The Prowler: Page 99 of My Spiral Notebooks

2 a.m.


Whirling, swirling.


Lone bat.

Looping, swooping.

Frogs, crickets.

Train whistle, far away.

Radio crackles,

In still, night air.

Prowler complaint.

Noise outside window.

“I’ll take it.”




Front porch light.

Moth. Flittering, fluttering.





Curtain, lace.


Leaves ticking, clicking across weathered floorboards.

Porch swing.

Rusted chain.


Door swings slowly inward.

Just a crack.

Yellow light.

A sliver,

Pours outside.

Tiny face,

Crinkled with days long since passed.

“I heard them again, Officer.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Wet, anxious eyes.

Faded gray with time.

“They were at the window, like before.”

“I’ll check around back.”

“You’re too kind.”

“I wish my Bill was still here.”

“I know.”

“He’s been gone ten years this week.”

“A good man.”

“Thank you.”


“It’s fresh.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Two sugars and a little cream, right?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Be right back.”




Neighbor’s house, dark.

Heating unit, humming.

Rattles, stops.




Two minutes.


Kitchen window.

Full coffee pot.

Silver tray.





For two.

Screen door,



“Everything’s okay.”

“Yes, I do feel better now.”

Warm smells.


Fresh bread,


“It’s just with Bill gone …”

“I know.”

A glance,


Wall clock,


A sigh.

A tear.


Tick, tick, tick.

“Would you mind if I sat for a minute?”

A sniffle.

“I’m tired, and really shouldn’t drive.”

“How would that look?”

“A cop asleep at the wheel.”

A smile.


Just like last night.

And the night before.

And the night before.

At 2 a.m.

Ten years after her Bill passed away.

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Times Are Changing: Buy Your Villain A New Weapon


Are the villains in your tales growing weary of having to choose from a limited supply of murder weapons? Do you hear them sigh each time you type the words Glock, Oleander, chainsaw, wood chipper, candlestick, and severed gas and/or brake lines? Who can blame them for their dismay? After all, for decades now they’ve reached into their toolboxes to find the same old tired instruments of death, time and time again.

Well, thanks to a handful of computer geeks and hackers, your bad guys will soon have a new method of “whacking” the cleverly-crafted characters you’ve designated for the grave. Now, instead of having to chop, hack, shoot, and slice, killers can keep their hands spotlessly clean while tending to their evil business.

How will they do it, you ask? Okay, imagine this … your evil-doer, I. Stoppa Uhart, is on a tight schedule, needing to kill several people before the noon hour. So he whips out his handy-dandy, hand-held pocket computer, otherwise known as a cellphone. He sets a special app to the scan mode. And … presto! He’s located three people nearby who’re connected to insulin pumps. He pushes a few touchscreen buttons and … WHAM! The pumps each deliver a lethal dose of insulin to the unsuspecting victims. The murderer switches off the device and goes on to his next appointment … the hospital trauma ward where there should be plenty of morphine drips.

The best part of the whole deal (for the killer) is that there’s no physical evidence to tie him to the murder—no fingerprints, no trace evidence, no shell casings, no murder weapon … nothing.

Across town, Uhart’s first cousin and partner in crime, I. Maka Ubleed, is standing by at the freeway, ready to switch on a hacking program that would soon give him control of the on-board computers regulating the systems of nearly every passing vehicle. His button-pushing-finger, poised and ready to act, trembled slightly as it hovered above the bright red key marked “Press Here For Death And Destruction.” Yes, in just a few minutes there’d be a massive auto crash and countless deaths and injuries.

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Sound like fantasy to you? Well, it’s not. The hacking of these types of programs is relatively easy to accomplish with technology that’s readily available. And, if hackers already have the ability to control our medicine and our vehicles, what’s next? Our food and water supply, power grids, and … no, not that. Not our Kindles!

It’s true, folks. The day may soon come when a band of evil hackers decide to gain control over all e-readers, and that would surely mean certain and instant death for us all. Either that, or we might be forced to do the unthinkable … buy and read real books. What a “novel” idea …


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Writers’ Police Academy Registration Opens Sunday, Introduces HIT Classes!


It’s almost here! That’s right, registration for the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy is scheduled to open at NOON EST on February 19, 2017. That’s TOMORROW!!!

You can expect BIG things this year. Over the moon excitement, thrills, and action. Lots of BOOMS, BANGS, sirens, and flashing lights. New workshops include a ton of … well, surprises, as you’ll soon see!

