Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Guest Blog - Vikki Carter

Instead of you listening to my ramblings today, I'm giving over my space to Vikki Carter. Vikki is one of those wonderful people out there who is not only on her own writing journey but is choosing to do as much as she possibily can to help other writers on theirs. Among other things, she has a wonderful podcast that I've been fortunate to be on more than once (I'll be returning the favor - she will be my featured guest in January 2022 on Wrong Place, Write Crime) and offers resources for writers. 

We should always reward kindness in this world, so give Vikki a read - here, and on her site.

From Frank

Resources Every Crime Fiction Author Needs

By Vikki J. Carter, The Author’s Librarian

As a writer and librarian, I am often asked questions about researching. Because of the number of questions, I wrote my first book, Research Like A Librarian, where I address issues relating to plagiarism and how to research beyond the internet by accessing library sources world-wide. However, I will let you in on one secret: I love genre specific questions. But because of the vast number of possible genre specific questions, I could not address them all in my book.

The questions that I get the most excited about are from mystery or crime fiction writers because there are so many useful sources available. I also love answering these questions because I have a fantasy of breaking into crime fiction someday.

What I believe most readers of this genre expect is authenticity, and authors can make their stories authentic by organizing excellent resources and relying upon experts. Here is how:

I have compiled a list of resources for the crime fiction writers over the years. From that list, I have found that crime fiction resources fall into three categories.

1.    Sources on events that inspire the crime fiction writer.

2.    Sources on criminal justice professions for character development.

3.    Sources on procedures that are common in criminal cases.

 Sources on events that inspire the crime fiction writer: Think about where to get information that outlines events, past or present, that could inspire your work. I encourage writers to focus on primary sources such as journals, first-hand accounts, and interviews to help build a that list. Most times, writers will be inspired by criminal cases found in the news, but the news does not have to be the only resource that can inspire the next thriller.

Here are five sources to explore:

1.      https://www.crimemuseum.org: An educational resource on law enforcement, crime history, and forensic science. A repository of America’s most notable crime cases and artifacts.

2.      https://www.refdesk.com/crime.html: An encyclopedia list of forty-two crime and law enforcement related websites. Each list has a short description for quick reference.

3.      https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/web/pages/NACJD/index.html: a database to help guide exploration of topics connected to criminology. This database includes special data topics such as guns & weapons, gangs, and homicide.

4.      https://www.officer.com: a dedicated resource website with up-to-date reports on police officer procedures, training, careers, investigations, and tactical equipment.

5.      https://www.apbonline.com: a website dedicated to daily crime news aggregated from multiple news channels. The latest breaking news articles are highlighted as “new” for quick reference.

Sources on criminal justice professions for character development: Research should include information about the people who may develop as characters in a story: police officers, witnesses, or lawyers to name a few. Within writing crime fiction, these characters have to be authentic. With competition for readers coming from TV and live action films, authenticity of characters is imperative to keep readers coming back for more. Many writers will ask me questions about how to find information about the day-to-day procedures of the criminal profession. By learning about the criminal line of work writers can start to add authenticity to their stories that will captivate their readers. I like to remind writers to not forget about interviews with individuals who work in the profession as research. I encourage writers to reach out to local organizations and make friends with people in the field. It’s okay to tell them you are conducting research for a book. And it’s even better to tell them you will mention their help in the book’s acknowledgements.


Here are two good starting points for reference on criminal justice professions:

1.      https://guides.libraries.uc.edu/c.php?g=222212&p=1470996:  University of Cincinnati’s library guide of global professional organizations in criminal justice.

2.      https://www.careerprofiles.info/criminal-justice-careers.html: a website dedicated to the criminal justice career with links to career descriptions, definitions, programs, and job outlook.

Sources on procedures that are common in criminal cases: Once again, I encourage writers to seek out the professional. This can be done in many ways. One example is if you need to write about a court room procedure, go to an open court proceeding. Recently, many municipal court cases have been moved online giving access to these types of events to writers to explore for their procedure research.

Here are several good starting points:

1.      https://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/types-cases/criminal-cases: a website that helps to define the terms and procedures for American criminal cases. This site offers a free eBook titled Understating the Federal Courts.

2.      https://guides.library.harvard.edu/c.php?g=310516&p=2826979#s-lg-page-section-2072141: Harvard Law School Library Criminal Justice Resource guide is created to be the starting point for researching criminal justice and criminal law issues. This website is regularly updated but is primarily focused on the United States.

3.      https://backgroundchecks.org/11-alternatives-to-crimelibrary-com-and-courttv-com.html: A list of alternative websites that are similar to Crimelibrary.com (which stopped being updated in 2014,) and CourtTV.com.

Another excellent website to add to your resources that expands on information about equipment, weapons, types of crimes, and forensics is The Internet Writing Journal:


As The Author’s Librarian, I will always encourage authors to move beyond internet researching by developing relationships with criminal justice professionals to gain real details that will enrich their stories. In my book, Research Like A Librarian, I call these types of sources “secret agents” for writers. The important key to developing a strong network of “secret agents” is to draw upon these professionals for details surrounding cases that a writer may miss.  By developing these relationships and using the information gained from discussions, writers can create realistic storylines.  And when you give the readers that type of story, they will keep coming back for more.

My final advice is to not neglect the one source that could be your best bet for finding the information you need: the public, state, or university librarian. Many authors are surprised when I coach them to reach out to librarians to get access to data or high-level documents that would help them with their fiction work. But I am convinced that librarians are an author’s best resource for researching.

For example, during a Facebook meeting I was asked to present at for historical fiction authors several weeks ago, I encouraged the authors to email a librarian with a question they may have been stuck on during their researching process.

One author reported back the next morning that she was surprised to have an answer within a day from a state librarian regarding data that she had been hunting down for a few months.

Another example can be heard on my podcast. In episode one hundred and five, Kim Taylor Blakemore and I talked about her working with an out of state librarian.  This librarian helped Kim gain access to historical records about an asylum that ended up being the inspiration to many aspects of Kim’s award-winning historical thriller novels.

As a librarian, I encourage you to organize your list of sources based on events that inspire, criminal justice professions, and procedures. As a writer, I challenge you to interview expert witness in the field. And as reader, I encourage you to ask a librarian for help when you are stuck. By incorporating these techniques into your writing, you will be able to write your next thrilling with excellent sources that will give your book the authenticity your readers expect.   

Get a copy of the links and descriptions listed in this article in a free eBook titled: 

Resources Every Crime Fiction Author Needs.


About Vikki J. Carter, The Author's Librarian:

As a professional librarian and author, Vikki J. Carter, The Author's Librarian, reveals the techniques that librarians use to help writers effectively find valuable sources. Vikki’s book, Research Like A Librarian is available in eBook and in print.

Since the publication of her book in March 2021, Vikki has scheduled a fall appearance on The Creative Penn Podcast and she will be presenting at The 2021 Self-Publishing Advice Conference.

You can learn more about The Author’s Librarian, future online courses, listen to her podcast, gain access to the free Author’s Librarian Checklist: Avoiding Plagiarism, or watch her YouTube channel by visit the website at https://www.theauthorslibrarian.com.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for stopping by, Vikki. A great post and a great list of resources too.

Brenda Chapman said...

What a wealth of information - thanks so much Vikki! I hope you write that crime novel one day :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks ever so much for this, Vikki...insightful, and useful!

Vikki J. Carter said...

You are more than welcome. I love sharing resources. Thanks for having me on the blog.