As a former criminal- and appellate paralegal, my days were filled with reviewing documents, talking to accused and trying to solve real life mysteries. Just because someone is accused of a crime doesn’t mean that they committed the crime. So, my job entailed fact checking, asking though questions, reviewing the crime information and assisting the attorneys in determining how we’d combat and defend.
With this background information, and my love of mysteries, writing has become a natural passion. It is a wonderful adventure, and the crime solving is only limited to our imaginations. For my current work in progress, I’ve spent months researching the facts to ensure that the facts of the case align with reality. Imagine a crime and try to solve it. Sounds simple, right? When it comes to writing a police procedural there are certain elements required. Often times it also takes consulting experts to create a crime and then scholarly research to solve it.
What is a police procedural?
A police procedural is where the story surrounds a crime, and police are going through the steps to solve the crime. When it comes to television, this would be like the CSI franchise or such reality shows as the first 48.
With this in mind, I’ve been in the process of creating a police procedural serial, whereby in short bites mysteries are presented and police attempt to solve the crimes. In the first episode, the police discover a burnt out car, and inside of it, human remains are located in the trunk.
I’ve created a crime, now it’s time to solve it. For this, I turn to professional and scholarly research to dive in deeper into understanding what my homicide detective would be experiencing, and need to know. Not all detectives are created equal, and not all detectives have experience in dealing with murder, crime scenes, etc.
1. Find a police officer or someone in the community you can talk to.
For the creation of this story, I attended my local Citizen’s Police Academy to get a better grasp of the society and brotherhood of the police, where I was able to ask police officers questions. This tight knit community is not necessarily just as we would experience them through fiction. To get this information, it’s best to reach out to those in that community. Check with your local police department and see if they offer such. If not, there still might be an officer willing to talk with you.
2. Online Workshops
There are numerous workshops available online, as well, which will provide great insight and advice for those wishing to learn about how police solve their crimes. I’ve found some wonderful workshops (both online and in person) through my local Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America chapters. Many workshops are available and accessible for non-members, as well as members of these writing organizations.
3. Scholarly research online
A wonderful help for locating source material is through Case Law. Case Law is used by lawyers and courts, and “is the body of prior judicial decisions that guide judges deciding issues before them.”
By examining case you, you are able to read facts of cases, and their outcomes, specifically what was used and how the police apprehended an individual, who ended up being convicted for a crime. Allow yourself to come to understand the facts of a case, and see how the police solved it. A great search engine for this is Google Scholar.
Oftentimes to solve a case requires more information and expertise than we have access to. For this, networking is quite important, as well as great writing resources, like Fiona Quinn’s ThrillWriting website. She’s interviewed several experts in many different fields to make sure that writers get those facts correct.
5. Creative License
Don’t be afraid to take creative license when creating a story. Just because in reality the killer was caught by falling asleep at the crime scene, that doesn’t mean that your story has to be that way. Take creative license and include a twist. You’re writing fiction, not fact. Remember that, and don’t let your story get bogged down in the details.
Taking all of the above with a grain of salt, use what you can, but please, for the love of all things that are good, DO NOT USE REAL PEOPLE IN YOUR STORIES; DO NOT IDENTIFY SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS BY NAME OR IDENTIFYING INFORMATION in your stories. Please. Some crimes come with their own baggage, don’t make your fiction become a tool to cause a victim even more pain and problems. Remember, you are writing fiction, and in that, don’t re-victimize those who’ve already had to survive the real tragedy that you are only writing about, not living.
I hope you’ll check out my serial, which introduces my homicide detective, Damien Scott.
I'm a crime fiction, mystery and fantasy romance author. I enjoy creating dark tales, drinking too much coffee, and laughing. Life is too short to worry about the small things. Think big. Onwards and upwards!
Learn more about me at