Trace Conger Day 5 Feb 27th

Getting the Details Right

By Trace Conger

I like to ground my fiction in reality, and while most of my work is completely
fictional, there are certainly real world elements included throughout.

Here are a few things I’ve done (and you can do) to ensure my fiction is as
accurate as possible.

1) Maintain a network of sources.
I write about PIs, but I have little experience with law enforcement (except for that
little issue in college), but I still want to represent them as accurately as possible.
And that means getting out and talking to them.
I routinely speak to several PIs to get their feedback and insight on particular
issues. All it usually costs me is lunch. Authors can learn a lot from reference
books, but they also need build a network of live sources. Writing a police
procedural? You better know some cops. Need insight into a medical issue? Talk
to your primary physician. Most professionals are very accommodating with their
time and knowledge and will be happy to help.

2. Visit the locations you write about.
In THE SHADOW BROKER, I wrote a scene where my protagonist is interviewed
at the FBI’s Cincinnati field office. I contacted the FBI’s Cincinnati office hoping to
get a tour of their facility. Not surprisingly, they said “no” for security reasons. But
they were cool enough to connect me with a resource who told me all about the
Of course, he couldn't tell me everything I wanted to know, like whether they
used keycards to enter the building, but he gave me enough information so I
could paint an accurate picture of their meeting rooms, right down to the rails on
the walls they can use to handcuff criminals.

3. Use virtual resources.
If I can’t visit the locations in person, I do it virtually. I use Google Maps to
virtually visit a location so I can write about it intimate detail. I have a scene in my
novel that is set at a damn in Columbus, Ohio. I wasn’t going to be in the
neighborhood anytime soon, so I used Google Maps’ satellite view to get a birds-
eye view of the facility. 

I coupled this with online research to learn everything I could about the damn,
specifically the length. In my scene, one character ran across the top of the
damn, and I needed to know how long it would take him to get from one side to
the other, as well as whether he’d be out of breath once he got to the other side.
Turns out, given the length, he should have been out of breath, if not clutching
his chest and wheezing.

4. Experience it for yourself.
If you’re writing a crime thriller and your protagonist carries a .45, you might want
to get out on a range and fire one for yourself. You should know how heavy it is,
what the recoil feels like, how many rounds the clip holds, how the shells eject.
It’s important, and it’s easy to learn. It’s pretty fun too.

These tips shouldn’t come as much surprise, but what might come as a surprise
is that readers will call you on your mistakes. If you’ve written car chase through
New York City, you better know which way the streets run, or you’ll get e-mail
explaining just how wrong you are.

Readers are funny like that. They won’t let you get away with much.

Trace CongerThe Shadow Broker  

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