Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Words of advice from Leslie Budewitz, a practicing lawyer and 2011 Agatha Award winner

Is it ever okay to make a (legal/criminal) mistake on purpose to fool the reader?  Not in my book.  Exaggerate a bit for drama, sure, but deliberately building a story on a faulty premise breaks faith with the reader.  As prosecutor turned novelist Marcia Clark said in a panel discussion on forensics in fiction, "The more we tell the truth, the more dramatic it is."  We don't need to lie about the facts to tell a good story -- we need to find the story to tell.  Writers who take time to check legal terms and principles will discover terrific opportunities to twist, deepen, complicate and simplify their stories.  Getting the details right can make all the difference.


Chris said...

Sound advice. Of course, I don't think the writers of WW's mini-mysteries are ever deliberately trying to mislead the reader by knowingly getting things wrong, it's simply that we don't all have a legal or forensic background. Small, innocent errors, as long as the story holds up otherwise, are surely forgiveable.

Jody E. Lebel said...

I forgive you. But the public won't. There WILL be someone married to a cop or a judge or a criminal :)who will be sending you an e-mail telling you how you screwed up. All we can do is try.

Second point; the story won't hold up if the details are faulty. So the error better be very tiny. Of course, I'll still find

Chris said...

THAT I believe!