How to Write an Interrogation Scene

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NOTE: At least do option 9 from part five to wrap up your epic scene!

Part One

  1. Interrogations are meant to exploit a person’s weaknesses with dominance, control, and consequence. The goal of an interrogation is to always get a confession. Keep this in mind when writing your scene.
  2.  

    »A.Decide on the interrogator’s stance.

 I.             Your detective should either try getting on the suspect’s good side by letting the suspect know he/she can trust them, and voicing that they are there to help and the only way for them to do that is if the suspect is completely honest. In other words, be the “good cop”.

 II.             Or the sleuth can play the “bad cop” and intimidate the suspect into confession by getting in their face, scaring them with the facts of what they are facing, and even lying about evidence to get a confession.

Example 1:  

“Dear, dear, Mrs. Motany, your son is very young, 18, correct?”

“17,” Mrs. Motany said.

“Ah, yes, right. 17. My, my, my and to think he’d have to spend the rest of his life in jail, since he’s too young for the death penalty. Mhmm,” Detective Mayhem said, walking around the interrogation table, “If only there was a way to cut his sentence in half.” Detective Mayhem grinned, rested his hands on the table and nodded. “Oh, I know, and I think you do too, Mrs. Motany. All we need is a confession from him, and the two other mongrels who broke into the store.”

Mrs. Motany looked uncomfortable. “You know he can’t do that,” she said in a quiet voice. “He made a packed with his friends.”

Detective Mayhem arched his eyebrow. “Although this may be true, wouldn’t it be better if he only had, let’s say, five to ten years in prison instead of 15 to life?”

Mrs. Motany nodded.

“And wouldn’t you agree that if his father was still alive, he’d want his son to tell the true?”

Mrs. Motany jumped out of her chair, her face tense, her lips pursed…. “Don’t bring my dead husband into this, you fool,” she said with an intense fierceness in her voice.

Detective Mayhem knew he had hit a nerve so he continued down the path. “Fine, but you do know that your son is going to end up just like his father…. found dead in prison. However, unlike his daddy, he probably wouldn’t hang himself, he’d probably get beaten up in the very first week.”

“Enough!” Mrs. Motany shouted. “You bastar—“

Detective Mayhem held out his hand for her to hold her tongue. “Listen” he said in a calm, soothing voice, “All I want is the best for your son, Trevor, but I can’t help if you are not willing to help me.”

Mrs. Motany sat back down in her chair. “Is there any other way,” she said. Clearly she realized the stupidity of this all. It was about time she listened to the detective.

“Well…” Detective Mayhem thought for a moment. “You said that Trevor made a pack to his friend not to say anything about that night, but YOU, Mrs. Motany never made such a promise. With that said,” — a grin surfaced on Detective Mayhem’s face— “I believe it’s best for you to tell me what happened that night. As the mother of this young boy, I’m sure you know something…”

 

    »B.Choose the suspect’s role.

 I.             If the suspect is innocent, or if you want them to appear that way to the reader, then they should seem confused and horrified at what is taking place. Another key of innocence is nervousness because they didn’t do what the detectives are claiming they did. The suspect could even show fear for their own lives or for someone they know.

 II.             If the suspect is guilty it is ideal to make them jittery and more nervous. Maybe start fidgeting, licking his/her lips, or running their hand through his/her hair. This shows that they are lying. You can add in stuttering, rewording their statements, and not being clear.

 III.       Or, you can add more suspense by making the detectives know the suspect is guilty, and the suspect knows he knows. If you do go down this path with your scene, the suspect would be more believable when he shows cockiness, find humor in the situation, mock the detectives, and/or not show any sympathy for the crime committed.

Example 2: 

Mrs. Motany fidgeted in her chair. She brushed her hair back, revealing a red forehead and then released a big breath. “Look,” she finally said, “I’m not going to give you all the details but I’m to give you what you need.” She glanced at the officer standing in the corner. “I only want to tell you, though.” She pointed at the officer. “He has to go.”

