Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Building a World Within a World

(More re-posts from the blog tour!)

When I started work on Fatal Affair, I knew I wanted to write about a female Washington, D.C. police detective named Sam Holland, so the first thing I did was research the Metropolitan Police Department. Whoa! I quickly learned the department is enormous with levels and layers and complexities I couldn’t begin to bring to my story without weighing it down with details the reader would find tedious at best. Being the “seat-of-the-pants” writer that I am, I pressed on with the book as I pondered how to deal with this world-building challenge.

Over the course of the book, a department of my own making began to take shape. There’s a chief, deputy chief, detective captain, detective lieutenant, detectives, patrol officers, a medical examiner, etc. The chief of the real-life MPD is a woman. I would’ve loved to have done that in my books, but I needed the chief in the Fatal Series to be a crony friend of Sam’s dad. Her father, a disabled former deputy chief, plays a big role in this series, so his character helped me to inform and shape the others. Sam’s struggles to contend with being the daughter of a fallen hero while working for men she used to call “Uncle” is a central theme of the series.

I also tried to give each of Sam’s fellow officers context in their relationship with her. The chief was her Uncle Joe when she was a kid. The deputy chief is still a close friend of her father’s, as is the detective captain who serves as Sam’s mentor. Her lieutenant is her nemesis. He believes she’s gotten where she is in the department because of who she is and sets out to cause her all sorts of trouble as the series unfolds. Within Sam’s closest group of coworkers, her partner serves as a kid brother of sorts, while other colleagues fill a variety of roles in her personal and professional life. Over the course of the series, I hope to develop each of these relationships by giving these characters stories that keep them front and center in Sam’s life.

So I created my own version of the Metropolitan Police Department. I note in the acknowledgements that it is a department of my own making and is in no way intended to mirror the real thing. As a reader, how do you feel about world building? Do you look for the world to closely mirror the real thing whenever possible or do you prefer to immerse yourself in the world the author has created and suspend your disbelief during the story?


Judy F said...

I think I like some base of reality but it doesn't have to all be literally true. Does that make sense?

Marie Force said...

Yes, that makes perfect sense, Judy. I'm glad you feel that way because my DC police department is WAY far from the real deal! :-)