A good book draws the reader in, makes her forget her own worries, the to-do list waiting on the fridge, the snow outside that needs shoveling (at this time of year, anyway!). How do the best authors achieve this? There are many ways, but certainly one is getting the little details right.
If a reader has previously visited the town in which a book takes place — let’s say, Philadelphia — having the hero run up Broad Street and take a right onto Fourth would pull him right out of the story (for those not familiar with Philly, those streets don’t intersect). If a reader knows a little bit about history, having the murder happen in a historical location that gets its history wrong would be a buzz kill.
There are many resources available to mystery writers today, and I love to take advantage of as many as I can. As a member of the Sisters in Crime, as well as two local chapters (one in my area, the other online), I have access to online courses, in-person lectures, lists of helpful books, and of course experts themselves available to answer questions. I’ve listened to coroners, successful authors, and community workers share their stories. I’ve taken classes on crime scene investigation and firearms.
Did you know there’s an email list just on forensics and crime scene investigations? It’s such fun! I can be checking my email — laughing at a joke from a friend, deleting unwanted ads for home loans and bodily enhancements — when I come across a detailed analysis of the decomposition rate of a dead body in a cold lake. Cool!
Sometimes my membership in these groups keeps me a little too busy, taking me away from my writing, particularly the group for which I serve as a board member. But it’s all worth it. It’s thanks to these groups that I have access to such fabulous information. And I know that when writing, sometimes the most important part can be the little things.