Monday, January 18, 2016
5 Tips for Writing Interrogation Scenes that Pop
While working on my WIP, I had an interrogation scene to write, and I had no idea where to begin. I actually skipped over it when writing the first draft, because I knew I needed to do some thinking about it. But when I went back after that, I still didn't know what to write. Now, I DID do an interrogation scene in The Botanist, but it wasn't a conventional scene. It was more of a talking-to-person-of-interest-with-psychological-problems sort of scene, rather than a get-a-confession-out-of-a-perp scene. And it was rather tragic, which most interrogation scenes aren't. So I was still stuck when trying to write my more conventional interrogation scene.
Then I discovered a blog post with tips on writing interrogation scenes. Just what I needed! So I decided to share them. These original tips came from author Chrys Fey and the original post can be found HERE.
For your interrogation scene, you basically need to decide who is going to play what role:
1. What role will the cop/interrogator play:
A. Good cop - tries to get on the perp's good side by practicing patience, insisting the
cops can be trusted, appealing to positive aspects that might make the perp open up to
them, and using friendly body language.
B. Bad cop - tries to get the confession out of the perp by yelling, threatening, brow-
beating, getting in their face, perhaps even making up a story to coerce a confession.
Depending on the cop and type of situation, they might even use physical force.
2. What role will the perp play:
A. Innocent - if that's the case, they should be nervous, jittery, perhaps horrified at
being accused of something.
i. Decent Innocent - someone who's a decent person (mostly) and innocent of the
crime they is accused of. This person would be willing, even anxious to prove their
innocence and would probably cooperate fairly easily with their interrogators.
ii. Indecent Innocent - by indecent I mean someone who isn't really a stand-up
citizen, but is still innocent of this particular crime. This type of character would be
much more antagonistic to the police. Perhaps somewhat cocky. Just depends on
the character themselves. But they'd definitely have something to hide and be less
B. Guilty - You can still portray them as nervous, jittery, etc., but keep in mind their
motivations are the opposite of an innocent.
i. Guilty-Nervous - Just as in A, they will be jittery, nervous, etc., but you have to
find a way to show that it's because they're lying, rather than because they're
innocent. Perhaps they have a tell or nervous tick of some kind. Keep in mind that
most people, when remembering something, look right. When they're making
something up, they tend to glance left. I would suggest making them less
forthcoming than an innocent, who would want to be open with the cops. A guilty
person will be as secretive as possible without casting suspicion on themselves.
ii. Guilty-Cocky - the other guilty persona your character can assume is someone
who thinks he can out-smart the cops. He or she will no only be uncooperative, but
smug, arrogant, perhaps even finding humor in the situation. In their mind, it's
humorous to watch the cops try and find the truth, and this perp believes s/he
has the upper hand.
Once you've established these roles, what happens in the scene will depend on your plot, your characters, and your crime. You know how when you know your characters well, they speak to you and the scenes just flow naturally? Same with interrogation scenes. If you have the above roles established, the characters will just start talking to one another.
That's what happened with me. Once I had established all this, the scene pretty much wrote itself, and I got really excited about it. I needed this structure to get my scene written.
Some other tips to keep in mind:
3. Common interrogation techniques you could try:
- The detective will present the facts of the case and the evidence against the suspect.
- The detective could create a story for why the suspect committed the crime.
- The detective will cut off the suspect when he/she begins to deny their involvement.
- The detective could encourage the suspect to talk about the crime.
4. You can do this with just one cop. - It's common to have two cops so they can play good cop/bad cop, but you don't have to. Just decide which technique your interrogator will use. If one doesn't work, they could always vacillate between the two.
5. You can still use these techniques to write your scene, even if there are no cops or actual criminals involved. These same things would apply in a scene where two friends are trying to get a secret out of a third friend. Where two bullies are trying to get dirt on a target, and have cornered the target's best friend. Or in any situation where one character is trying to coax some form of information out of another.
Try it! Use it! Have fun with it. Throw in tension and emotion. Interrogation scenes shouldn't be work. They should be a cat and mouse game that's fun to read and even more fun to write.
So get going! Let your characters get under each other's skin and bug the information out of one another! This is the fun part of writing! :D
What are your tips for writing an interrogation scene?