Monday, 19 February 2018

The Write Stuff with... Rebecca Bradley

Today it's my pleasure to be kicking off the Fighting Monsters blog tour and to welcome crime author Rebecca Bradley back to the blog to talk about 'Writing What You Know'.

Write what you know… writers often trot out this old piece of advice to young/new writers and then go on to provide them with their version of what it means. I have seen and heard multiple different connotations. To do with feelings and emotions, human instincts, that to write what we know is not in fact what we know in a literal sense of what has happened to us in life, but an emotional knowledge, because how otherwise could we write about fantasy or science fiction if we were only writing what we physically knew? 

But, for me, I did, I wrote what I knew, what I had done in my life for over fifteen years. Because I was a serving police officer, with 7 years in uniform and 8 years in a specialist CID department. I started to write while I was still working, then continued long after I finished. I was medically retired due to ill health a few years ago.  

The advice is good though, about using the emotion, because it is this emotion that keeps readers attached to the book. Keeps them turning the pages. Drives them forward. So I try to bring the reality of what it really feels like to work in a policing environment to my police procedurals. 

I do have to admit though, that real police work is mostly very pedestrian. There is a lot of paperwork. Sitting at your desk writing reports. Day in day out without a single moment of excitement. And if you wrote it as it is, in your books, then it would be a very dull book indeed. So, the books, they have to be story first and weaved within that, you have find a way to fit the procedure in it. To give it a realistic feel. 

Police procedures may feel realistic to a reader, and well researched ones do have the correct terminology and correct procedures even, but they are far from correct in sense of real-life policing. 

Cops don’t go raring around from one clue to the next, working on a hunch, getting a bad feeling, having senior officers doing all the leg work. And neither do detective constables have the ability to make their own investigative decisions if the story is realistic enough to have a DC protagonist in the homicide team. A murder investigation is a group effort, run by an SIO. But, as a story, you need fewer characters so readers can keep up and get attached to the ones on the page, people you can connect with. So you need one or two characters that do all the work. 

On my specialist department, I did all my own investigations. I carried several jobs and controlled each one myself. So, in that scenario, it was realistic, but that’s not how it works on a homicide team. So, what we need to do it take what we need from real life and leave the rest. Add enough realism to the story for those who have a real love and a real interest in how the police work, and then let the story flow around it. To take the lead. 

I find it quite difficult sometimes, writing police procedurals, because, I think my knowledge hinders me. I have to tread a fine line, between giving readers that insight, to what it’s really like, and boring them with the procedure. Because procedurals – that’s why readers love them, to see how the police work, but if you tip over the edge and have too much, you can lose a reader. Bore them and they close the book. And working and knowing this stuff. I do find it a difficult line to walk, but, I hope I have found that middle ground and have infused my work with the real information that makes it authentic, and kept enough back so that the story keeps moving forward. After all, that’s why we pick up a book, because we love a story and we’re attached to the characters. The police work, it comes in a close second.   

Rebecca lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her two Cockapoo's Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could she would survive on a diet of tea and cake.
Twitter: @RebeccaJBradley
Facebook: Rebecca Bradley Crime

24 hours after he walked away from court a free man, cop killer and gang leader Simon Talbot is found murdered. In his possession; the name of a protected witness from his trial. 

For DI Hannah Robbins, it's a race against time to find Talbot's killer, and locate the bystander before it's too late.

But as Hannah delves deeper into the past, she begins to question the integrity of the whole operation. 

Where do you turn when you can’t trust the police?

All book titles in bold are Amazon UK Affiliate links which will earn me a few pence if anyone clicks through and makes a purchase - any money earned will go towards buying books or gifts for giveaways.

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