Researching how to Write

One of the reasons I like writing fiction is because my imagination is endless. It doesn’t matter if what I am saying actually happened so I don’t need to do too much fact checking. It is all made up. It isn’t real. However, while my story isn’t real, I am basing it in real life. It won’t be in a fantasy world where things can happen however I want them to. It is based in modern day America. My book is a crime/thriller. My degree is actually in Criminal Justice. I have always been interested in the criminal justice system. I could read about true crimes all day. I also love reading fiction crime and watching shows like Law & Order, CSI, Bones, etc. But when I watch these, I find myself saying a lot, “That’s not how that works.” Or “That will never stand up in court.”  Of course, the reason these shows are so fun to watch for everyone is that they aren’t drowning you in the real life boring aspects of it. 9 out of 10 cases are very cut and dry. Not exciting, at all.

So, having my degree in CJ, knowing how it all works, I am finding myself getting stuck at times while writing. I find myself saying, “That isn’t how this would actually happen.” Or I will drudge up old text books and look up the process for certain things. But, just like with the aforementioned TV shows, the facts and real life processes don’t make for an exciting story. I have started considering reading fiction crime novels my research for this book. It can be done and people can enjoy them. I enjoy them. If I read enough, I am sure I can figure out the secret to making it work. I am curious to find out how many of these authors, if any, have degrees in CJ. If they don’t that would explain a lot. It can be easier to just write and make the things up how you want them to go when you don’t know how they really work. (And I am in no way at all intended that to be a dig at these authors. Like I said, I enjoy them. I am jealous of them. It really does feel like a back handed compliment. I promise it isn’t.) However, finding the ones with actual degrees would be the best research. It has never occurred to me to look into something like that. When I choose books at Half Price Books, I go to the fiction section and start hunting. I read the backs of the books that grab my attention (I sadly, quite often, judge a book by its cover). I have never once read about the author. That is terrible! How can I expect people to want to know about me and my book when I have shown no interest in them? Yes, I buy their books and read them and enjoy them but I don’t know anything about the people who wrote them. Maybe they have blogs out there. Ok, wait, I am veering off here. Re-focusing. Research.

When researching for my book, from this point on, I am only going to read the books written by people with CJ degrees or some sort of CJ background. I need to learn from them. They did it. So can I.

Currently on my desk at work, I have 3 books.

  • Stephen King: Needful Things
  • Anne Rice: Interview with a Vampire
  • Elizabeth Silver: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

Two of those three people are fairly well known to most people. Elizabeth Silver is new to me and I haven’t even started the book yet.

Looking at her bio, she has a law degree and spent 2 years at The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Looks like her book will be perfect for my research! This book has been sitting on my desk for 3 weeks and today I will finally start it! I am excited on a whole new level to read! I never thought it was possible to be more excited about reading. I will let you know how it goes.

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Do you have any book suggestions? Any specific authors you already have in mind that may be helpful for my research?

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