In fiction, you need to be as accurate as you can. Readers today are far more educated about facts and procedures than ever before. The internet makes it easy to look up information. Also, years of books, TV, and movies have educated the audience to learn procedures, and expect it. Every error jars your reader out of your story.
For example, Smith and Wesson .38 calibre revolver has six shots, not five or seven. That’s a fact. Forensic tests can take months before results return mostly due to the lag and vast numbers. Now, can your character pull some strings to get results back sooner? Offer a bottle of Scotch? Grease their palms with hard to get Broadway tickets? Sure, it’s believable that ‘gifts’ will move their cases to the front of the line.
There’s a difference between being factual and realistic.
Be as accurate as you can and when you can’t be accurate, find a plausible reason why you aren’t – but an S&W .38 revolver can only have six shots. “Them the facts, ma’am!”
Here’s another example: TV has created a number of shows with specialized teams. These teams have five to seven members, each with a unique specialty so they can handle any situation that occurs.
In reality, few if any of these teams exist in that model. Teams may have a similar name, but as for being composed of team members where each has a unique specialty? Nope. That’s a TV creation. TV and movies have to keep the costs and cast numbers low, thus, specialization. In reality, detectives would enlist the help of specialists in other departments for extra help. Michael Connelly does this especially well with his Harry Bosch series.
The exception to this rule, is the tactical team. Known in the United States as SWAT (in Canada it can go by many names, but usually as ‘Tactical’) each team is composed of six to ten members with at least two members of the team specializing in the areas of bomb tech and snipe. The longer a member is on the tactical unit, the more specialized skills they will have.
Back to the TV specialized teams. Let’s look at Criminal Minds / Quantico! The team flies into other cities and has black Suburbans at their disposal. As the drama comes to a close, they locate the suspect, jump into their Suburbans, and race across the unfamiliar city hoping they will arrive in time to save the victim/hostage, in under 20 minutes, traffic be dammed.
Hello! Every major city in North America, heck, every major city and most small towns in the world have a police department that prides itself in a 5-minute (or less) response time. How about you call the local cops who know the area, planned every fastest route and are familiar with where construction is. On TV, backup is seldom called. In real life, backup is almost always called.
Final thought: Talk to a police officer and ask them to review your scene and provide feedback. If you cannot interview one, there are open house – meet-a-cop days.
Til next column/blog…
Are you a writing or screenwriter? Here’s where you can check your facts.
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