With a swift motion, Detective Mayhem order for the room to be cleared. “Now, he said, “what do you know?”

“First,” Mrs. Motany spoke up again, “I want to have your word that my son doesn’t get life in prison.”

“I can’t promise that, Mrs. Motany.”

“Then you won’t get anything valuable out of me.” She crossed her arms.

Detective Mayhem left the room for five minutes then returned. “Your request has been granted. I give you my word.”

 

Part Two

  1. Understand the role of the detective and the suspect’s role.
  2.  

    »A.Have the detective look or sound like they mean business:

 I.        The detective will present the facts of the case and the evidence against the suspect.

 II.       The detective could create a story for why the suspect committed the crime.

 III.    The detective will cut off the suspect when he/she begins to deny their involvement.

 IV.       The detective could encourage the suspect to talk about the crime.

Example 3:  

Mrs. Motany paused, nodded, and then started to speak, “I read my son’s journal. He never tells me anything, so I have to find out other ways, you know. It was the day after the incident; his friends had already fled the state and were probably on their way to Florida by the time I finished reading the entry.”

“What did it say?”

“I’m getting to that, slow your row. Now, as I was saying, it talked about how my son and his two friends broke into the music store, stole several thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise and then pissed on most everything else. It said how they wanted to blow up the place but the cops were on their tail.”

“Did it say their motives?” Detective Mayhem asked.

Mrs. Motany nodded. “Trevor was angry because that music store used to be a coffee shop, where he and his friends hung out and played cards. The coffee shop was a beloved place in our small town; somewhere we all went to after a stressful day. I met my husband there. Trevor and his father went there everyday until the arrest happened.”

“So you’re saying there are memories in that place and the new store owner just tore everything down and remodeled without even asking for permission. Is that why Trevor did what he did? Is that why Trevor killed the store owner, blamed it on someone else and because you knew you tried to cover up his tracks?”

“WHAT!” Mrs. Motany wasn’t having any of it. “HAVE YOU GONE MAD!?”

“Sorry, sorry Mrs. Motany,” Detective Mayhem said. “Please continue.”

  

    »B.In order to write a realistic scene, the suspect shouldn’t give in so easy.

 I.     Anyone can be frightening in situations like these. By now, the person being interrogated is most likely scared or at least stressed. What makes matters worse for them, is that sometimes they are deprived of sleep, water, or food to weaken them or they’ll go through long waits.

 II.   If the person being interrogated is not at their full strength or attention, the interrogator will have a greater effect mentally. Thus, the detective can and will use methods such as psychology.

Example 4:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)

Write a(n): Running Scene      Dream Scene     Driving Scene

 

 

Part Three

  1. Two of the most commonly used techniques are the psychological, and the logic and reasoning techniques.
  2. »A.The basic emotions and motivations most commonly associated with criminal acts are hate, fear, love, and desire for gain.

 I.       Psychological approach. This approach is designed to focus the thoughts and emotions of the suspect on the moral aspects of the crime and thus bring about a realization that a wrong has been committed. One ways your detective can do this: Discussing the moral seriousness of the offense by emphasizing the effects of his or her acts on the suspect’s family or close relatives.

 II.      The suspect may tend to become emotional when discussing a mother or father; a childhood and childhood associations; early moral and religious training; and persons held in very high esteem. Often, the emotional appeal of some person or personal relationship increases in intensity with the passage of time and with the distance separating the suspect from a former environment.

By emphasizing the contrast between a present and a former way of life, you may intensify the suspect’s emotional response, especially when he or she has deserted a family, has become orphaned or otherwise separated from a family, or when the way of life prescribed in early moral and religious training has been forsaken.

 III.    The psychological approach is often successful with a young person and with a first offender who has not had time to become a hardened criminal or to develop a thinking pattern typical of a hardened criminal.

Example 5:  

Mrs. Motany crossed her arms. “Actually,” she said, “I think I am done speaking. Apparently you think I had something to do with the murder of that man.” She sat up straight in her chair, and uncrossed her arms. “Well, I don’t.”

