I sometimes take for granted what I know, at least as it relates to crime.
Don’t worry: I’m not a criminal, but I did spend more than a decade as a spokesperson for a law enforcement agency.
Now that I am writing mysteries, I sometimes forget to include the details that will make the story stronger — the very details I learned on the streets.
Fortunately, I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, and we recently heard from Elaine Viets, who has written more than 30 mysteries in four bestselling series.
Crime details she reminded me about included:
- A privacy screen prevents people from gawking at the body. I was always astounded at the number of individuals hanging around a crime scene.
- Clothing gives you an idea of lifestyle but it can’t be used for identification. Do you ever switch clothes with a sibling? Think about it.
- You can’t give family members all of the details of the murder. Initially, they are suspects, too.
- It is blood spatter, not splatter.
- Clues might include whether the lights are on or off or whether there is mail in the house or food in the refrigerator.
- Bodies can be identified many ways, including through dental records, X-rays (reveal broken bones), fingerprints, DNA, implants (which carry serial numbers) and tattoos.
I need to go back and investigate my crime scene details.