How to Write a Crime Scene Investigation Scene

Part 1

1. What happened and how significant is this investigation?

A. It can be something as simple as a petty crime to something as large as a murder.

I.  NOTE: The tasks of a crime scene investigator are to photograph, document, sketch, analyze, collect, and process the crime scene for fingerprints. There is no interviewing suspect/witnesses etc. Other than that you are called to court to testify, and often times will be called to process items of evidence related to that case.

II. Figure out what kind of twist you would like to bring to your story. Family twist? Deep, dark secret? Fraud? Then lead event up to the big revealing of your mystery. Throw some facts into other characters to draw focus off of the main culprits use imagery and details. Intrigue the readers with something that’ll catch their eye.
Example:

  • Murder mystery
  • Mystery of a family secret
  • Mystery of why a girl/boy the way she is
  • Mystery of an abandoned house
  • Mystery of an item you found somewhere

 

 

B. Is this a serial investigation? Does anything seem familiar?
I. You’ll need:

— a crime (murder, theft/robbery, kidnapping, smuggling, vandalism, spying, whathaveyou)
— a victim(s)
— a villain, criminal, perpetrator, the guilty person(s)
— means – how was it done, or how did it happen?
— motive – why did the villain do it?
— opportunity – the reason it was possible. For example, the thief stole the jewels from the hostess’s jewelry box during a party in her home, or the murderer Had time to drive to the parking lot and place a bomb in the victim’s car.
— someone to solve the murder – can be a professional cop or detective, or an amateur
— clues – things found at the scene of the crime, statements from people questioned or things in the victim’s life personality, etc.
red herrings – things that seem to be clues but aren’t, like false alarms.

 

II. Any deja vu, reprocussions, new techniques to use on this individual crime scene?
C. What’s at stake and what must the character do in order to maintain his dignity, self-respect or pride?

I.  CIS mannerisms can be hard to write.  The team can be made up of all kinds of people, with all kinds of personalities. So here are a few things to remember:

  1. These folks see the results of crime every working day. They are no strangers to blood, bodies, disgusting evidence, rotting goo, and wreckage. It’s their career so no squeamish.
  2. They are professionals, and their first priority is to do their job well, and thoroughly.
  3. Most CSI personnel who deal with dead bodies are caring and gentle with them.
  4. While on the job, talking is a distraction—observing, listening, smelling, touching, examining, carefully and methodically, is the best.
  5. Move with confidence, but not so that you disturb the evidence or other members of the team
  6. Keep makeup to a minimum, avoid jewelry, keep hair short or tied back

II. Remember, your CIS is human. Personalities (egos) get in the way, particularly because of how promotions and advancements are awarded in the civil service structure. Everybody wants to take all the credit but nobody wants to accept responsibility.

 

Part 2

2. What errors and/or problems does the character have to deal with?

A. Are they the only competent person on the team? Have they made it error themselves? How much has the investigation been compromised?
I.  How do they fix the error or tell the person who did it not to do it again?
II. Do they have to start over? Rethink a new solution? Cut ties with the person altogether?
III. If they made the mistake, how do they punish themsevles? Maybe the error actually was a blessing in disguise? Did it push the case further along?

B. How are their lives outside of the investigation? Does that play a toll on their mental ability? How about their sanity? What do they do to relieve stress?
I. If the main character is phobic because of personal trauma, have one or more supporting characters available to push him/her along and maintain the focus on the mystery. How the main character handles or overcomes something like a fear is important and should be addressed, but you don’t want to get sidetracked.

 

C. To what lengths will the character go in order to solve this case? What skills does the character have? Who’s relying on them?
I. Do they have tricks up their sleeves? Who knows about it? How can this aide the character?

Part 3

3. Any red herrings or discoveries that surprise, not only the character but the reader?

A. How do they handle it? What do they do to keep it under control if they need to?

I.  The investigator would secure the area with the crime scene tape. Photograph everything from all angles, including the body. Once they have completed that they begin looking for a cause and manner of death, an example would be a gunshot wound, and then they begin looking for casings from the firearm, any possible locations of slugs that may have missed the victim, footprints, fingerprints, and any indicators that the crime may have occurred someplace else. Also if the body was transported to the scene where it was found.

Note: Vehicles or a boat could leave a track if it was pulled up on the bank where paint scrapings could be deposited.

Then once the coroner removed the body the character would examine the spot for any type of fluids that may have leaked out or have been deposited by the person who committed the crime.

