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/.