When something is easy, most people say that it’s just like “taking candy from a baby.” Of course taking candy from a young child is easy because they can’t really fight back. You run away, they cry. Nothing else can really get done about it.
But if you’re going to rob someone there needs to be a bit more planning to it than just grabbing it right under the person’s nose and running away.
And no, I’m not talking about stealing from people in real life because that would just be wrong. But if you’re going to have a robbery, or any crime, in your mystery novel then you need to know how to implement it.
Research is important to any novel, any genre. However, there’s a lot of information that goes into writing mystery.
You have the law, the law enforcement, and all the many different kinds of crimes as well as what their consequences are.
Whether you’re following the law or breaking it, the law is still there. You can’t see it, you can’t hear it, but it is there.
If your characters do something illegal, someone is bound to find out. Someone is bound to catch up to them. They are bound to be punished for it.
Here is where the setting of your story really comes into play. Most mystery novels are based off actual cities and towns.
If your novel takes place in Texas, then you need to know the laws specific to Texas. Each state is different, each country is different.
If you don’t know the laws of where you live, then Google is your friend. As well as your library or Town Hall.
What exactly does the chief of police do? What exactly do the coroners do with the dead bodies behind those four walls? How do detectives investigate? How do prosecutors and defense attorneys figure out their information? Do we even need to go to court? Can we go straight to jail?
I hate to break it to you, but you can’t just have a character point to another character and say, “He did it!” Then the other guy hangs his head sadly and says, “Well, you got me…”
If that was the case, I’m pretty sure crime would be non-existent at this point.
When I was writing George Florence I didn’t bother to do any research about actually killing someone because I just wanted to get the first draft written, the idea out of my head.
So during the editing process, I researched strangulation. I have to say that I learned quite a lot. I probably learned more information than I needed to know.
However, I very quickly learned that I wrote the entire scene wrong. Strangling someone is not as simple as choking someone and not allowing them to breath. I learned a lot about it from a medical standpoint as well as the anatomy of it all.
I haven’t rewritten the scene yet, but I’m sure it’ll be much better and way more accurate than before.
As stated earlier, Google and the library are your friends. Well, guess what? So am I!
So here are a few resources I’ve found along the way that I really think are great and I hope you do too.
1. Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers by Serita Stevens
2. Forensics: A Guide for Writers by D.P. Lyle
3. Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland
4. Now Write! Mysteries by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson
Of course, read all the mystery novels you can find and learn from those. Even true crime novels would have a lot of information.
1. Writing World — This website is packed with writing information in general, but here’s the mystery section.
2. Research Resources for Mystery and Crime Writers — This article has a ton of other links to great research sites.
3. Research for Mystery Novels — This article is from Mystery Month last year. I was looking for the websites I usually go on and when I Googled something, this post was on the first page. I decided to put it on the list mostly because I was impressed and proud that out of 27 millions results, one of my articles was number six.
I thought I had more websites than that, but I’ll add to it as I find more. Apparently I use books for most of my research. Look at me going old school instead of asking Google everything!
How do you research for your mystery cases or your other novels?