Overview of what the character will do at the crime scene:
1. Establish boundaries.
2. Mark boundaries with crime scene tape.
3. Removing unnecessary individuals from scene.
4. Determine if evidence is present e.g. footprints, knives, cartridges, live rounds, etc. and if there is evidence (log it).
5. Record conditions, e.g. weather, surrounding as well as people at scene.
6. Release crime scene.

B. Maybe show the reader something that the character doesn’t know right away. Maybe give him to the solution or the answer but in a way that’s like a puzzle.

I.  Using your villain’s (or main character’s) traits, create scenarios for the location and discovery of each clue. For mysteries other than murder or abduction, it’s usually advisable to populate the list with subtle clues that are easily dismissed and sprinkle in a few more obvious (and increasingly dramatic) ones at periodic intervals to ratchet up suspense.

II. Organize and pace carefully. If you need Clue A to lead to Clue C, then obviously you can’t have Clue C found before Clue A. Similarly, you lose tension if you have a bunch of clues come at once and then a big empty stretch where nothing happens. Don’t randomly throw in clues. Readers have to be able to connect the dots or they won’t buy it.

 

C. Where did this all come from? And is more coming along? Or is this it? If so how significant is it to the story?
I. Did they know about it all along? Did it come out of the woodworks? How does the change their role or the significance to the case?
II. What obstacles are added and are they moved to the forefront or put on the backburner? How does this affect the personal life of the investigator?

Part 4

4. How close are they to solving it?

A. Describe their feelings and emotions. Maybe even insert a conversation to themselves or to their fellow partner investigator.
I. Give elaborate detail. What are they fantasizing about when and if they finish the case soon?? Do they have nightmares? Does this affect their wellbeing?
II. Is the conversation lighthearted? Do they always talk about the case or anything else in life? How close are they? This is a great time to reveal character and information about both investigators and their concerns.

B. What are the final Clues? How do these Clues connect? How do these Clues combine with the surprise that you included in part 3? How does it all come together to become a big reveal, and without one of the pieces how will it be incomplete?

I.  Crime team can use technology & science to go through and log the evidence. They take it all back to the lab and run their tests and examine the body.

 

C. Are there any rewards? It can be something that’s actually physical, like a trophy or money. It could be something like a raise or promotion, it can even be a peace of mind or happiness. Describe for a sentence or two the prize that the investigator is wanting.

I. Does this change his character and his personality at all? Does it make them more focused or less focused? How often do they talk about the prize? Is that their main motivation to solving this crime?

Part 5

5. Have the mystery be unveiled. Who is to blame? What have they found out?

A. Who’s the culprit? Remember it doesn’t always have to be human it could be an animal or an object or even nature itself.
I. Have they captured the culprit? If so what happens to them?
II. You can add a twist by making it something other than expected: human. Also, if it is human, was it on purpose on accident? Were they forced to do it? Did they crime to the wrong person/people?

B. What happens to the victim or the victim’s family? How does the investigator give them peace of mind, if at all?
I. How are they coping? Are they giving anything from the victim as memory? What words are exchanged?
II. Does the investigator have a heart? Do they care to ease the people’s anymore? Or has all this crime turned them numb?

C. Is there a warning or a threat of another occurrence? Give hints to another crime happening, especially if this is a serial occurrence.
I. Maybe a sound, noise, or written letter? Could be a threat spoken or shown?
II. Has this criminal escaped from captivity before? Do they know the investigator personally? Are they not yet finish with their devious plan?

 

PLOT IDEAS

  • An abduction case, hurried (maybe starting in a very public place) so there are lots of easy clues to find, with one location being the place of abduction and the other the location at which the abductee is being held, a strong investigator who has relevant experience or some other trait that will end the case in the desired way, a villain with simple motivations (a generic pedophile, or a jealous boyfriend), an abductee who “would never play around like this” so it’s taken seriously from the get-go.
  • A politician is found dead in his/her office. Was it a popular or unpopular politian? Was s/he killed by a employee, another politician, the former one, a parent, or someone else, like a friend or family member?
  • A group of young people forms a secret club. Soon people notice that this club seem to have a lot of spending money. Are they doing something unlawful in the club? Selling things they shouldn’t? Charging for unusual procedures? What’s going on there?
  • A child leaves home to walk to school, but never arrives. Was the child captured? Did s/he run away? Where is the missing child?
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