If you write crime fiction, at some point, you’ll need a weapons resource for mysteries. If your knowledge of guns and knives only consists of guns take bullets and knives are usually sharp, then The Writer’s Guide to Weapons by Benjamin Sobieck is for you. Like the title says, this book doesn’t just report and explain weapons. It was written for writers to give them a better understanding of how to use weapons in their fiction.
Treasure Trove of Information
The book is divided into three main sections: firearms, knives, and must-know weapons info. There’s also a glossary as well as a bibliography. Along with descriptions of particular weapons, the author lists its advantages and disadvantages and then provides a brief example of how the weapon could be used inaccurately and accurately in a story and an explanation of “what went wrong” in the inaccurate story.
In both the firearms and knives sections, Mr. Sobieck lists must-know laws involving those weapons. The copyright is 2015, so more research will be needed if you think a specific law affects your story. What I found most helpful was the author’s explanation of the “stop the threat” rule. A person has a right to defend themselves as long as the other person is a threat. If your main character knocks out the bad guy, who was threatening him with the knife, he can’t go over and kick him. The bad guy is no longer a threat. The kick is a crime.
I also loved the sections in part three. “Top Weapons Myths” dispels 25 false ideas about weapons, such as the reality of shooting a padlock or how ridiculous or mechanically impossible it is for a shooter to repeatedly click a handgun when it’s out of ammunition.
Another section I found especially interesting is “True Crime Stories from Real Crime Writers”. These are eyewitness accounts of what it’s like to be shot, stabbed, in a gun fight, or attempting to shoot a gun from a criminal’s hand. For example, a friend of the writer’s was stabbed in the back. Although the back of her shirt was soaked with blood, she didn’t realize it. It didn’t hurt.
The list of websites in the back give you a good starting point for even more research.
If you write mysteries, what kind of research have you done or are planning to do?
After bringing to you several new authors over the last few months, I’m glad to welcome back an old friend, Carole Brown. Carole relates how mysteries are a mystery to write until you dig into understanding the genre. Welcome back, Carole!
It was a dark and stormy night.
Uh, huh. We’ve heard this one before. But what if you start your novel like this…
Lightning split the coal-black heavens into multiple pieces as the bullet-sized raindrops pounded Jason’s hood-covered head, encouraging a mammoth headache to split his head into confusion.
Mysteries are said to be the hardest genre to write. I believe it, but I also find it fascinating to attempt it. A few things you have to remember when attempting this genre are simple enough to explain but harder to do. But effort, study and a determination to succeed will put you in a good place to get that mystery book written.
Investigate the different sub-genres of mystery diligently. Know what will resound with your writing before you begin, or write a few short stories as practice until you recognize which one fits you– classic/traditional, crime, police procedurals/hard-boiled, noir, gumshoe/private detective, cozies, and capers.
Remember, you don’t want too write like so and so. You want to stand out on your own merits. Add a new element, that coincides with the mystery genre, but makes readers straighten in their seat. Do your diligent homework, study the genre and what is necessary, find that element that will cause you to stand out from the rest, then proceed (again and again) to write your mystery.
Here are a few thoughts on what helps:
Pose your mystery question at the beginning as quickly as possible.
Choose an ordinary character who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances OR an extraordinary character who finds himself in ordinary circumstances. Create your characters to stand out, to be ordinary or not, abled to be labeled as:
a reflection of society
someone with a bit of sassiness
serious with a bent to boredom and over-thinking
one who is callous to murder
Research and pick your setting with purpose.
Set the mood with descriptive language
Chapters that keep your reader turning pages, trying to figure out who is the antagonist, what will happen next..
I have two mystery series I’m working on, although one of them is on hold for awhile:
The Denton and Alex Davies series (cozy). A fun, adventurous married couple (even if Denton is a bit grumpy) who travel the U.S. and constantly find mysteries that seem to pop up everywhere.
