Talk the Talk
Is your dialogue authentic?
I write mysteries and watch some reality cop shows listening for police techniques and jargon. It’s a way of keeping stories in the now, exciting, up to date and understandable by readers. With an open mind and ear, you can learn how to make your characters act like the police or the perpetrator. You can learn search techniques or glitches in the schemes of wrong-doers. All of this knowledge enhances the reality of the stories you write, not just mysteries.
When writing dialogue for each character, it’s important that each person in the story have their own personality. When speaking, no two characters should sound alike. So it’s important to make a cop sound like a cop and a perpetrator like a perpetrator. It’s important t make these characters sound authentic in any story.
Especially, dialogue is critical in defining character personality. Here is a piece of dialogue I heard when watching Manhunter:
“Do you have an eyeball?”
The scene was a stakeout. Lenny DePaul, on one side of the building, was asking Roxanne Lopez at the corner of the building, if she had a clear view to the doorway where the perpetrator might appear. In another show, I heard “Do you have an eye?”
A book I recommend where you can find police jargon if you’re not into scrutinizing TV shows is Cop Speak: The Lingo of Law Enforcement and Crime, by Tom Philbin.
Here are some examples from the book that can easily be incorporated into dialogue:
Flashlight roll = A police technique of rolling a flashlight across a doorway of a dark room to illuminate the interior.
Make a canoe = Do an autopsy.
Catch a stack = To rob someone who turns out to have a lot of money.
Grounder = An easy case to prosecute; also known as a ground ball.
Mutt = Police term for a person with very poor character.
Hello phones – Telephones that informants use to reach their police contacts.
Still more of the terms and definitions in this book run from hilarious to dead serious. You can find any term explained and some mean far more than you think they do.
If you want your stories, especially mysteries to sound authentic, this book or other similar ones listing terminology and definitions will greatly enhance your writing and dialogue. Make them part of your instructional library.