Surprisingly, fiction writers do a lot of research to ensure that the details in their writing are as accurate as possible. When you’re a mystery writer, some of this research can put you in sticky situations (e.g. You may not want to Google the best ways to a dispose of a body.)
I’m fortunate that my dad is a retired police captain, and I have other family and friends in law enforcement who are always willing to answer my procedural or odd questions. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve had questions like, “What does a meth lab smell like” or “what size of a hole would this bullet make.” People are always willing to help and are very generous with their time.
I am also thrilled to be a part of Sisters in Crime. Our local chapter has great programming. We bring in experts to answer questions and explain procedures. I now have two awesome bail bondsmen in my contact list (or in case I need them). We’ve also had an arson investigator, medical examiner, FBI agent, ABC officer, Railroad Enforcement Officer, an expert in human trafficking, and a state conservation officer talk to our group.
I’ve also found that Twitter is a solid resource for finding experts and people who know things. I’ve put out questions before and received good information quickly. Social media sites are great for research, finding contacts, and networking. I’ve received several referrals that were quite helpful in my research.
My Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, is always getting herself in and out of humorous situations. In book three, she gets a gig to go undercover at a drag show to find out who is stealing from the talent. I’d never been to a drag so, so my writer friend, Rosemary Shomaker, arranged a research trip for brunch. (The bananas foster French toast was wonderful!) We had so much fun, and I ended up with a lot of details to add to my story, and a subject matter expert to answer my questions.
I always keep a list of folks who help me with ideas and answer questions for the book’s acknowledgments page.
Okay writers, what adventures have you had in the name of research?