 

Detective Mayhem realized what he had done. Accusing her wasn’t working, nor pretending to be her friend either. What he needed was a new approach. He thought for a moment, the two of them in dead silence. “All righty, then,” he said, nodding. “It sucks, though.”

Mrs. Motany didn’t respond, but the Detective had her full attention.

“I mean, to think the victim was about to become a father. To think that his wife relied on him working at the music store. You see, all he wanted to do was bring happiness to this rundown neighborhood.”

“Liar!” Mrs. Motany said.

“Oh, I’m not lying,” Detective Mayhem held his hands up as if under arrest. “I’m also not lying when I say the victim himself grew up in this neighborhood as a kid.”

“No way.”

“Yes way. Oh, and he grew up on 2349 Mackonberry Rd. Does that house ring a bell.”

Mrs. Motany covered her mouth with her left hand. “I used to live there,” she said, trying to hold back tears.

The detective had an upper hand now. What he had to do next was reel her in.

  

    »B.Have your detective inquiry into the suspect’s thinking, feeling, and experience in order to touch upon some basic weakness and thereby induce in the suspect a genuine desire to talk.

 I.          Logic and reasoning. The habitual criminal who feels no sense of wrongdoing in having committed a crime must normally be convinced that guilt can be easily established or is already established by testimony or available evidence.

 II.        The interrogator should point out to the suspect the pointlessness of denying guilt. The suspect should be confronted at every turn with testimony and evidence to refute their so-called alibi. Make it a point that his or her guilt is definitely a matter against which no lies will defend.

Example 6:  

“Yes,” the detective continued, “and to think he even donated 100,000 dollars to keep most of this neighborhood in tacked.”

“What are you talking about,” Mrs. Motany finally spoke up.

“The governor wanted to tear down this dump to create hotels and stores but the victim didn’t want that since he grew up in this area. He donated the money, bought the old coffee shop, started his own business and wanted to have a peaceful life with his family. Now, his child will be fatherless. Do you know the amount of pain the baby will feel growing up without her father?”

Mrs. Motany began to cry. Detective Mayhem understood why. Trevor pretty much had to grow up without a father too.   Mrs. Motany sympathized with the woman. It wasn’t simply the fact that the victim saved the town, but because they shared a common problem.

“And,” Detective Mayhem continued, “she is here. Bring her in boys.” The officer brought in the victim’s wife who was seven months pregnant. She sat down in a chair and stared at Mrs. Motany.

“There is no use in denying your involvement now,” Detective Mayhem said. “Let us be done with this already. Tell us the whole truth and nothing but. Mrs. Loncast desires that, right. On account of your son, Trevor, murdered her husband.” 

**

Part Four

  1. The psychological manipulation begins before the interrogator even opens his mouth. The physical layout of an interrogation room is designed to maximize a suspect’s discomfort and sense of powerlessness from the moment he steps inside.
  2. »A. Let it be known how comfortable that place is.

 I.           Is it too tight in there? Is it too big? Not private enough?  Or is it very comfortable? What makes it uncomfortable or comfortable? Is that couch uncomfortable because it’s old? How about the lightening? Can the characters barely see each other, or is it perfect?

 II.         Usually, it is a small, soundproof room with only three chairs (two for detectives, one for the suspect) and a desk, with nothing on the walls. This creates a sense of exposure, unfamiliarity and isolation, heightening the suspect’s “get me out of this place” feeling throughout the interrogation

 III.     The suspect should be seated in an uncomfortable chair, out of reach of any controls like light switches or thermostats, furthering his discomfort and setting up a feeling of dependence. A one-way mirror is an ideal addition to the room, because it increases the suspect’s anxiety and allows other detectives to watch the process and help the interrogator figure out which techniques are working and which aren’t.

Example 7:

The walls seemed to caving in on Mrs. Motany as she sweated heavily from her forehead. She repositioned herself in the chair several times, before finally standing up. Pacing around the room, biting her fingernails, she looked miserable as if she hadn’t slept for days.

