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Writing an Accurate Crime Story

Updated on August 11, 2017
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna writes non-fiction books and interviews authors in the field. Enjoying a good novel, she finds herself interviewing novelists as well.

Don't use “Let’s take him downtown for questioning.” Roth writes that real cops never say it.

Writing the Perfect Murder

The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide, 1001 Tips for Writing the Perfect Murder (2nd Edition) by the late Martin Roth is not a book that you read for pleasure on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It is a reference book that rests on your bookshelf. When you are writing a story that needs an accurate portrait of anything that deals with a crime, you reach for it and use it for blood.

"Just The Facts Mam"


Create a Profile

Take a story about a serial killer. You need to create a profile, and you look in the book’s glossary under serial murder. Turn to the pages designate, and discover there is not just one type of serial killer but four. And that, “studies reveal that most serial killers are white males between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five and are usually products of working-or-lower-middle-class families. Serial killers often seek victims from upper-middle-class backgrounds. Many serial killers are charming, selfish, impulsive and ambitious: many come from broken homes or homes where they were abused… Few serial killers express any feelings of guilt or remorse for their crimes.” Wow! A brilliant start for a classic character study!


I enjoyed the chapter on language. It is an essential tool for any crime writer with such slang as a throwaway: gun or clothes were worn and discarded by the mugger to avoid pursuit or pigeon: victim. This chapter unaided gives enough dialogue ideas to keep you writing dialogue for twelve CSI spin-offs.

Straightforward Ideas

Reading the book filled my head with straightforward ideas for stories and ample characters. What also fascinated me was the character description of cops, what their lives are like and not like, creating a whole scope of ideas.

Roth’s book gives you all the information needed to create the crime. You can start with the criminal act, the investigation of the crime scene, prosecution of the criminal, and end with life in prison. He even every so often offers examples of television shows that truthfully illustrate crime stories.


Favorite Crime TV Series

Which crime television series did you like the most?

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Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart

"Just The Facts Mam"

Finally, if the chapter you are reading isn’t enough o fill your creative imagination, which is hard to believe, there is a section called “Where do you go from here.” This chapter holds ample listings of other books written on that subject.

All things considered, Crime Writer’s Reference Guide is a must for any writer about to write a story centered on a crime or even if you have your story on paper you need to make sure you got your crime facts straight.

“Just the facts Mam.”


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