As a developing writer who is eager to improve his craft, and as one who likes to dabble in the mystery genre, I think one of the most important things is research. I think it would be horrible to have somebody read something I've written and be wrenched out of the story by the realization that what I wrote was inaccurate, incorrect, or a jumble of completely ignorant ramblings.
Yes, what I write is fiction, but it has to be believable fiction in order to hold the reader's interest.
That's where research comes in. I want to try and make things as realistic and as accurate as possible, and so I need to research. Even though I've only been writing a short while, I recognize the importance of research, and think I could probably write a whole blog post about it.
But this isn't that post.
This is instead, about one way I'm currently doing some research, a way that I'm finding fascinating, enjoyable, and one I'd heartily recommend to any writer: Attending a Citizen's Police Academy.
In the town where I live, the local police department puts on a yearly program, open to interested citizens, geared towards learning more about police work. I believe many communities do the same thing, and I would strongly encourage any wanna-be writer to check with your local department and attend one.
Ours is one night a week for three hours over the course of ten weeks, and we're about half-way through. The class is attended by about 20 people, and is covering the topics of:
- Police department organization
- Interaction with the local justice department and prosecuting attorneys
- Professional standards and internal affairs
- Community relations
- Criminal investigations
- Forensics and evidence collection
- 911 call center and communications
- A tour of the facility including the booking center and jail
- K-9 units
- Homicide and cold-case investigation
- Drug enforcement
- Firearms types, care, and handling
- Explosive ordinances and devices
- Defensive tactics
- Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
- Special Response team (like SWAT)
- and a ride-along with a patrol unit.
This class is a fabulous opportunity to meet real officers doing real police work, from rookies to the chief, and the discussions and Q&A sessions are alone worth the price of admission (oh yeah -- and it's FREE!).
If you have any interest in writing mysteries, real-life crime dramas, or anything which involves police work, seek out your local police department and see if they offer a program like this. If not, speak with the community relations officers about helping to start one. It's a great opportunity to make connections and to learn about the vitally important work the police do, and a wonderful way to research so that your fiction is more realistic, compelling, and entertaining to read.