Have you ever been totally engrossed in a
story and come upon a passage that left you thinking “What?!
That could never happen!” Sometimes
we authors take a little too much creative license, thinking no one will
notice, or simply don’t know what we’ve just written can’t really
happen outside of “Hardy-land”.
In the interests of getting all those little details right, here
are a few of the most common mistakes made in writing crime stories:
Don’t confuse ballistics with firearms identification.
Ballistics is the study of the trajectory of a bullet, not the
identification of the gun the bullet came from.
Bodies are seldom outlined in chalk or tape because they may have to be
rolled over. Chalk markings or
tape may be used when the victim is found outdoors, when someone has been
struck by a vehicle, or when the victim has fallen from a great height.
“Take him downtown for questioning” is a cliché that should be used
with care because a suspect can refuse to be questioned.
If the suspect refuses to be questioned, there isn’t anything the
officer can do except detain the suspect while checking for outstanding
Don’t have your investigator pick up a suspect weapon by inserting a
pencil into the barrel. Doing
so might contaminate any of the victim’s blood spatterings inside the
barrel and could also affect the rifling, thus compromising later
comparisons made in the police lab.
Don’t have your investigator put weapons and similar pieces of
evidence into plastic bags – plastic sweats, and any prints on the
article could be damaged. In
most instances paper bags are used to collect physical evidence.
Keep crime scene personnel to a minimum.
In real life, anyone not essential to processing the scene is kept
away. If that is not possible,
have your characters use a trail already examined by a criminalist.
If your story needs a red herring (other suspects to investigate before
the perpetrator is caught), develop them so they are
not easily dismissed by the reader.
Give them good motives, opportunity, no alibis and depth of
key to accurate writing is to keep looking for the right answers – not
just any answers or even good answers.
You need answers that will amaze your readers and keep them asking
Crime Writer’s Reference Guide 1001 Tips for Writing the Perfect Murder