Okay, so maybe some of you know I’ve been breaking out of my comfort zone by attempting to write a very standard kind of mystery fiction (dedicated followers know I won’t shut up about it on Twitter, at least). Naturally, I’m incapable of taking the genre seriously…but, well, what the hell. I remember the cartoons (Bugs Bunny, even Calvin & Hobbes); I know the right hackneyed phrases for the occasion–no problem, right? It’s a fictional alternate Chicago, the rules are my own, right?
What I really need to do is find a cop and ask them what their thoughts on private investigators are. Personality-wise, I’m free to do whatever I want…but I have no idea what kind of information is available to non-law enforcement (yes, I know the Freedom of Information Act exists; not how much it covers), I’ve never been inside City Hall; in short, rrrgh.
Note, too, I’m talking about asking people. It’s my firm opinion that, while you can look up small facts, you have to ask a real person if you’re writing about human interactions. There’s too many little caveats, it’s just impossible to get any real accuracy from the Internet. Or, worse yet, the media. (Case in point: every amateur depiction of a scientist I have ever seen. There are major ethical standards, the guidelines for people who want to be taken seriously are hardcore; whinge, whinge.)
Anyway, as far as amateur writing goes–it seems better to stick to information that’s either readily available (thank you, Internet and maybe some friends) or to just write what one already knows. (All this is on the principle of not bothering other people when one is not even considering publication. If I had an agent, things would be totally different.)
Of course, the easiest opt-out is fantasy or science fiction…but do you really want to limit yourself to the speculative genre just because?