Some genres allow you to play fast and loose with the facts. Not so much if you’re working on a mystery fiction manuscript though.
Partially, that’s because of the reader base you’re trying to engage. Hardcore mystery fiction bookworms will stop trusting you if you don’t put appropriate details into your characters, dialogue and all-important plot.
“That’s not what real cops would say.”
“A head wound can’t bleed that long without being fatal.”
“There’s no way someone that young could make it to detective.”
I’m guessing those are hardly the reactions you’re going for if you’re writing mystery fiction manuscripts. And not just because you care about your readers. You also care about your own reputation as an author and your dignity as a person.
So here’s a rule to strengthen you, your manuscript and your connection with readers. Though, introverts beware, this might take some guts.
Professional Feedback Strengthens Mystery Fiction
By this, I don’t mean editorial feedback. That’s important for every genre. When it comes to mystery fiction in particular though, you’ll want to call the cops. Or the FBI. During the writing process or even before.
Unless you’re in the crime-solving business yourself, you could hold very inaccurate ideas of what it really involves. So if you don’t want to come across like an absolute rookie, you need to go right to the source. Believe it or not, you’ll probably get a warm response.
If calling the cops or contacting the FBI makes your heart palpitate enough to warrant dialing 9-1-1, take a moment or two to lie down until the panic stops. Then – without getting up quite yet – ask yourself which organization would be more logical to contact.
If your story is about crime-solving FBI agents, then you’re in luck. You might not need to actually talk to anyone.
Once upon a time, while investigating the witness protection program for one of my series, I found myself on some section of FBI.gov that said it would read over FBI-involving manuscripts and let you know where you fell short of FBI reality.
Admittedly, I checked out the website again in preparation for this blog post, and I couldn’t find that mention anywhere. But it’s a really big website with a whole lot of information. So try checking it for yourself!
If your story is about crime-solving cops or heavily involves crime-solving cops, then you’re out of luck if you’re an introvert. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to buck up and call your local department.
To combat any nervous babbling tendencies, write down what you want to say first. Maybe something along the lines of:
“Hello. My name is Jeannette DiLouie. I’m working on a novel manuscript about detective work, and I want to make sure I portray your profession accurately. Would anyone in your department be willing to sit down with me?”
You might feel like an idiot asking that question, but most professions and professionals would love to set the record straight. Whether they have the time to do so is a whole ‘nother matter, but you’ll never know if they do or don’t unless you ask.
Your mystery fiction manuscript will be a whole lot stronger as a result.