by Donnell Ann Bell
Does anyone remember the day when you could Google, check out research material at the library, and have a pretty good idea how to write a believable plot? I’m sure it happened once upon a time. I can’t imagine Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler and other greats had to worry too much about DNA evidence, bloodstain pattern analysis, 3D printer guns, CODIS, IAFIS, LEDS databases and a multitude of other technologies that have ballooned seemingly overnight.
You might argue that technology has made our lives simpler, so why am I whining? After all, these people used type writers with carbon paper for crying out loud. They mailed their novels to their publisher in manuscript boxes.
I’m whining because technology refuses to stand still while I finish my book. Someone opened the door to the Information Age, created an avalanche and laid me out flat. Oh, sure, I enjoy my laptop, smart phone, tablet as much as the next impatient person, but for a contemporary crime fiction writer, it’s a disaster. For instance, say you start your book in January and finish it the following September, you’d better go back and check your facts, AGAIN, because during that short amount of time, based on today’s technology, your research has probably changed.
Think I’m exaggerating? Are you ready for what I learned last night? Last night at Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, our guest speaker was Greggory LaBerge, Director-Forensics and Evidence Division, Denver Police Department. Along with learning that if a person breaks into a home and leaves his DNA evidence (blood, saliva, or hair) in Colorado and his DNA is left at another crime scene across the country in Michigan, that bad guy, once he is located, is going to jail.
I also learned that DNA technology has gotten so sophisticated that if your detectives are having a conversation over the body, (which we’re known to do when writing a book to advance the plot and cue the readers in on possible clues) they’re contaminating the crime scene. I like to think I don’t spit when I speak, but evidently we human beings do. That’s how accurate scientists have gotten at identifying our DNA.
I didn’t even fret about ballistic fingerprinting or the fact that every automobile out there can be identified by the make and color of its paint. (And you can’t even confuse the issue by taking it to one of those autobody paint stores because forensic analysts can break it down by layers.) Quite frankly, it’s getting darn hard for criminals, and for that matter, us writers.
The truth is I love storytelling too much to give it up, so I’ll keep learning and doing my best to stay ahead of the ever-changing curve. But for you technology/forensic people out there so proud of the progress you’re making, would it hurt you too much to slow down?
And they say writing historical fiction is hard.