They are talking on my crime scene loop about ‘mood’ verses ‘research’.
The discussion started with someone asking why in cop shows, the officers always search a building in the dark, with flash lights. Why not turn on the house's actual lights. The poster asked whether this was actual law enforcement practice, or whether the writers of the show took poetic license in order to affect mood and tension.
The answer came back instantly that law enforcement always turns on the lights before searching a residence or building. To do otherwise could be a fatal mistake. One writer even posted that she’d gone to some kind of writers’ police academy and one of the instructors had addressed this misconception. He’d had them search the premises of a fake crime scene with flash lights and then after they were finished, he’d turned on the lights. There were dead bodies everywhere and the flash light beams had missed them.
I’m sure law enforcement types far and wide laugh about this or possibly rant about it, depending on their mood.
But the truth is, the writers are writing toward mood and tension, and if they’d followed the actual police/law enforcement search procedure, they would have gutted both.
Because let’s face it—it’s much scarier to watch your favorite characters searching a house or building in the dark, with skittering shadows all around them--even the thin, wavering beams of flashlight light aids in the tension and mood—then beneath the harsh, illuminating brilliance of fluorescent lights. For the writers, incorporating established search practices would have shredded the mood and suspense.
It would have totally destroyed the X-Files. (GRIN)
I mean those character practically LIVED in shadows and darkness.
At some point every writer runs into where to draw the line in their own work. If you’ve done the research, and you know that using a specific plot element in your book would never happen in ‘real’ law enforcement, do you still stick with that incorrect plot element anyway? If using the actual procedure is boring and suspenseless will you retain your authenticity and write it correctly anyway, regardless of how the correct version impacts your book?
Or, do you write it the way it needs to be written for greatest impact on the reader, but try to mitigate the character’s choice. Do you make the character aware he is doing the wrong thing, but give him good reasons for doing it wrong. Do you motivate him so he has no choice, or believes he has no choice?
At what point should correct procedure be left for the ‘real’ law enforcement? And creative solutions be left for the writer?