1. Holocoz
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    Holocoz New Member

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    Writing a detective story. Quetions.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Holocoz, Feb 2, 2009.

    I'm writing a detective story that follows the general formula of a whodunit...
    1. Someone is murdered.
    2. The police comes.
    3. The detective comes.
    4. Police underestimates detective.
    5. Detective solves the case.

    The following questions have been bugging me:
    1. How plausible/implausible is this scenario regarding the relationship of the policemen and the detectives?
    2. Normally, when someone is murdered, what are the normal steps that are taken?
    3. Any more tips regarding the plausibility/implausibility of a whodunit?

    Thanks!!!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is not research. Seriously, as broad and vague as these questions are, you don;t have much chance of writing a plausible whodunit.

    To start with, a detective is a police rank. If you mean private detective, though, such a person would not be permitted to get involved in an active crime investigation. He or she would lose his or her PI license.

    The readers of the mystery genre know a great deal about the police and the private investigation field. You will need to know more than the average reader of that genre to write plausibly.
     
  3. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    First, pay attention to your spelling, grammar...if your post is an example of your writing skills, you need to work on the basics before thinking about writing a full novel.

    Second, the best way to learn about crime scene investigation and subsequent prosecution is to read both fiction and nonfiction stories about crime. Read as many different authors as possible so you get a feel for different approaches to writing as well as investigative procedures. Here is a list of some established writers in this genre: (my wife is an avid reader in this category and the ratings are hers)

    Rated/author names

    Excellent: Lee Child, Stephen Woodworth, Dan Brown, James Patterson

    Very good: Greg Iles, Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, John Sanford, Tami Hoag, Robert B. Parker, Robert Parker (the "Parkers" are two different authors)

    Good: John Lescroart, Jonathan Killerman, Tony Hillerman


    In addition to reading the fiction by the authors above, study things like the OJ Simpson murder investigation and trial. Find other high profile cases and study them as well. You might keep track of the ongoing murder investigation of Casey Anthony...the Florida woman who is being accused of killing her young daughter, Caylee.
     
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  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're too young to know the best of the best, salty!?

    chandler and hammett for PI's
    wambaugh and mcbain/hunter for cops

    and too many more to have time to list right now...
     
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Onion Fields by Joseph Wambaugh was excellent.

    ...but didn't all those "old guys" write long before "modern" technology entered crime scene investigation? LOL

    big hug for calling me "young".
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd also recommend getting to know some real life police officers, to get an insider;s view.
     
  7. Mcarpenter
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    Mcarpenter Contributing Member

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    Sherlock Holmes is about all I read in that 'genre'. He was a detective not associated with the police and his stories almost follow your format. I would make one adjustment however.

    1. Something bizarre happens to send someone running to Holmes for help.
    2. Often someone is murdered along the way.
    3. which leads to police involvement.
    4. The detective arrives on the scene.
    5. Police underestimates detective.
    6. Detective solves the case.

    Sherlock was a full CSI team before CSI was even invented. :D
     
  8. Holocoz
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    Holocoz New Member

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    I've already read novels by Christie, Doyle, Keene, and even Carr. Their characters (Marple, Nancy Drew, Marlowe) are actually the detectives I had in mind, because I'm not interested in the up-to-date investigating methods.

    I am asking these questions because I need to write a short story for my Whodunit Elective here in my university and I suddenly got curious whether or not these detective stories we often read are actually possible in real life.

    Thank you for your replies. :)
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Carolyn Keene is a collective pen name used by the publisher of the Nancy Drew books. There nevre was a Crolyn Keene, or Franklin W. Dixon, or Victor Applegate. They were all pen names used for the writing group that produced The Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Hardy Boys Mysteries, and The Tom Swift Adventures, respectively, a writing group founded by Edward Stratemeyer. Although there was some consultation with law enforcement personnel over the decades these books were in existence, mone are particularly reliable or realistic portrayals.

    I grew up with those books. Altough they were very entertaining, and contributed to my interest in fiction, they really are not a very good model for writing whodunits.
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fascinating! I never knew that. It's always a good day when I learn something new....thanks Cog.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that!

    and as for 'carolyn keene' and the hardy boys' author/s, i read all of those in my early childhood [back in the 40's, kids!] and learned not long thereafter that they were team efforts... didn't spoil them for me, though... anyone else remember 'the twisted candles' or the 'somethingorother staircase'?... ah, the innocence of the 'olden days'!
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Hidden Staircase?

    I have a couple large cartons of those series from my childhood, and even a couple of the original version Nancy Drews from my mother's childhood. Several of the Hardy Boys books I have original and revised versions. They had just begun updating the books shortly before I began reading them. I used to spend all my allowance and a good proportion of my lunch money at the local bookstore on them.

    I'll hand them down to my kids when they have families of their own.
     
  13. Holocoz
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    Holocoz New Member

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    Yup. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the "woman" whose works I loved reading doesn't really exist.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes!... that's it, cog... btw, i felt betrayed when they 'modernized' nd and her pals... none of the 'new' books could hold a twisted candle to the originals...
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Some of the ND revisions of the late 1960s were so bad they made me wince.
     
  16. Ice
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    I was gonna say, you could just use fantasy or historical fiction (if you know your stuff) if you want to bypass this high-tech crap.
     
  17. Patrick Williams
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    Patrick Williams New Member

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    Forgive me for reviving this thread but I’ve been digging around the site a bit.

    I wanted to address the comment about “the old ways” of criminal investigation and the modern era. Despite what a certain series of television shows that I despise with every fiber of my being portrays, the vast majority of criminal cases are solved not by super duper forensic work but by knocking on doors and talking to people, just as they have for decades. Fingerprints, DNA, and hair fibers are great but only if you have a solid idea who you’re looking for. While eyewitness information isn’t always that great, the information you do get can often lead you to a solid piece of forensic evidence that, taken with everything else, nails the bad guy cold. Any moron can get lucky with a fingerprint, but it takes real skill to get someone to finally crack and tell you the truth when they legally don't even have to talk to you. There will always be a place for the old-school methods of criminal investigation.

    One of the biggest changes in recent years is the way suspects are interviewed. Most investigators now use the Reid Technique of interviewing to gain an admission or confession. Also, the hard style interview where you sweat the guy out runs the risk of being seen as coercive and thrown out of court. Most investigators now use the friendly, laid back style that puts the suspect at ease. It’s only after you’ve spoken for a while do you start to become accusatory toward the suspect.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Patrick
     

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