Story and Truth

Research was key in The Color of Trauma.  For one, I really wanted the police part of the story, the part that’s “real”, to be as accurate as possible. Lucky for me, I’ve got a Chicago police source close to home as an alpha reader (first person to read my work).  He was invaluable, because what I think I know about police procedures comes mostly from fiction books, films, and TV.  It turns out, that stuff is often wrong.  I received a lot of “that wouldn’t happen” and “he’d never say that” or “he should ask about…” comments. I was also able to talk to a Sergeant who works in the Detective Division, though not Homicide, specifically. That man was a gold mine.  He dropped lingo everywhere, and I was like a kid who just got a pony for her birthday.  Most of it made it into the book.  

There are also details that few will appreciate, but they’re accurate.  Homicide, in Chicago, is broken up into three areas:  North, South, and Central.  My protagonist works in Area Central, which operates out of Chicago’s second district.  I was able to tour the detective room one night.  It did NOT look anything like I imagined, which was wood desks pushed up against one another for partnered pairs.  Kind of like Cagney and Lacey or maybe Barney Miller.  It was disappointing at first.  Just rows of long tables with computers and phones.  Detectives don’t have their own desks!  Still, I didn’t need them to have desks, so the description of the detective room is accurate to the best of my memory.  I got to see the interview rooms, too.  Tiny!  No desks.  No chairs. No one-way glass.  Not all of them with cameras.  For the book, I took liberties.  I also added a conference room completely from my imagination.  Accuracy was important, but not at the expense of the story.  

In that vein, in Chicago, Homicide operates in pairs of four, for a total of eight officers per team, but I cut it down to six.  I didn’t want that many side characters for readers to have to remember.  They rotate who runs lead on cases, and this I kept in the novel, as well as their schedule.  They rotate days off, 4 on and 2 off. I probably killed an entire tree printing calendars working out the timeline of the story. I marked on days and off days, using a few events in the story as markers. I even found that particular day-off group in the CPD calendar. Authenticity, yo. In total, it probably took me 4-6 hours just to work out the dates.

To keep it as timely as possible for, you know, future generations, I don’t ever specify the year, but, calendar-wise, it takes place in 2019. I first selected 2017, then 2018, before reaching 2019, which worked best because I could stretch the timeline out the longest that way. Because I was editing in early 2019 and the novel takes place in the summer, I had the weird experience of consciously living through the dates in my nov

Research was key in The Color of Trauma. For one, I really wanted the police part of the story, the part that’s “real”, to be as accurate as possible. Lucky for me, I’ve got a Chicago police source close to home as an alpha reader (first person to read my work). He was invaluable, because what I think I know about police procedures comes mostly from fiction books, films, and TV. It turns out, that stuff is often wrong. I received a lot of “that wouldn’t happen” and “he’d never say that” or “he should ask about…” comments. I was also able to talk to a Sergeant who works in the Detective Division, though not Homicide, specifically. That man was a gold mine. He dropped lingo everywhere, and I was like a kid who just got a pony for her birthday. Most of it made it into the book.

There are also details that few will appreciate, but they’re accurate. Homicide, in Chicago, is broken up into three areas: North, South, and Central. My protagonist works in Area Central, which operates out of Chicago’s second district. I was able to tour the detective room one night. It did NOT look anything like I imagined, which was wood desks pushed up against one another for partnered pairs. Kind of like Cagney and Lacey or maybe Barney Miller. It was disappointing at first. Just rows of long tables with computers and phones. Detectives don’t have their own desks! Still, I didn’t need them to have desks, so the description of the detective room is accurate to the best of my memory. I got to see the interview rooms, too. Tiny! No desks. No chairs. No one-way glass. Not all of them with cameras. For the book, I took liberties. I also added a conference room completely from my imagination. Accuracy was important, but not at the expense of the story.

In that vein, in Chicago, Homicide operates in pairs of four, for a total of eight officers per team, but I cut it down to six. I didn’t want that many side characters for readers to have to remember. They rotate who runs lead on cases, and this I kept in the novel, as well as their schedule. They rotate days off, 4 on and 2 off. I probably killed an entire tree printing calendars working out the timeline of the story. I marked on days and off days, using a few events in the story as markers. I even found that particular day-off group in the CPD calendar. Authenticity, yo. In total, it probably took me 4-6 hours just to work out the dates.

To keep it as timely as possible for, you know, future generations, I don’t ever specify the year, but, calendar-wise, it takes place in 2019. I first selected 2017, then 2018, before reaching 2019, which worked best because I could stretch the timeline out the longest that way. Because I was editing in early 2019 and the novel takes place in the summer, I had the weird experience of consciously living through the dates in my novel. I had a moment where I thought, “This is the day my protagonists meet.”  And maybe I took a few moments to imagine my book was real. Of course, I also had the dissatisfaction of having the weather not mirror my narrative. Seriously, Mother Nature?

I’m of the belief that reality and facts bow to the story. Still, it’s important to have as much truth as possible.

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