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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How To Organize Your Notes

Do you have too much information to keep track of for your novel?

Are all your notes weighing you down?

Do you have index cards, post-it notes, and loose paper flying free all over the place?

Well, this post can help! (I think.)

how to organize your notes rachel poli

I started writing George Florence in November 2013. Since then I’ve edited two drafts. Then I re-wrote the whole novel, completely changing the dynamic of it. I am currently on the second draft of that version.

So I tell people I’m on the second draft, but it’s technically the fourth draft. The information is the same, the plot is the same, the cases are the same.

Yet every time I’ve edited the draft, I’ve looked at pacing, dialogue, character development, and that kind of stuff. I’ve looked at plot, but never really paid any attention to whether or not my information was correct.

Yes, this is fiction, but I need to throw a little bit of reality in there. It’s not a fantasy world, so I can’t just make up news laws as I go along.

It’s a lot of information and since this novel has been on paper since late 2013 (it’s been in my head much longer than that), I have my fair share of notes piled up.

There are a number of ways you can organize your notes.

1. An accordion folder

I use a 13-pocket accordion folder for each of my novels. One pocket for each draft. It gets big and bulky, but it keeps my novels away from each other and is easy for me to organize my drafts.

Depending on how many drafts of the novel I have, I use the back pockets for my notes as well. I toss index cards in there as well as a notebook or two. It keeps everything contained and the folder closes with a rope so nothing will ever fall out.

2. Notebooks

This is an obvious one. A notebook is made of paper and that where you write your notes. Duh.

If you use a notebook all the paper is together and contained by the binding. Better yet, you can get a five-subject notebook. The more paper for notes, the better. Plus, if you ever jot something down quickly on an index card or the like, most multi-subject notebooks have a built-in pocket folder. So easy enough.

3. Filing cabinet

I have a filing cabinet where I keep all my novels. Of course, you can use it to keep your research and notes for each novel.

I’m sure you’ve researched something for one novel and needed to know the same information for another novel. Why not have your own Google system in a cabinet? Then if you need to know something, you can ask yourself.

4. Your computer

Let’s be honest, most of us keep notes and research on our computer instead of printing it out or handwriting it.

If you research on the Internet, you can easily just bookmark a page or copy down the link to the website you found on a Word Document and go back to it later. It’s faster to type notes than it is to hand write them and you can get it anywhere at anytime. If you save it to Dropbox or your e-mail, you can check your notes on your phone or tablet when you’re not home.

Technology is wonderful.

What are some ways your organize your notes for your novels?

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