Ask Me Anything 2017: law enforcement research? Character names?

Ride Along

I’m still answering readers’ questions. Today we have a couple more from stevenangie05.


Say you have never been an attorney and you are a new author. How would you get law enforcement to help with information on procedures?

Many law enforcement agencies have public relations departments, or media affairs officers. Check out the agency’s website to find contact information. Write or call to find out what kind of information they provide. Some offer citizens’ police academies to give the public a taste of an officer’s job.

Some writing conferences — those with a crime, mystery, or thriller focus — bring in officers to offer seminars and answer writers’ questions. I’ve attended conferences where bomb squads have brought their equipment vans, and where officers demonstrate firearms safety. For the past few years, the FBI has offered a full-day seminar to writers attending ThrillerFest, at their New York office.

Some law enforcement agencies have ride-along programs that allow citizens to spend a shift on patrol with uniformed officers. I’ve gone on ride alongs twice; once in high school and once, a couple of years ago, in Austin… both of which turned into interesting experiences.


How do you come up with names for all the characters?

To name characters, I have to get to know them. Their names have to fit their personalities and their role in the story. Heroine? Hero? Villain? Prickly cop? Nosy neighbor?

Evil monkey?

To round out the cast, I check that I haven’t given characters names that are too similar — Danny and Donny; Gary, Gabby and Gordon; Mary, Marie, and Mara. I also read through baby name books, phone books (I have an old one lying around), and the credits at the end of movies. Crew names are a trove of possibility.

And now that I have a dozen books under my belt, my husband no longer panics when he walks into my office and sees 10,000 Baby Names open on my desk.

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