Monday, November 29, 2010

Question from Lois - Reality vs. Fiction





Lisa, we all know that forensic investigation is nothing like it's portrayed on TV and in the movies. Hollywood takes huge liberties for the sake of pacing and drama. Have you ever felt the need, for the sake of the story, to compromise the reality of the forensics process in your writing?





Since I feel that my claim to meager fame is my adherence to reality, I have tried very hard not to do this. In a book I’m working on now, I seriously fudge some chemistry, but a) since I’m not a chemist I don’t feel obligated to be perfectly factual in that particular case and b) I have no desire to teach people how to make a bomb. Nothing I’ve used so far has been all that complicated, so the issue hasn’t come up.

Mostly I compromise reality in the non-science-oriented areas of the plot. In reality, Theresa would not have the TV-like luxury of six or seven days to work on one homicide. In reality she would be having serious conniptions about her workload; there would be ten other cases she needs to finish, and more would arrive in the meantime. Theresa would occasionally have to drop everything to go to court to testify about a crime that occurred a year or two previously, after scrambling around the lab to get her report and the victim’s clothing and change into a conservative skirt and jacket. Her boss would be in a snit about something and she’d have things to file and reports to revise and some stupid meeting about something or other to attend.

But we’re not writing reality, we’re writing fiction, which means I get to edit all that boring stuff out. I am not, I have to remind myself when describing forensic procedures, writing a textbook, so I summarize, allude to, or completely skip certain mechanics. I have no problem with a novel glossing over the mundane facts of life, of technically letting the heroine go 48 hours with eating, sleeping, paying bills, picking up the dry cleaning, going to the bathroom or even—gasp—checking her e-mail. Never mind that unless given a dose of meth, I would have collapsed in hypoglycemic exhaustion by that point. Novels are supposed to leave all that out.


I just wish I could do that in real life.






Lisa Black is a full time latent print examiner/CSI and the NYT bestselling author of the Theresa MacLean series, including Takeover, Evidence of Murder and the recently released Trail of Blood. Please visit her website at http://www.lisa-black.com/.

8 comments:

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Welcome to Criminal Minds, Lisa! Looking forward to all the questions and your answers this week.

Lisa Black said...

Thank you!

Kelli Stanley said...

Lisa, you are awesome!! How you're able to juggle two stressful (and more than full-time) careers is a secret I hope we can pry out of you this week!

Thanks for hanging out with us!!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Glad to know that you are completely truthful about the exciting things and spare the reader the meetings. I get enough of those in real life.

Thanks for hanging out! Can't wait to hear where I need to shoot someone for tomorrow's question. It's for a book...umm...sure...

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for being our guest this week, Lisa! It's great to hear, from an expert, that it's okay to cut some stuff out and focus on the exciting stuff. I'm like Rebecca--I have enough meetings and email in my real life, so I love it when books cut to the chase.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks for visiting, Lisa. It's great to have you here, and great to know that you cut corners only when they should be cut -- i.e. for the sake of the story. Reality is great . . . until it isn't.

Michael Wiley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Lisa. I sort of suspected the answer. It makes sense not to bog the reader down with unnecessary details. Glad to have you confirm and to have you visiting this week.