The Appleton, WV Romantic Cozies series. (A town filled with colorful characters who find their own mystery in each book.)
There is lots more to learn about mysteries, all of it fascinating and helpful. Do your due diligence in studying about mysteries. And if you proceed, you’ll find it’s one of the hardest but most rewarding genres to write in.
Wishes for great success to you mystery book authors!
Toni DeLuca, the Italian owner of DeLuca Construction, finds herself confronted with doubts about her father and his possible deceptions—all because of the mysterious pink notes she’s been receiving.
Relations with Perrin Douglas who has a troubling history—but the first man in years who’s interested her—is building to a peak. Yet Perrin’s own personal problems and his doubts about women and God, keep getting in the way.
Gossip, a Spanish proposal, an inheritance, and a sabotaged construction business may ruin Christmas for Toni’s employees as well as her own happiness.
Will a mysterious person succeed in pulling off the biggest scam Appleton, West Virginia has ever seen? And will this culprit destroy Toni’s last chance at happiness with the man of her dreams?
Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of fourteen, best selling, award-winning books, she loves to weave suspense, mystery and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She’s also published one children’s book and is in two anthologies. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. She has found that the traveling and ministering has served her well in writing her novels. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons? Connect with Carole on her personal blog, Facebook, FB fan page, Amazon, Bookbub, IG, Pinterest,Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.
So happy to introduce to you, author V.L. Adams! In her guest post “Start with the End: Leaving Clues in a Mystery”, V.L. discusses the topic every mystery writer fears–writing a mystery that isn’t the least mysterious–and a way to tackle this problem. Take it away, V.L!
Anyone who’s read more than a few mysteries has probably read a story where they could tell you “whodunit” before the halfway point. When I started my mystery novel, The Source of Smoke, I was petrified that readers would figure out my ending, so keeping the mystery alive was always at the top of my mind.
I wish I could say I had a beautiful outline when I wrote the book and worked off it as I made my first draft. Unfortunately, that’s not the way my brain works. I tried to plan but only had a rough idea of the novel’s middle. What I did have going for me, though, was that I knew the end.
Once I established in my mind how and why the ending happened, I used that knowledge to determine what clues I would leave. When I thought about which hints to drop throughout my novel, I sorted the clues into two categories: motivation and logistics.
Why did they do it? Was it love, money, jealousy? Were they trying to keep a secret? A motive isn’t necessary to prosecute a criminal case, but prosecutors will tell you that it’s crucial to the jury. The same can be said for a mystery novel—if you don’t have it, you’ll leave your reader disappointed.
Writing a mystery is also much easier when you know the character’s reasoning from the beginning. As you’re putting together your scenes and chapters, find the opportunity to show their motive to the reader. When done right, you can demonstrate motivation with as little as a glance or a few words in a conversation. It’s about dropping breadcrumbs. The reader doesn’t have to look down and see them immediately, but they’ll be disappointed at the end if you never dropped them at all.
Could A kill B? Are they strong enough? Do they have an alibi? Mystery readers are looking at every character asking these questions. There are many different ways to approach these possibilities; how you tackle them will vary with the story and character. You may create an alibi for every character but then drop clues that show how one character could have fabricated their statement. Does the corroborating witness have a reason to lie for this person? Did the person looking into the crime thoroughly check the backup details?
Logistics is another excellent area to show your reader things. You don’t want to say, “She was so strong she could throw a grown man in the ocean,” but maybe you could show a photo of her winning her state wrestling championship in high school.
It’s helpful to know not only how your villain committed the act but also where all your other suspects were at the time of the crime. That way, you can not only drop information as to the actual culprit, but you can also sprinkle false breadcrumbs, better known as red herrings.
It may take a few passes through your manuscript to figure out which clues you want to drop and where, but that’s why you edit. If you know your ending when you begin, you can think about the different ways to leave breadcrumbs on logistics and motivation as you go. Beta readers (people who go through the manuscript prior to publishing for the purpose of giving feedback) are invaluable for testing the number of clues you use and the right places. You’ll know you’re there when your beta reader tells you they didn’t see the ending coming, but it all made sense once they were there.
