Posted in Mystery Month, Writing

How To Implement a Crime When Writing a Mystery Novel

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.

How To Implement a crime when writing a mystery novel Rachel Poli

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.

The Law

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.

Law Enforcement

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.

Crimes

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.

The Research

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.

Books

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.

Websites

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?

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

35 thoughts on “How To Implement a Crime When Writing a Mystery Novel

  1. Very useful info! Thanks for writing this! It’s kind of like what I do when writing fighting scenes (well.. used to write fighting scenes – I haven’t written any in a while), although I usually work backwards – I usually start with what damage I want my character to have suffered/dealt, and then work backwards to figure out how that would be achieved. Generally, I work backwards. 😛

      1. Fights are weird to describe in writing, though. I sometimes wonder how Ian Fleming did it! Deaths (natural or as a result of fights) seem easier.

      2. Oh, I’m sure I will. 😉
        Though I did find a book at the bookstore the other day… I didn’t buy it, but I took a picture of it so I remember it. It’s called “The Writer’s Guide to Weapons.” It was all about firearms and knives and stuff in writing. That will be useful someday.

      3. Yes, I have! I took ‘Start writing fiction’ last October – it allowed me to develop some better writing habits. Enjoyed it! 🙂 I also started some other ones, but as I didn’t have time, (at the time) I fell behind. I hope to take them up again in the near future. 🙂

      4. I’ll definitely have to look into it, then. I’m sure there will be a few courses I’d love to take, lol. I just don’t have time on my side at the moment.
        I’ve always wanted to take the courses from Writer’s Digest University, but they’re so expensive. Granted it’s cheaper than going back to college, but it’s still money I don’t have.

      5. Also, that site has free courses (unless you want to purchase a certificate of completion) – and they seem to be developing certain ‘programs’ (like Coursera’s ‘specialisations’) which allow you to take courses towards proper degrees. Each one also mentions how many hours per week they recommend you spend on it. And you can complete them even after the ‘end’ of the course – the only downside of that is the lack of interaction with tutors/people running the course if you complete it after the deadline.

        Either way, whether it’s for fun or for proper serious study, it’s worth looking into. You can learn the randomest stuff. For example,I’ve picked a variety for this summer when I’ll have nothing to do: Japanese philosophy and culture, Exploring English through the Magna Carta, Animation, Heart Disease for beginners, 3D Graphics, Coding, Nutrition (etc). Admittedly, I might not complete all of them right now, but they usually provide links to useful online/offline resources. These can be handy for introduction to various topics for writing – e.g.if I want to write a character who works as a hacker, a basic knowledge of programming might be useful. Or, even better, I might be able to create an interactive fiction game! 🙂

      6. Yeah, I was exploring the website this morning. They have a good variety of classes! It’d definitely be good research for anything. I noticed they had a couple psych classes about what reading does to your brain and mind. That sounds really interesting.

  2. Thanks for the head up Rache, great links here. I think we always take these things for granted but research is a bit part of the writing process to give your stories added realism.

    Google is my best friend and Wiki (with references) has been a big help in my steampunk novel set in the 19th century. Amazing what rich history there is! More fun interweaving it into a story.

    1. Oh, yeah! Research is so important. And it’s fun, too. I enjoy looking things up like that. I know some people think research is a drag.

  3. Go old school researchers! That’s how I’d love to do a lot of my research. However, my library is limited in the information it has on the Salem Witch Trials (yes, all three libraries in my general location), and the books they have all seem to repeat the same information I already know. *le sigh*

    These are some great resources, and I’m sure if I ever write a mystery, they’ll come in mighty handy. Although, some of those books amd sources would be helpful even to those NOT writing mysteries. 😉

    1. Ugh, that’s no good. Do your libraries communicate with each other? If my library doesn’t have a book I want, it lists all the libraries in my state that do have the book and I can request it to be sent to my local library. Then I check it out from there.
      Oh, yeah. Some of the books are definitely helpful no matter what genre you’re writing. Any knowledge is good to learn.

  4. Very true! Sometimes it feels like I become the characters I write about with the research I put in. So far I’ve been a parish priest, a librarian, an accountant, a farmer, a homeless drug addict….

  5. I love writing crime thrillers, so I never know if it’s a good or bad thing when my characters pull of an awesome heist. Does it mean I’m destined for a life of crime, Rachel? 🙂

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