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:~: Monday, October 08, 2007 :~:

Cops, Cops and more Cops

The big joke amongst Joan, Lin and I is that while I write RS like both of them, I'm unique in the fact I don't write about cops. Actually, the truth is I have an aversion to writing about law enforcement (or, LE as Lin calls it). Most of my characters are normal people put into extraordinary circumstances, and while I may have LE (hey, did I use that right?) secondary characters who are important in pushing a story forward, I've (for the most part) avoided writing an entire book with an LE main character. Why? Simple.

I don't know nuthin' 'bout cops.

Okay, wait. That's not true. I know probably as much as the next person. I've been pulled over (but never frisked), I had to deal with the Co. Sheriff and the bomb squad in my last job (long story I won't bore you with), and I have a good friend who's married to a state cop. But I don't know enough about police officers to feel as though I can write about them effectively, and for that reason I've steered clear.

Until now.

My local RWA chapter put on a suspense conference on Saturday. We started with a ME and Sheriff's deputy who both work for Search & Rescue. They were funny, informative and easy to talk to. After lunch we had a state police detective who talked to us about crime scenes and procedures and gave us lots of fun slang. And after that we had three assistant district attorneys who took the information we learned earlier in the day and explained how they prosecute a case from the clues the police obtain.

It was informative, insightful and fun. And after the conference I went out to dinner with my friend and her state police husband and couldn't stop asking him questions. He was more than happy to answer anything I came up with, and hopefully one of these days I'll talk him into taking me out the firing range so I can play with his guns. In the meantime, this conference convinced me that I should definitely sign up for the local citizen's police academy to learn more, and in some way it's alleviated my worry about writing about police officers. There's a book I've been putting off writing because the hero is police detective. Maybe after all this I'll finally have the guts to write it.

What about you? Are there any topics you won't touch because you aren't sure you can write them well? And if so, what could you do to alleviate your worries?



Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

I guess I never thought about it. I just write whatever the story calls for. One of my MCs is a cop, but he's out of his jurisdiction and following a hunch, so he doesn't actually do things from a police standpoint. He's more like a interested bystander who gets caught up in the mystery. Lucky for him the crimes are in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Not a lot of high-tech investigating going on there. ;o)

The rest of my MCs are in varying professions - from an astrophysicist to a reporter to a park ranger. I just do as much research as I can to make my stories as believable as possible, and hope for the best.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

I actually really want to STOP writing about cops. It feels like all I write--all anyone in RS writes--and I want to be fresh. Yet, those seem to be the only type of heros and heroines who jump into my head or fit my plot lines. I've stretched into other LE areas -- right now I'm writing an FBI heroine and a CIA hero. And other stories float through my head...but they all have LE main characters.


I SHOULD be writing firemen. My DH is embroiled in it, has been for over two decades. I have access to as much info as I could ever want.

But do firefighter heros/heroines pop into my head?


I even ordered the season disks of Rescue Me on Netflix to try and get into it. Didn't help much. Which makes me wonder...do I write cops so much because the information is so prevelant--TV, movies, fiction, non-fiction, websites, etc? Would I write more firefighters if their stories were more prevelant?

As for things I stay away from -- Law. I don't have any good attorney's close to me for sources and if you've ever tried to get an answer to a legal question on the internet...you know why I don't write law.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

B.E., I love unconventional cop characters. When I write mine (if I do) that's the way he'll be.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I agree, J. You should be writing firemen. ;)

That said, your cop heroes are great, and you write them well. I think that's key if one is going to write about cops.

9:53 PM  

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