2017 is our 9th annual event and, as always, we’ve outdone ourselves with another stellar lineup, starting with Craig Johnson, Mr. Longmire himself, as Guest of Honor!

The WPA is open to all!


The vast majority of WPA workshops are hands-on. However, we do feature a few lecture-based sessions that take place in nice, modern classroom settings, such as our lecture hall pictured above ~ WPA 2016.

 Described as “an exciting vacation experience for writers,” this conference often sells out within hours of opening its online registration.  Mark your calendar (you might also want to subscribe to the WPA newsletter so you don’t miss any announcements or changes), and be ready to register.

Registration for the 9th annual WPA opens on Sunday, Feb. 19, at noon EST! and is on the WPA’s site: Your registration is not complete until you make a payment via PayPal (you don’t need a PayPal account to pay registration fees as a major credit cards are also just fine).

Before You Register

The 2017 Writers’ Police Academy schedule is online (we’re adding more and more workshops each day!). Visit to read about all of the classes offered. All classes are open to everyone. You can decide which to attend after you arrive.

However, High Intensity Training (HIT Training) workshops require advance sign-ups on the online registration form, and these spots are filled by lottery. We have almost 700 spots in HIT training sessions!  


Mark the dates of the WPA on your calendar and let everyone who might make other plans for you (family members, employers, etc.) know you have a commitment to attend the WPA on these dates. This will minimize the possibility of later conflicts.

Gather all the information you’ll need to register, including your credit card. Decide in advance your preference for name badges, etc.

FIRST-DAY ONLY! You’re Automatically Entered To Win a Free WPA Registration!
Everyone who registers on Feb. 19—the first day registration opens—will automatically be put in a drawing for a Free Registration donated by the WPA. Zero cost to enter. (The winner can elect to have her/his WPA registration fee refunded or give the WPA registration to a friend.)

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FIRST-DAY ONLY! Enter Author Kendra Elliot’s $1000 WPA Bonanza Drawing! Kendra Elliot is donating a fantastic WPA package that includes free WPA registration, banquet ticket, T-shirt, additional swag, and $500 cash the winner can use for travel or accommodations. This opportunity is available only to those who register on Feb. 19, 2017. Fee to enter is $20. Proceeds will be used to help fund a student scholarship at NWTC, our host college/academy.

The HIT Parade

When you register, all HIT Training options will be shown in a numbered list. To indicate your preferences, list the numbers of the six HIT options you most want to attend. The list should be in priority order with the numbers separated by commas (e.g. 5,3,6,12,7,4).

HIT Training options that require BACKGROUND CHECKS are shown on the registration form. Please do not indicate you wish to take part in one of these workshops if you are unwilling to submit the necessary information required for a “soft” background check that verifies you are approved to handle/possess firearms. The background checks are handled by the same firm our host academy uses to conduct background checks for its police academy recruits. This information will not be stored, and WPA staff does not see the results of the background checks, only approvals.

If you have questions prior to registration, feel free to email WPA directly at

Visit the Writers’ Police Academy website to read about all about the classes offered. The schedule is fantastic. All classes are open to everyone.

Some of the workshops you can expect to attend are (this is only a very few):

  • Antique Firearms
  • Arson Investigations
  • Asian and Native Gangs
  • Building Searches/Room Clearing
  • Evidence Collection
  • Bug Mania – using insects as murder weapons.
  • Drones
  • Emergency Driving
  • Shoot/Don’t Shoot (Live-action)
  • Handgun and Rifle fire – Hands-on/live fire.
  • K-9s
  • Mental Health and Law Enforcement
  • Mounted Patrol (yes, there will be horses!).
  • Tribal Police
  • Pursuit Immobilization Technique (PIT) Hands on driving.
  • Secrets of the Secret Service
  • SWAT: Explosive Entry – Hands-on!
  • Talking to Serial Killers
  • Traffic Stops/Drunk Driving – Yes, drinking is involved, but not by you :)

And much, much more!!

Please, please, please be ready to register Sunday February 19th at noon EST. Spots are limited and the free giveaways are available only on the first day of registration. Please do keep in mind that sometimes there’s NOT a second day.

You do not want to miss this one-of-a-kind, thrilling event! After all, we offer you workshops such as …


Also, please remember to reserve your hotel rooms. They are currently accepting phone reservations and, believe it or not, our block is already starting to fill.

Radisson Hotel and Conference Center Green Bay
2040 Airport Drive, Green Bay, WI 54313

*The hotel is conveniently situated near Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, and features several restaurants, AND, the famous Oneida Casino!