Winner of a 2022 Firebird Book Award in the New Fiction category.
What if a convicted murderer is innocent?
Since Charlie’s sister was killed, Charlie has dedicated herself to being the perfect guardian for her niece — even if it means the painful sacrifice of moving back to the hometown she’d wanted to leave for good. Her sister was murdered by her boyfriend in a crime of passion; case closed — or so Charlie thought.
A series of letters ignites Charlie’s curiosity about the convicted murderer’s innocence. As she digs deeper, she sees things others may have hidden or ignored. She comes to an impasse where she has to decide what, if anything, she’s going to do about it.
Why won’t the universe let Charlie move on? How would someone like her catch a killer anyway?
We often think of heroes as martyrs, but ordinary people can make a huge difference in the lives of others when they’re willing to ask difficult questions. Lovers of small town murder mysteries will find themselves muttering “Just one more chapter, one more chapter…”
V. L. Adams earned her B.A. in photojournalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and her J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. A life-long lover of fiction, she always dreamed of writing her own book one day. No idea ever felt quite right until her debut novel, The Source of Smoke, a story about a possible wrongful conviction and an ordinary woman asking unordinary questions. She lives outside Dallas, works in non-profit, and spends her days with her best friend and husband, taking care of their three lovely children and nurturing her Harry Potter obsession. Connect with her on her website and on Instagram.
I’ve been working on crime fiction long enough now to realize how much research I need to make my mysteries have at least a nodding acquaintance with reality. This fall I’ve had a special opportunity to discover the best way to research crime fiction: getting to know the men and women who work in law enforcement.
Once a year, the sheriff’s department in my county offers a citizens academy that’s absolutely free. All a resident of the county has to do is apply with a paragraph about why they would like to learn about law enforcement and give two references.
In the 11-week class, I’ve heard from officers and staff who work in:
The detective division.
The drug task force.
The SWAT team which is composed of over twenty officers from various agencies within the county.
The dispatch supervisor.
The clerks in public records.
A sketch artist.
The hands-on activities are what most crime writers needs. I’ve aimed a lidar gun at traffic, acted as an officer performing a traffic stop or dealing with a tense confrontation, and learned how to sweep a building. These activities also provide me with glimpses into behind-the-scenes details that writers love to work into stories if they can. Facts like many officers suffer from lower back trouble after years of service because when they wear their bullet-proof vest and belt, they carry an extra twenty-five to thirty pounds.
What I find even more interesting are the stories the officers tells, such as the detective who was assigned to a ten-year-old cold case and how he and his partner finally solved it. Or how a K-9 officer found the people who had broken into an abandoned jail. Or what does a rookie cop learn on the job that he can’t learn at the academy.
Most most fascinating of all is hearing how the officers view their work. One detective said he was doing “God’s work.” The sheriff spoke to us on our first night. After four decades in law enforcement, he is now hiring deputies younger than his children. The dispatch supervisor conveyed how protective the dispatchers are of the deputies they are helping in the field.
Whatever crime fiction story you are writing, try to get interviews with people who work in the particular aspect of law enforcement you are writing about. My WIP novel is set in a fictional, rural county in Ohio. Not all that I’ve learned about my home county’s sheriff’s department will apply because it has a much bigger population. So I conducted a phone interview with the chief deputy from a rural county. I was very nervous about calling the office because I’m an author with only two short stories to my credit. But he was very nice and answered all my questions.
That’s an attitude all the officers I’ve met through the academy have had. They want the citizens they protect to understand their jobs. As Clay Stafford, found of the Killer Nashville mystery writers conference, said, law enforcement professionals are flattered when writers bother to try to accurately represent their work.
Writers, what research have you done for a crime story? Readers, what mysteries have you read that seemed particularly well-researched?