Sunday, November 17, 2013

What are some of the most common mistakes that fiction writers make in forensics?

I have always been intrigued by old movies where the bad guys are outside the house carefully trying to shoot through the windows at the good guys. In real life a couple of bullets through the wall of the house right beside the window and the program would be over and the good guys dead.

I read a fascinating, but very very long article on the 10 Most Common Mistakes in Fiction Regarding Forensics featuring D.P. Lyle & Jan Burke.

Here is my take on the most important ones.

Jurisdiction: Make sure you have who handles what correct. A sheriff, the police, the FBI. Also, in hundreds of places, the coroner is a political appointment, not a doctor, far less a pathologist.

Get the gun right: Does it have a safety? How many shots does it hold?

Dead bodies smell yucky and there can be insects and all kinds of gross stuff. Death is almost never instant or pretty. Also note that curtains are hung and people are hanged.

Be accurate about how long people stay unconscious after a fight or hit on the head. Generally it’s not very long at all.

Lab tests can take a long time. Only TV shows solve everything in an hour.

It all boils down to the need to do your research and get it right.

For those of you who write mysteries/thrillers, check out the full article at:

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.