By DiAnn Mills
Some writers of suspense and crime fiction believe TV shows and movies provide accurate representation for local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Unless a professional is hired to assist the script and scene, the depictions on the screen are designed to entertain and move the story along, and may miss correct protocol.
Writers, this means the professionals want to help us create realistic stories about their critical roles.
While we enjoy the peace of mind of having a trained person carry a weapon and keep us safe, we also have the responsibility of supporting the courageous people who put their lives on the line for us. They can’t do their job alone. For this partnership to work, law enforcement agencies seek to educate the community on the how and why of their unique positions. They offer programs and immerse themselves into neighborhoods to listen to the needs of others.
Procedure, laws, jurisdiction, and terminology differ according to the agency. So how does a writer ensure a story’s research is factual?
The answer is to contact the law enforcement agency directly. Most all agencies have a media specialist or public relations person assigned to answer questions. When I began writing suspense, I had to move from my introverted self to an extrovert and make a few phone calls. I kept telling myself that the person on the other end of the phone could only say no. What I discovered is just the opposite! Just like I enjoyed talking about my life as a writer, I found the law enforcement agency representatives were excited to talk about their chosen profession.
Here are a few tips to help you reach out for the correct information:
1. Establish what law enforcement agency will be featured in your book—local, state, or federal.
2. Prepare questions for an interview. A writer wants to know what the person likes about his/her job, dislikes, a typical day, how the job affects personal life, hobbies, what the person does for fun, and the list goes on. If you have a characterization sketch, look at those prompts as guidelines to prepare the interview.
3. Contact the agency and introduce yourself. Ask to speak to the public relations person. Explain what you need and schedule a physical, phone, or email Q&A. Thank the person.
4. If the writer is fortunate to have a face-to-face with the expert, take the time to get to know the person. Many traits of our heroes and heroines rise from these conversations. Listen to how the person talks and the words used.
Many law enforcement agencies in bigger cities offer citizens programs to those who desire to help be liaisons between the agency and the community. Those involved in citizens outreach programs influence their own circle of people. The classes are approximately 6 to 8 weeks long with regular meetings to keep those in the program informed, educated—and have fun.
Understand some agencies can’t provide us with details due to the sensitive nature of their work. The following law enforcement agencies are known for their citizens programs and there may be more:
1. Citizens Police Academy
2. FBI Citizens Academy
3. DEA Citizens Academy
4. U.S. Marshals Service Citizens Academy
5. State Highway Patrol Citizens Academy
6. ICE Citizens Academy
Writers, step out of your comfort zone and search for the information to ensure your story is rich with facts.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.
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