Since people have been telling stories, the hero has been larger than life. He is stronger, smarter and better looking than the villain. And, even if he never held a gun before, he always has the ability to shoot a weapon from the villain's hand from one hundred yards away.
Because of the stories that are told and eventually portrayed on television and the movies, people expect certain things from the good guys or, more specifically, the police. Civilians usually believe police officers spend the day in high speed car chases, shootouts with bad guys, and foot chases through yards, over fences and across roofs. They also expect detectives to investigate and solve crimes, with the use of DNA and other forensic evidence, in less than forty-eight hours.
A former police officer told me that during her career she had been run over, shot and stabbed, yet the thing she remembered most was the paperwork. The hours of paperwork required by police officers is never depicted on television. Even on the rare occasion an officer in a drama sits down at his desk, he is interrupted for something more exciting (i.e. another crime only he can solve needs his attention; a witness will only speak to him or someone manages to make it past all check points in the police station and takes everyone hostage and only he can negotiate with the distraught individual).
Authors, however, need to remember that the majority of what is depicted on television has been exaggerated for entertainment purposes. If they do not take the time to research the correct procedures, they run the risk of losing potential readers. Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime occasionally arrange for experts in the field of law enforcement to speak to their members. The New York chapter in SinC also organize field trips; include one excursion to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
For a more hands-on experience, authors can attend The Writers’ Police Academy (http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/). There, they can train with police officers, fire fighters and EMTs, and hear lectures from forensic experts and lawyers.
If a trip to The Writers’ Police Academy is not in the budget, authors can inquire with their local police department about the Civilian Police Academy. The FBI also conducts Citizens Academies at their field offices.
Finally, authors can reach out to experts on forums like the Crime Scene Questions for Writers loop (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/crimescenewriter/info).
It is easy to rely on what is seen on television and in the movies. However, the scriptwriters use artistic license to increase the drama. If an author wants to attract and retain readers, she should strive to blend realism with drama.♥
Ursula Renée writes historical romances and mysteries. When she is not writing, she enjoys photography, stone carving and drawing. Find out more about Ursula by visiting her website at www.ursularenee.com.