Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guest Blogger, D.C. Corso

Please join me in welcoming author D.C. Corso as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress as part of her Virtual Blog Tour.

D.C. is the author of “Skin and Bones.”

D.C. has stopped by today to talking about “getting it write: researching the FBI in a post-9/11 America.”

D.C. could you explain.

Most mystery writers will agree that if you ask the FBI for an interview on procedures to ensure accuracy in your book, you’ll get a polite response that everything you could possibly want to know is on their official website (read: everything they feel comfortable sharing is on their website).

Despite any initial disappointment that a Real Live FBI Agent will not be advising you, the FBI website really does hold a wealth of information. Everything from department names and functions to statistics can be found at www.fbi.gov, including links to other agencies and all the various Field Offices. 
Not a fan of the internet? There are plenty of books out there by retired agents; the most readable ones are aimed at the mainstream true crime-reading public (such as former agent John Douglas’ intriguing Mind Hunter). There are also plenty of procedural guides out there that give a more historical spin and really read more like reference books.

If you’re trying to get an idea of what a behavioral profiler is trained to do, the more academic texts written by agents are extremely helpful. For instance, BSU co-founder Robert Ressler’s unfortunately-titled Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives – a text which I am too self-conscious to give away or read in public, as if people who see it will think it’s a how-to book.
I have pages upon pages of notes taken largely from the FBI site. But how much do the readers care about technicalities? I assume that they only want to
know what they need to know, and write accordingly. I recall my first draft was filled with far too much procedural information which, in turn, required far too much accompanying expositional dialogue.

There are simply some things that law enforcement officers do not say to other officers because they already know it. My favorite example of bad expositional dialogue appears repeatedly on television crime dramas; one officer will ask another, “Was there any GSR?” The other will inquire, “You mean gunshot residue?,” for the benefit of those watching at home. It’s necessary for television, but I prefer to avoid clunkers like this; there are always better options in writing. 
My first novel, Skin and Bones, is about a small Washington island community affected by a series of child abductions. I chose the days immediately following 9/11 because the shared emotional chaos of those early days was the start of an important shift in the American psyche. There was a short-lived sense of unity among Americans as we all looked nervously to the skies, yet there was also a paranoid sense of self-inflicted isolation among individuals. I had no way of knowing how this affected the FBI, aside from interdepartmental shifts that occurred at the time, which were all well-documented and easy to find via the Internet. 
While I did not want 9/11 to be the focus of the story, but rather a backdrop, capturing that feeling did not entail regurgitating facts, but rather keeping them in mind when setting the characters about their business. After all, during this time the general public tended to ignore the more ordinary horrors of local news, fixing our gaze instead on CNN’s coverage of the national tragedies.
This is where the real story lay, I thought – in the forgotten. I wanted to keep the focus on the Missing Persons Squad and how their jobs were perhaps made more difficult by Americans’ intense focus on anti-terrorism. And while research was a must to set the background, only character development and multiple drafts brings reality to fiction.

D.C., thank you so much for guest blogging here today. You bring up a good point that I hadn’t even thought of - the “smaller” tragedies were mainly overlooked immediately following 9/11. It was almost as if all other crimes stopped as we focused on the terrorists.

For more information on D.C., check out her website 


  1. Mason - Thanks for hosting D.C.

    D.C. - Thanks for bringing up this all-important topic of doing research. Novels don't feel as authentic if the author hasn't done her or his "homework" in the process of writing, so it's very important that there be that underlying knowledge base. You've shared some really valuable information on how to get that information, and I appreciate it.

  2. Research can be essential to producing a "good" book that feels real to the reader. Thanks for all the information, D.C. And thanks to you, too, Mason for hosting her.

    Straight From Hel

  3. I love research and have to resist the urge to give my readers huge information dumps. Now that I'm more experienced, I might use only a tiny bit of what I've learned. Great post and your book sounds so interesting.

  4. Nice to know. About the FBI website, I mean. I always include only what info is essential and relevant to the forward movement of the story. But, being quite ignorant at times, it is useful to know where I can get info when I needed it.

    The book sounds good--intriguing!!

  5. D.C., thanks again for stopping by and guest blogging today. Enjoyed your post.

    Hi everyone, thanks for stopping by. I'm going to be away from the computer for a little while today, but I'll be back around late this evening. Hope everyone has a great day. Thanks again for coming by.

  6. What a creative idea - to focus on the smaller tragedies around 9/11. This sounds intriguing. Thanks, Mason, and good luck, D.C.

  7. Appreciate all the useful information. And hey - LOVE that book cover!

  8. Thanks so much for posting, Mason, and also to everyone for the comments. It's always encouraging to get positive feedback! And if any of you bloggers out there are interested in receiving review copies, feel free to send an inquiry to me via the website (please include a link to your blog). I am also happy to participate in charity or fun giveaways/fundraisers. Happy reading, everyone!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.