So … see you on Sunday! Watch my Facebook page for updates as they occur!



Sisters in Crime, a major sponsor of the Writers’ Police Academy, offers a generous $150 discount to their members attending the WPA for the first time. Not a member? No problem. Simply join SinC today to receive your discount.

*You must be a SinC member at the time of WPA registration to receive the discount. Click here to join SinC today!



Registration fees alone do not cover the expense of this massive event, so we rely on you to help out by supporting this extremely beneficial aspect of the program. We keep the registration costs to a bare minimum, hoping that doing so encourages and helps more writers to attend

Therefore …

The WPA is actively seeking sponsors and items for the raffle and silent auction. It is because of your generosity that we’re able to do what we do!

Please contact me at if you’d like to join our family of sponsors. We need you, and a sponsorship is a great means to advertise you and your work to a worldwide audience!

We are also seeking volunteers to help out at the event. Raffle and silent auction experience not necessary, but big smiles and the ability to sell tickets like your life depends on it are, well, a big plus. ????

To learn more about sponsorships and how you can join our family of sponsors, please visit the Become a sponsor page of the WPA website, here.

Thanks so much, and we’ll see you Sunday at noon. Don’t forget!!



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Pat: The Little Cop Who Couldn’t

Some people are simply not designed to be cops. There, I’ve said it. And it’s true.

Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that it takes a special kind of person to successfully wear a gun and badge. Sure, “law dawgs” come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, and from varying backgrounds. But there was one officer who shouldn’t have made it past the interview stage, and that cop was quickly nicknamed “The Little Cop Who Couldn’t.”

First of all, for the purpose of this blog, we need to assign a name to the officer—a gender-neutral name. Therefore, it’ll be up to you to paint your own mental picture of him/her. And the name I choose is Pat.

The story goes something like this…

Pat was a unique police officer who stood at a towering 4′-11″ tall, with shoes on (4′-10″ wearing really thick socks and no shoes).

Not a single supply company stocked police uniforms in child sizes, so Pat’s clothing had to be specially made and ordered from a company that advertised, I think, on the back cover of Archie comic books. Even then, a good bit of tailoring had to be done, snipping here and stitching there, to insure a proper fit. Seriously, the little pant legs were shorter than the sleeves on my dress shirts.

If someone had bronzed Pat’s work shoes they’d have looked a lot like “baby’s first shoes.”

During basic training, one of the practical exercises for the class was to direct traffic at a busy city intersection. Trainees were required to be in full uniform for the exercise, including hats. Well, they just don’t make police hats that small, so Pat borrowed one from a fellow classmate, looking like a kid playing dress-up in adult clothing. Besides, not everyone can pull of the “police-hat look.” On the other hand, some look absolutely fabulous!

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Green Bay Police Mounted Patrol

Anyway, the recruit who’d just completed his turn in the intersection had successfully, without a single crash, stopped traffic from all four directions so Pat could assume the position in the middle of the street. Then, firmly in control of dozens upon dozens of idling vehicles of all sizes and makes, and with arms outstretched and a forceful tweet from a shiny and brand new whistle, Pat sharply and crisply motioned for one lane of traffic to move forward. Cars and trucks zipped by and Pat smiled, nodded, and winked at the drivers as they passed. Pat had it going on.

And all was going well until Pat gave the whistle another blast to stop the oncoming traffic, and then turned to the left to start the next lane of traffic moving. Well, Pat’s tiny head turned left, rotating inside the cap, but the too-large hat remained facing forward. The entire class erupted in laughter. Suddenly chaos broke out. Horns blew. Drivers started moving from all directions. Traffic was soon knotted up like a tin can full of wriggling fishing worms.

Pat once responded to a shoplifting call—an 11-year-old girl swiped a twenty-five cent candy bar from a local K-Mart—and just as Pat was about to enter the store the kid ran outside. Pat grabbed the little darlin’ who then pushed Pat down to the pavement. Pat got up and grabbed the 70-ish-pound kid and it was on. According to bystanders who, by the way, called 911 to report an officer needing assistance because the child was absolutely beating the tar out of Pat. One witness told responding officers that Pat resembled one of those blow-up clown punching bags that pops back upright after each blow, the kind with the big red nose that squeaks when struck.

Then there was the time when Pat’s fellow officers responded to a large fight outside a local bar. The dispatcher cautioned that weapons were involved and that several people were already injured and down. Pat was in the middle answering a domestic he-said/she-said when the call came in.