“We’re waiting, Mrs. Motany,” Detective Mayhem said.

“I-I can’t do- this– to — my —— son…..”

Mrs. Loncast asked Detective Mayhem to help her up from the chair. She then eased her way over to Mrs. Motany to stop her from pacing around. “Listen to me,” she said, her voice hoarse, “You need to tell me what happened. I can’t sleep at night, I’m stressing out too much, and my doctor said I might have a miscarriage if I don’t calm down.” Mrs. Loncast released a deep breath. “Please, wife to wife, mother to future mother, woman to woman… tell me what happened that night so that I may move on with my life.”

  

    »B.The next step is to turn the questioning to the task at hand.

 I.          The detective will ask basic questions about the crime and compare the suspect’s reactions to the starting point to determine if the suspect is being truthful or deceptive.

 II.     If the interrogator asks the suspect where he was the night of the crime and he answers truthfully, he’ll be remembering, so his eyes may move to the right; if he’s making up an alibi, he’s thinking, so his eyes might move to the left. If the interrogator determines that the suspect’s reactions indicate deception, and all other evidence points to guilt, the interrogation of a guilty suspect begins.

Example 8: 

The women went back to their seat.

Detective Mayhem bit his lip; he was starting to sweat, too. “Is that a yes, Mrs. Motany? Will you finally cooperate with us?”  She nodded. “Okay, now,” the detective paused to gather his thoughts. “Where were you on the night of the crime?”

Mrs. Matony looked to the right as she recalled every last detail. “I was their getaway vehicle,” she said in a quiet voice. Detective Mayhem, the officer and Mrs. Loncast were taken aback by this statement. “They didn’t tell me what they did… all they said was that they stole a few guitars, nothing else. Nothing about murdering YOUR husband!” Mrs. Motany looked over at Mrs. Loncast who had turned away in disgust.

Detective Mayhem asked one last question before finishing up his interrogation. “Do you know who killed Mrs. Loncast’s husband? Was it one of your son’s friends? Or was it your son?”

Mrs. Motany shook her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

With a simple head nod, Detective Mayhem ordered the officer to arrest Mrs. Motany for being an accomplice to murder.

  

**

Part Five

(Use this entire part if you want to extend your scene, otherwise skip to option 9: the confession)

  1. The Reid technique’s blueprint of how to make a successful interrogation.
  2. » A.Nine steps of a usual ordinary interrogation?

 I.   1. Confrontation:

Where the detective presents the facts of the case and informs the suspect of the evidence against him. This evidence might be real, or it might be made up. The detective typically states in a confident manner that the suspect is involved in the crime. The suspect’s stress level starts increasing, and the interrogator may move around the room and invade the suspect’s personal space to increase the discomfort. If the suspect starts fidgeting, licking his lips and or grooming himself (running his hand through his hair, for instance), the detective takes these as indicators of deception and knows he’s on the right track.

          Example 9:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)
 
 
 II.    2. Theme development:

The interrogator creates a story about why the suspect committed the crime. When developing themes, the interrogator speaks in a soft, soothing voice to appear non-threatening and to lull the suspect into a false sense of security. Theme development is about looking through the eyes of the suspect to figure out why he did it, why he’d like to think he did it and what type of excuse might make him admit he did it. The detective then observes the suspect to see if he likes the theme/made-up story. Is the suspect paying closer attention than before? Nodding his head? If so, the detective will continue to develop that theme; if not, he’ll pick a new theme and start over.

          Example 10:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)

 

 III.     3. Stopping denials:

Letting the suspect deny his guilt will increase his confidence, so the detective tries to interrupt all denials, sometimes telling the suspect it’ll be his turn to talk in a moment, but right now, he needs to listen. From the start of the interrogation, the detective watches for denials and stops the suspect before he can voice them. In addition to keeping the suspect’s confidence low, stopping denials also helps quiet the suspect so he doesn’t have a chance to ask for a lawyer. If there are no denials during theme development, the detective takes this as a positive indicator of guilt.

