Saturday, January 31, 2009

Research For Suspense Writing— Part IV

A suspense novel needs the same research as any novel when creating characters, bringing setting to life, and provide story details. The additional element that needs tremendous research revolve understand the elements of suspense that make it real—police lingo and procedures, investigation and investigative research, forensic details, psychology of criminals, trail procedures, and so much more.

Here are some research tips that might help you as you research your suspense, mystery or thriller.

Internet Sites: The Internet has many helpful website operated by lawyers, detectives, police officers, and forensic details that will help you. One site that is helpful is , providing real life information. Another is that allows you to listen to real police scanners and firefighters in various areas of the US. You can use this for lingo and dialogue.

Citizens Police Academy: Many cities have Citizen Police Academies available for anyone who has interest. They’re usually 8 week courses which teach tremendous information, including offering ride-a-longs, finger printing and so much more. Check these out in your local area.

Classes and Workshops: Community colleges and various organizations teach classes on topics like guns, self-defense, and other courses that will provide you with details to make your novels more real.

Speak with Detectives/Police: Most police departments of any size have a community promotion person who is willing to give workshops and answer questions a that will help you in bringing real life to your novels. A telephone call works, but making an appointment and visiting the police stations is even better. I had a wonderful experience working with a detective for my novel Finding Christmas. I even used his name as a detective in my novel, and he came to my booksigning and his wife bought 30 books to give to friends and family for Christmas.

Crime Encyclopedias: You can find many encyclopedias that are useful for suspense, mysteries or thrillers. Here are a topics: Crime and Justice, Criminology and Deviant Behavior, Forensic Science, Psychology, Applied Ethics

Writers Digest Books: You will not find a finer resource for books on crime than from this publisher. I have shelves of books that I’ve used. D. P. Lyle MD has authored a book called Murder and Mayhem which you will find helpful and he also has a website that provides links to an amazing amount of solid information on crime and solving it.

Attend trials: Most trials are open to anyone who wants to sit in and learn. You might want to call your local judicial facility and learn what cases are going up for trial so you find something worthwhile for your novel

Ride-A-Longs : While ride-a-longs are part of the Citizen’s Police Academy, you can contact your local police department and ask about riding along for an evening. Check with your local EMT and firefighters to see if they allow ride-a-longs if you need that for your novels. This provides you with first hand information.

Be creative. You can learn a lot of things and open doors for great research by making telephone calls, asking people in the know and being presistent.


Jim said...

Hi Gail!

I called the local police about riding along, they seemed a little too eager to have me do so!

OFF TOPIC: Do you use 'Signed by the author' stickers at your book signings?


bremelco<--obvious, a company that manufactures bremels :)

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Maybe they were going to use you as a decoy. : ) Are you going to go?

Yes I use Signed by Author stickers. My publisher has some but I don't like them very much so I know a writer who once a year or so orders them at bulk for fellow authors and I buy a good supply from her. They're cheaper that way. I think you can find some on line, too but they're more expensive.


Jim said...

probably taser practice!

I worry about cluttering up/distracting from the cover.

How about bookplates, do you use those?

gaterian<--like being from Florida

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Hi Jim, I attach the sticker when signing the book for a buyer so they've seen the cover - and my stickers are removable. I often ask and you'll find that they love having it autographed and made special -- so the marker shows that.

I send bookplates to events that I can't attend or to readers who ask for one to attach in their books.


Brandie said...


This series on researching is wonderful, thank you. I especially appreciate the links you are providing, they are very helpful.


Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Hi Brandie - Thanks so much. I'm glad you found it helpful, and yes, I agree, the links are helpful and very interesting. I hope you find them useful.