Responding officers saw the large crowd and immediately called for backup, which, at that point, meant calling in sheriff’s deputies and state troopers, since every available officer, except Pat, was already on the scene. The fight was brutal, with officers and bad guys were going at it, toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow. Officers were outnumbered four-to-one, at least.

And then they heard it … a lone siren wailing and yelping in the distance, like the sound of a ship’s horn mournfully floating across vast salt water marshes at low tide. Soon, intermittent flashes of blue light began to reflect from brick storefronts and plate glass windows. Mannequins, fur coats, and hunting apparel were all washed in the same winking and blinking azure light.

Suddenly, a patrol car shot out of the darkness. With strobes pulsing, siren screaming, and headlamps wig-wagging, Pat’s marked blue and white bore down on the parking lot and the fight that was well underway.

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Instead of stopping in the street, the tiny officer, who by the way, had to sit on a pillow to see over the dashboard (no, I’m not kidding), steered the car over the curb with a bump and a bang, pulling directly into the narrow parking lot. The car came to a stop not five feet away from the rumble.

Pat didn’t waste any time before flinging open the car door and stepping out, leaving the emergency lights in full frenzy mode, and siren crying out like an alley cat with its tail caught in a fox trap. Then Pat stepped out of the car, sort of …

You see, Pat’s pistol and holster had somehow gotten tangled with the seat belt, reeling Pat back into the car like a Yo-Yo on the upswing. Pat’s Maglite hit the pavement and broke apart, spilling D-cell batteries and the lens and bulb in all directions. The pillow fell out and slid beneath the vehicle.

And the hat. That &%*@ hat.

Yes, resting on Pat’s miniature dome was the cop/bus driver hat which, of course, remained motionless while Pat’s softball-size head spun around like a lighthouse beacon as he/she surveyed the scene and the whereabouts of the now missing batteries and seat cushion.

Suddenly, as if a magic spell had been cast, the fight stopped. Everyone, good guys and bad, all turned to watch “The Pat Show” unfold. Even the bad guys chuckled at the ridiculousness playing out before their very eyes—Pat on hands and knees retrieving lost gear and, of course, the pillow. At least the fight was over.

By the way, Pat’s hands were so small that the department had to purchase a pistol a bit smaller than standard cop issue, but Pat’s index finger was still too short to reach the trigger. Instead, he/she learned to shoot using his/her middle finger to pull the trigger. Didn’t matter, though, because Pat still barely managed to shoot a satisfactory score on the range.

So I guess the true test of becoming a police officer is not how strong the desire or how big the heart, it’s how well the head fits the hat. And, of course, you must be “this tall” to drive a police car.

Pat did have a few good officer-type qualities. Such as…

Crime scene photography. Pat was already close to the ground, so locating tiny bits of evidence was a breeze.


Locating “bugs”.

Pat could sit for hours at a time, watching surveillance tapes.

Undercover assignments were Pat’s favorite.

Of course, Pat’s drinking was a problem.

And there were rumors of a serious “Binky” habit…

Joining the dive team presented new challenges for Pat.


Pat was tough, though, and managed to singlehandedly bring in even the biggest and baddest of the bad guys.


In the end, though, it was the intradepartmental affair that ended Pat’s career.


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2017 Writers’ Police Academy Opening Ceremonies!

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It’s no secret that the Writers’ Police Academy is THE premier law enforcement training event (for writers) on this planet. Actually, we’re almost certain we could make the same claim about the entire universe. However, until we expand to places where “no man or woman has gone before,” well, we’ll stick to fact. Although, Lisa Klink, a successful writer of Star Trek episodes, attended the WPA last year, so perhaps she’ll cleverly devise a means for us to venture out to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new WRITERS!


WPA PIT instructor Colleen Belongea (in the passenger seat) and Star Trek TV series writer Lisa Klink (behind the wheel).

2017 WPA Registration opens Sunday February 19, 2017, at noon EST!!

Until we set up shop on a passing comet, though, we’ll continue to deliver THE most thrilling, exciting, heart-pounding event this side of Pluto.


For now, though …

For those of you who don’t know, The WPA takes place almost entirely on the Oneida Indian Reservation. In fact, even our stunning event hotel, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center (Green Bay) is owned by the Oneida Nation and is situated on tribal land, and we feature numerous sessions taught by tribal police officers and instructors.

