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Author Topic: blabbering investigator?  (Read 2578 times)

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wyndi

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blabbering investigator?
« on: August 04, 2010, 02:12:29 PM »

Anyone out there might want to help me with this one?

I am writing a mystery with a 1st person pov  - that of an amateur sleuth and family member of a suspect, close friend of the victim. The problem is having this person, and therefore the reader, find out information that the police detective would find out in the course of her investigation without changing pov.

 How likely would it be that the investigator would let loose (to my lead) with information she finds out about suspicious activity regarding the crime, esp. as it applies to her own family? Leaked to the press? Used as an attempt to draw out more info? Anyone know what the basic protocol on info. release by the cops in general on a homicide case?

thanks! ::)
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Mystery Mom

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Re: blabbering investigator?
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2010, 05:32:57 PM »

Yeah, I'm having this problem as well. I'm sure it's against protocol to leak any kind of info to a suspect's relative, although a dirty cop might give info for money (or sex, or whatever currency your MC may be offering!).  Now, if the info is given to the press, that will give you a little more latitude.  I used to work in news, and sometimes the police would give us what was called "background," kind of a "don't quote me" situation where we could use the information in an article but not attribute it to them. We would also sometimes get "deep background" info, which was information that we were absolutely NOT to put in the article but that would give us a better understanding of the case and which we could then work to confirm using different sources. However, a lot of the info the reporters get don't make it into the story, because the police are usually VERY careful to state whether something is on or off the record, so it's unlikely that anything the police chief and CIO haven't vetted would make it into an article. Of course, you can't make your character the reporter who is working on the story, because being related to the suspect and a friend of the victim would be an obvious conflict of interest, but perhaps your character could be another reporter (obviously not working on that story, of course!), or friends or lovers with someone in the newsroom. HTH!
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Old Bill

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Re: blabbering investigator?
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2010, 08:53:17 PM »

Wyndi...welcome to this forum.  You'll find lots of friendly and experienced people here.

OK, my two cents here...since your sleuth is close to everyone involved (family of suspect, friend of victim) he/she would have mutual contacts that the police would have interviewed or maybe even unknowingly have info pertainent to the case.   While he/she may not get the same kind of info that the police get, they might be able to swap info-for-info.  In real life the police would probably consider your MC a pain in the *** and keep him/her out in the cold, but this is fiction and what fun would that be.  Let's face it...if we wrote stories true to life, they would be booorrring.

Good luck with your story.

Old Bill
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: blabbering investigator?
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2010, 03:06:44 AM »

Wyndi,

Another point to remember.

You're writing about an amateur sleuth, which, in more than a decade's experience in law enforcement, is an animal I've never come across in real life.

Which is another way of saying that you're already stretching the bounds of credibility.  But it doesn't really matter because the kind of story you're telling, one that features an amateur detective, comes with a completely different set of expectations than a police procedural.

Police procedurals are dependent on technical accuracy.  That's the defining feature of that sub-genre.

Stories featuring amateur sleuths in the manner of Miss Marple or Lord Peter are not defined by technical accuracy, so you're not bound by the same rules.

So if you want to give your lead character a friendly contact in the local police, go for it.  Readers are unlikely to call you on the lapse in technical accuracy because you're working in a sub-genre that doesn't require technical accuracy, and which, moreover, is already so improbable right from the get-go, that a friendly, informative police officer is far less likely than the initial premise that amateur detectives solve crimes.

That's not a knock on the sub-genre, by the way.  Some of the most engaging sleuths in fiction have been amateurs, and some of the finest mysteries ever written have featured amateurs.  I'm just making an objective observation about the sub-genre.  Since you're not tied by the strictures of technical verisimilitude in the kind of story you're writing, feel free to make use of the greater flexibility you have.

If it makes it easier for you, as a writer, to believe the situation you're creating, try making your friendly cop a relative of some kind.  Recall that Ellery Queen's police contact was his dad, an inspector in the NYPD, and that Lord Peter's police contact was his brother-in-law, a high-ranking detective at Scotland Yard.  It's easier to believe that people might be inclined to break rules for a family member than for Joe Blow off the street.
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