan Brown, who among other daft ideas stretched readers' credibilities to overload when one of his 'heroes' jumped out of a helicopter with no parachute and made it safely to the ground (or water, as it turned out). Could it have been done? Very unlikely. Does anybody care? Not Mr Brown, that's for sure.

On a side note here, I know of a guy who fell out of an army helicopter wearing a 50lb backpack and was saved because he landed in a river. However, as he couldn't swim, he nearly drowned...

I think that is what you call a bad day...  Smiley
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Murf
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« Reply #38 on: September 19, 2006 »

This is brilliant. I log on to Mark's forum, intending to pose a question on whether it matters if crime fiction gets the science wrong, and I find you guys are already way ahead of me! I'm preparing a talk on the subject, and I must say that all your comments and thoughts have been both stimulating and entertaining. Thanks!

Here's my two-penn'orth: research is important for all kinds of reasons - not just because it means you get your facts straight. It opens up new possibilities for plot, introduces the writer to characters, situations and ideas, and it both gives the writer an authorative 'voice' and the confidence that s/he knows what s/he's on about. But writers should use far less in their fiction than they know, or have learned in their research. Less definitely is more, in this instance - I think the reader wants verisimilitude, not a text book. As DarkDoug wisely says, 'Good writers are selective.' What a writer is trying to do is to seduce the reader into a make-believe world. If it's based in reality, then the reality damn well better be right, if it isn't, it will jar the reader out of the fictional world, and may even cause them to stop reading in disgust. But too much information can have exactly the same effect.

I read somewhere on the Web - don't know how true it is - that Conan Doyle, and more specifically Sherlock Holmes, is credited with popularising fingerprinting, and giving it credibility in police investigations. But even he got it wildly wrong on occasions - in The Speckled Band, he has a snake responding to a whistle, and being trained using a saucer of milk as a treat. Hm...
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FagAshLil
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« Reply #39 on: September 19, 2006 »

Hi every-one!

I agree that the writing shouldn't insult the readers intelligence by being obviously unbelievable or bore them to death with lots of technical jargon. At the end of the day it is striking the right balance that ensures that all included information is relevant to the story and enhances the tale.

Although it may be ideal to write about a subject that you are knowledgable about and have experience of, this isn't always possible -or interesting. Certainly no-one would want to read a novel about my life experiences!

I think the important message is that you shouldn't let the facts get in the way of writing the story - or you may never start! Start writing, check the facts later - and rewrite where necessary!

 I'm pretty sure I read that this is what Minette Walters does when she is unsure of her facts and also that she gets most of her info from TV programmes. It doesn't seem to have done her any harm!)

These are my thoughts anyway. There again, I've just started my first novel, so what do I know?
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Jayne
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« Reply #40 on: September 20, 2006 »

Hello! Welcome to the forum - I hope you enjoy it. Smiley
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PracticeJack
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« Reply #41 on: September 26, 2006 »

personaaly i would come up with the story outline first and tailor the facts to suit the story... I like realism in my books but at the end of the day... ITS A WORK OF FICTION IT DOESNT REALLY MATTER
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