For the first time in the history of the WPA, and most likely a first for a typical writers’ conference, we are kicking off the WPA weekend with an amazing opening ceremony. And you, attendees of the 9th annual 2017 Writers’ Police Academy, are invited to be a part of this spectacular, memorable, and emotional experience—The Blessing of the WPA, led by tribal leaders, color guard, dancers, Miss Oneida, and other members of the Oneida Nation!

You are invited to attend the Opening Ceremonies and Official Blessing of the 9th Annual WPA!

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When: Thursday August 10, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Radisson Hotel and Conference Center Green Bay (The WPA Event Hotel)


We are extremely pleased that you’ll be sharing this remarkable time with us. After all, you are part of our family. So yes, the Oneida Nation, the WPA, our host academy/college (NWTC) and YOU! A winning combination, for sure!


  • WPA orientation begins immediately after the conclusion of the opening ceremonies.
  • The 2017 WPA schedule is now online at the Writers’ Police Academy website. As always, workshops are added regularly. In fact, I’ll be adding more to the schedule all this week and early next week.



*Remember, the WPA often sells out in a hurry! Please be sure to register on DAY ONE to secure your spot, and for a chance to win free registrations and other bonuses! These free giveaways are available only to those who register during the first 24 hours!!

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FIRST-DAY ONLY! Enter Author Kendra Elliot’s $1000 WPA Bonanza Drawing.

Kendra Elliot is donating a fantastic WPA package that includes free WPA registration, banquet ticket, T-shirt, additional swag, and $500 cash the winner can use for travel or accommodations.

This opportunity is available only to those who register on Feb. 19, 2017—the first day registration opens! Fee to enter is $20. Proceeds to be used to help fund a student scholarship at NWTC, our host college/academy.


FIRST-DAY ONLY! You’re Automatically Entered To Win a Free WPA Registration

Everyone who registers on Feb. 19—the first day registration opens—will automatically be put in a drawing for a Free Registration donated by the WPA. Zero cost to enter. (The winner can elect to have her/his WPA registration fee refunded or give the WPA registration to a friend.)



The Writers’ Police Academy is delighted to announce that Sisters in Crime will once again be a major sponsor of the 2017 WPA to be held in Green Bay, WI, August 10-13. Thanks to the generosity of the Sisters in Crime organization, SinC members attending the WPA for the first time will qualify for a whopping $150 registration fee discount.

Not a SinC member? No problem. Simply join prior to registering for the WPA to instantly receive the discount!

You do not have to be a writer to join, and SinC is open to both men and women.

Join Sisters in Crime here


*Due to the unpredictable nature of law enforcement and its necessary and urgent response to real-time situations, the WPA schedule is subject to change at any time, without notice, including the day of the event.




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Police Interrogation Leads To Fictional Characters

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Imagine that you, the police detective, have arrived at the scene of a murder. Patrol officers, after their hurried, blue-light-and-wailing-siren response, immediately secured the area and have ten potential suspects standing by to speak with you. And that’s where you shine. You’re well-known for your abilities as an interrogator. But how exactly do you begin an interview or interrogation? What are your first words? How do you know they’ll be the right words?

Well, we all know that no two people are exactly alike, right? Therefore, the ten suspects most likely have stark differences in personalities, backgrounds, physical characteristics, habits, hobbies, and likes and dislikes.

Speaking of dislikes, you can safely assume that one of the more common hostilities will be an aversion of police officers. Yes, believe it or not, there are actually people out there who just don’t think too kindly of the men and women who wear badges and uniforms (What a surprise!). And, along with the basic hatred of the blue polyester clothing and shiny shoes comes a huge portion of distrust. I know … more surprising news, huh?

A good interviewer, though, finds ways around all that hatred and lack of trust. And, by possessing the remarkable ability to overcome those obstacles, professional interviewers/interrogators are nearly worth their weight in gold when it comes to crime-solving. How do they do it? Well, for starters, to be a really good interviewer one must be a fantastic listener. I’ll repeat that for the “motor-mouths” out there. A good interviewer must be a good listener. A Good Listener. Good listener. Listen. Shhhh ………… listen. Stop talking and what? Ah, there you go.

A savvy interviewer is also a human chameleon, a person who’s able to change tactics and topics as quickly as the suspect formulates and weaves new lies and new alibis. Good interviewers are also good actors.

The successful interviewer must possess the ability to detect subtle changes in a suspect’s voice, mannerisms, and attitude. The investigator must also know to never judge a person and their capabilities by his/her appearance. After all, criminals come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life.