     Example 11:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)

 

 IV.      4. Overcoming objections:

Once the interrogator has fully developed a theme that the suspect can relate to, the suspect may offer logic-based objections as opposed to simple denials, like “I could never rape somebody — my sister was raped and I saw how much pain it caused. I would never do that to someone.” The detective handles these differently than he does denials, because these objections can give him information to turn around and use against the suspect. The interrogator might say something like, “See, that’s good, you’re telling me you would never plan this, that it was out of your control. You care about women like your sister — it was just a one-time mistake, not a recurring thing.” If the detective does his job right, an objection ends up looking more like an admission of guilt.

Example 12:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)
 

    »B.Part Two of the Nine Part Process.

 I.        5. Getting the suspect’s attention:

At this point, the suspect should be frustrated and unsure of himself. He may be looking for someone to help him escape the situation. The interrogator tries to capitalize on that insecurity by pretending to be the suspect’s ally. He’ll try to appear even more sincere in his continued theme development, and he may get physically closer to the suspect to make it harder for the suspect to detach from the situation. The interrogator may offer physical gestures of camaraderie and concern, such as touching the suspect’s shoulder or patting his back.

  
II.      6. The suspect loses resolve:

If the suspect’s body language indicates surrender — his head in his hands, his elbows on his knees, his shoulders hunched — the interrogator seizes the opportunity to start leading the suspect into confession. He’ll start transitioning from theme development to motive alternatives that force the suspect to choose a reason why he committed the crime. At this stage, the interrogator makes every effort to establish eye contact with the suspect to increase the suspect’s stress level and desire to escape. If, at this point, the suspect cries, the detective takes this as a positive indicator of guilt.

Example 13:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)
 
 
 III.    7. Alternatives:

The interrogator offers two contrasting motives for some aspect of the crime, sometimes beginning with a minor aspect so it’s less threatening to the suspect. One alternative is socially acceptable (“It was a crime of passion”), and the other is morally repugnant (“You killed her for the money”). The detective builds up the contrast between the two alternatives until the suspect gives an indicator of choosing one, like a nod of the head or increased signs of surrender. Then, the detective speeds things up.

Example 14:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)
 
 I.   8. Bringing the suspect into the conversation:

Once the suspect chooses an alternative, the confession has begun. The interrogator encourages the suspect to talk about the crime and arranges for at least two people to witness the confession. One may be the second detective in room, and another may be brought in for the purpose of forcing the suspect to confess to a new detective — having to confess to a new person increases the suspect’s stress level and his desire to just sign a statement and get out of there. Bringing a new person into the room also forces the suspect to reassert his socially acceptable reason for the crime, reinforcing the idea that the confession is a done deal.

          Example 15:   (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)
  
 II.        9. The confession:

The final stage of an interrogation is all about getting the confession admitted at trial. The interrogator will have the suspect write out his confession or state it on videotape. The suspect is usually willing to do anything at this point to escape the interrogation. The suspect confirms that his confession is voluntary, not coerced, and signs the statement in front of witnesses.

Example 16:  

“I’m sooo sorry, I’m sooo sorry,” Mrs. Motany shouted as she was arrested. “Please,” –she looked deep into Mrs. Loncast’s eyes– “please, don’t hate me. Forgive me. You need to forgive me or this will only repeat itself. Your unborn baby could end up like my son or like my husband.”

SMACK! A loud sound echoed in the interrogation room. Mrs. Loncast had slapped Mrs. Montany hard on the right cheek.

“You listen here,” Mrs. Loncast said, fiery passion dancing in her eyes, “My daughter will never grow to be the scum you call family.” She slapped Mrs. Motany again, this time on the other cheek. “You will pay for what you did. Payback is a real bit….”

Before she get the word out, the officer forced Mrs. Motany out of the room. When they were alone, Detective Mayhem wanted to know if Mrs. Loncast would be okay.

