In my passion project (tentatively titled, Solitary Boys), a troubled girl goes missing. At first, I hadn’t planned on my main character going to the police. As it stands, his stepfather puts a call into the local detective, and after explaining the girl has a history of drug abuse, the detective botches the case. I did this so my main character would feel an urgency of his own to find his sister. But clearly I’m making up scenarios that are not necessarily realistic to push a plot agenda — and it shows.
So I emailed Adam from Writer’s Detective to help me out with a missing persons case. He was so kind as to give me information on police work in the 1950s that he’s become my go-to source for police work. (Adam is a working detective in California.) I recently sent him an email just to find out the procedure for filing a missing persons case. Does it have to be a family member who files the report? (No.) Do you really have to wait 24 hours to file? (No.) How do missing persons cases get handled if the missing person has a history of drug abuse? What are the actual steps to finding a missing person? Adam provided a lot of information and because of his help, I not only have new, realistic details to incorporate into my manuscript, but new scene ideas as well.
In my speculative mysteries , I was able to fudge things because ghost stories sort of lend themselves to a suspension of disbelief. But when writing contemporary mysteries, research is key. Mystery writers often interview police officers and detectives to build strong, realistic narratives, and you’d be surprised how many detectives are happy to discuss their field with writers. Just last week, my friend spoke to a local homicide detective about how a murder would be investigated for her book. Normally, I’d be intimidated to cold call a detective about make-believe murders, but it’s vital writers are authentic, as well as, creative.
What fascinating information have you found when researching your mysteries? Sound off in the comments.