This also works in reverse. Investigators should never assume the worst about someone. Shabby clothing and a disheveled appearance are not positive indictors of criminal behavior. Likes, a suit and tie are not solid indicators of successful and honest success. And this differences are part of why interviews and interrogation are often extremely important aspects of police investigations.

So let’s try a little exercise to see how you measure up as an interviewer. I think most of you will find that you’re already quite good at it, and you’ll soon see why.

The body of 26-year-old movie starlet Iona Porche was found in a walk-in closet, not far from the bathtub in her bedroom suite. She was quite dead, and most definitely squeaky clean and embarrassingly nude. Well, except for the bath towel draped across her right leg.

Iona Porche on the set of her hit movie “IRONY VII: Strange-Looking Man Kills All Bad Actors Who Take Showers and Then Walk into ‘That’ Dark Room.”

Ms. Porche’s personal assistant told you that she’d been concerned about the assortment of “weirdos” hanging around her boss in recent weeks. The assistant also stated that Ms. Porche was extremely naive, and that perhaps some of the odd folks had been taking advantage of her boss’s generosity.

The really odd thing, she’d said, was that she’d overheard Ms. Porche involved in what sounded like a bitter argument with at least two males and one female (it was, after all, difficult to make out the voices with her ear tightly pressed to the wall). And, for the life of her, the assistant couldn’t understand why on earth Ms. Porche would allow those people in the room with her while she was taking a bath. “That sort of thing should be kept private,” were her exact words.

After thanking the assistant for what was basically a gossip-fest, you begin the interviews of the ten suspects. You know it’s important to first establish that you’re in charge … but you’ve also got to make the suspect feel comfortable with you. In other words, you’ve got to be the boss while assuming the role of best friend, mother, father, brother, cousin, and even their drunk uncle, if that’s what it takes to solve the case.

Yes, good investigators must have the ability to “walk the walk and talk the talk.” Finding common ground can definitely help start the dialog flowing. In fact, it’s a must in most instances.

If the suspect is a green lizard-like man with horns, bumps under the skin where eyebrows should be, head to toe tattoos, and a forked tongue, then the good detective could possibly begin to build rapport by speaking about the silly Bugs Bunny tattoo he’d gotten on his right butt cheek after drinking one too many tequila shots the night of his twenty-first birthday. Doing so could be the ice-breaker needed to start the wagging of Mr. Lizard’s tongue.

Now, with a conversation underway, the detective can ease into the real purpose of the meeting by asking simple questions, such as, “How did you know the victim? Was she your friend? A lover? A co-worker?” The idea is to establish a connection between the victim and the suspect, if there is one.

Okay, you have the basic concept. So what could you say to this next suspect that could be the start of a trust-building conversation?

Did you offer him a soft drink and candy bar because his breath smelled like root beer and chocolate? Sure, that’s a start. And please do look for the little things, not just an overall survey of the property. What you probably wouldn’t want to say to the suspect is that you own a plaid cover for your motor home that’s practically the same size as his shirt. Besides, common courtesy goes a long way in police work, and in life in general. A badge is not a license to be mean.

How about this next suspect? How do you get inside his head? Hmm … maybe that was a poor choice of words, but you know what I mean.

A great ice-breaker could be telling him about your cousin Sammy “The Nose” who used to entertain the neighborhood kids by shoving sewer rats up his nostrils. And yes, it is okay to tell a fib at this stage of the game—“I used to have a pet snake who looked just like yours. I named him ‘Slim’ after my dad. His nickname was Slim Jim.”

All of this is solid and basic information for a police detective, but did you notice that it’s also a great tool that could help writers add depth and personality to their characters? Readers want a personal connection to the people who live inside your books. They want to know them. To know what makes them tick. Why do they do what they do? When do they do it? Is is a compulsion? Are they obsessed? And it is the writer’s job to deliver answers to those questions by allowing the reader to follow the characters as they travel their daily journeys throughout a normal and believable world.

So, try it for yourself. Have your characters “sit” in a chair across from you and then find that one big thing that defines them—the forked tongue or the candy bar and root beer. Then continue to question your “suspect” until you “know” them as a person. You’ll soon find that with each question comes another layer, until soon you have a very real but fictional character sitting across from you. Of course, you may want to do this when no one else is at home to avoid being carted off by the net-wielding folks who run Nervous Hospitals.

For now, you can practice your interviewing skills with this next potential suspect. Oh, I almost forgot, always remember to watch the eyes. They tell 70% of the suspect’s story. 10% is up to you. The other 20% lives in the imaginations of your readers. It’s up to you, though, to set those minds in motion.


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