“Yes,” she said, a tear falling from her eye. “At least now, I can move on with my life. I know who killed my husband, I know why, and most of all, I know they aren’t going to get away with it.”

“Good,” Detective Mayhem said. “Because I know how you are. Ever since grade school you’ve been known to get revenge one way or another.”

Mrs. Loncast nodded. “You got that right.”

“But please,” Detective Mayhem said with finality, “please don’t go hunting her down in the jail like you used to do in grade school. You’re not 16 anymore, Amy, the next time you kill someone you won’t go to juvy.”

Mrs. Loncast smiled. “I know. Besides, who said I was going to waste my time hunting her down? I’ve already hired a crew who would. By the time her trial is over, she’ll be dead and gone, just like my poor husband.”

 

**



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10 Comments

  1. Hey! Thanks for the help! This is really a great website!
    I have a suggestion for a scene, I know you have a death scene already, but what about a murder scene? It would go well for those writing a mystery (like myself) and then after writing that part, they could use this scene outline for the interrogation. 🙂

    Thanks for the help!
    ~=[,,_,,]:3

  2. ‘Good evening, Mrs Solano.’
    ‘Good evening sir,’ Mrs Solano shook my hand, with a friendly grin ‘I’m Brody’s mother’. I smiled, already knowing the information. Before me on two small chairs, sat Mrs Solano, and her son Brody, officer Morello standing near the door. He was a young sport, good looking kid, the type who needn’t be told by anyone. On the seat he appeared decent, as innocent as they came, but behind those nervous looks, I read mischief.
    Blinds open, the wall-sizes windows illuminating the room with daylight, it was a calm atmosphere, with the usual smell of some old stuff like rubber or Xerox air. The mother of this boy, Mrs Solano, looked just as nervous as the boy, expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Her hair was blonde and thin, spilling down lazily across her shoulders. Fiddling with worry, her fingers played on her folded laps.

    ‘It sure is a wonderful weather today’.
    ‘lovely’. I didn’t know how else to delve into her courtly conversation about the dull grey clouds outside. ‘So… about Bro –’.
    ‘I hope Brody hasn’t into a serious issue – I know how mischievous these boys can be nowadays – haha’.
    ‘Ahh yes, well –’.
    ‘Always getting into things MISTAKENLY without thinking – you know – KIDS. He’s a good boy really, he’s never usually involved in crime.’ She had a large thrilling grin her face, her finger patting on her laps non-stop. Brody rolled his eyes looking at his mother. ‘Do you have any kids – any boys?’
    ‘No’, I replied.
    ‘Oh – any girls?’
    ‘No’.
    ‘Oh. Are you married?’
    ‘Mrs Solano – Erm, I’m sure you understand that I called this meeting to inform you about your son, not me’. I signalled my head a Morello, who was laughing secretly at the questions.
    Unpinning a snap shot from the wall, he handed it to me. Mrs Solano sighed heavily. ‘Therefore, I’ll be asking your son a few questions’.
    ‘Okay, alright – but – – Listen, mister – erm…’ she tried searching for a name badge ‘how should I refer to you as?’
    ‘Detective. V –’.
    ‘Detective. V – My son’s not a murderer. I’ll have you know that neither is he around bad company. In fact, he goes to a well-established boxing club in Southbridge Arena – every day after school, away from trouble, so if he’s ever involved in something serious –’.
    ‘Well I assure you Mrs Solano, his boxing club at Southbridge Arena has very much significance as to why I called your son here’. Her eye brows raised at the unexpected predicament. I flipped over the snap shot on the desk. ‘Brody’, I called. He sat stiff an alert on the chair. ‘Do you recognise the man in the photo?’
    ———————

    Sorry I just felt like publishing another example I did 😉

    • I love your examples. Keep them coming, please.
      Although, I don’t know what is going on with the pregnancy scene comment section. If you have already written the scene you can email it through our contact page.
      In the meantime I will try to fix ti.

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