Saturday Writing Quote

Today, two smart quotes from a novel I enjoyed years back and came across again recently, City of Thieves, by David Benioff (2008), an improbable combination of buddy road trip and historical novel set during the siege of Leningrad. The narrator’s deceased father had been a poet.

“[T]ruth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editor.”

“It was very odd to speak openly about my father and his work. The words themselves seemed unsafe, as if I were confessing a crime and the authorities might hear. … Still, it was good to talk about him. It made me happy that poems are referred to in the present tense even when the poet is the past tense.”

— David Benioff, in City of Thieves

Admissibility of past convictions #lawandfiction

medium_5938168933I spotted this blog post on the NW Sidebar, a publication of the Washington State Bar, titled Witness Backgrounds: What’s Admissible in Washington vs. Oregon, and thought it raises some interesting possibilities for fiction writers. (I’ll wait while you read it.)

In short, every state sets its own standards for what criminal history can be brought out when a witness testifies in court. But these are good examples of two general approaches — one more flexible, one more stringent, though in each state, statutory limits are the starting point.

How can you use this in your story? Is a witness afraid to report a crime, or to speak honestly to police, or to testify in court because of her history? How will your fictional prosecutor deal with an eye witness who has a lengthy criminal history, even though it may have nothing to do with what the witness saw? Even bad guys can innocently, by coincidence or bad luck, witness other bad guys in the act. How will your fictional defense lawyer deal with the same situation? What emotions does the fear of testifying trigger in your witness? She and her new husband were beaten and robbed; if they testify against the thug, will the ten-year-old arrest for forgery that she’s never told him about be used against her in court? What will she do to prevent that—lie? Insist he testify? Develop laryngitis or an excuse to be out of state visiting her supposedly ill sister? Will a jury really hold a minor criminal history against a witness or victim in evaluating credibility?

Note that we are talking about witnesses here, not defendants. We’ll talk about the admissibility of a defendant’s criminal history another time.

Saturday Writing Post — on imagination

IMGP2011“In general, I think the human imagination has a compulsive or obsessive aspect to it, and the consequences of obsession can be negative in the extreme. … But of course I also believe that imagination is what in large part separates us from the chipmunks. We can envision a future for ourselves. We can envision a better and more decent world. We can envision ourselves as better and more decent human beings. And now and then we can take a bold, glorious stride into that which we’ve imagined.”
– Tim O’Brien, American novelist (b. 1946) quoted in The Writer, July 2010

(photo by Leslie)

The Saturday Writing Quote — a collection of quotes from indigenous writers

SinCSisters in Crime recently published our annual Publishing Summit report, looking this year at the issues surrounding diversity: Report for Change: the 2016 Publishing Summit Report on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Mystery Community.

And so, I loved this collection of a few quotes from some our best-known and most important writers of Native American or indigenous ancestry, called A Door to Memory. I hope you’ll find them inspiring, too.

“Life is a chance, a story is a chance. That I am here is a chance.”

— Gerald Vizenor, Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors, 1996

(Hat tip to PJ Coldren)

Why You Should Attend the Writers’ Police Academy – #WPA2016

WPA 2016If you write mystery or crime fiction, or romantic suspense, or anything where bad stuff happens, you need to know about police procedure and investigation, forensics, arson investigation, how PTSD affects law enforcement officers, emergency response teams, and all that stuff.

The best way to learn, hands down, is the Writers’ Police Academy, founded and run by Lee and Denene Lofland, with major sponsorship from Sisters in Crime. As you can tell from the photo, tThey make sitting in the BACK of a police car something to GRIN about!

The 2016 WPA was held at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College outside of Green Bay, home to a terrific law enforcement training academy. It’s a hands-on, action-packed weekend. A few of the topics covered: Arson investigation; Asian and Native gangs; the Steven Avery investigation; ballistics; blood spatter (surprisingly popular!), courtroom testimony, common mistakes writers make about the law (I taught that one), death scene investigation, defense and arrest tactics, PTSD, drug ID, explosives, fire 101, force on force room clearing, forensic art, poisons, police talk, private investigation, undercover work, and more.

Hands-on sessions included driving, shooting, a shoot-don’t shoot scenario, and defense tactics. Each day, real-life scenarios were played out in front of us—a fatality collision, a stabbing on campus—so we could see who responded and what they did. The drone demo was great, and I’ll tell you, the SWAT armored vehicle is huge!

WPA 2016 2My personal favorite was the PIT maneuver driving class. I did it! I intentionally hit and spun another car! (Not easy for a personal injury lawyer to do that, but the instructor, Colleen Belongea, absolutely rocks!)

For perspective from other writers who attended, check out these blog posts:

Jessica Ellis Laine: Top Ten Reasons I Love the Writers’ Police Academy

Stacy Green: Writers Need the WPA Because Readers Are Smart

Terry O’Dell: Why Writers’ Police Academy? (This woman is serious—she’s attended 5 of the 8 WPAs!)

WPA Banquet photo #1I had a great time meeting so many Sisters in Crime—more than two-thirds of the attendees are members—and am gratified to know how valuable the experience is for Sisters, and others. (Banquet photo by Ohio Sister Jan Irvin.)

 

Planning for the 2017 WPA is underway. Watch the WPA website-–registration will open in February 2017.