July 23, 2013

Writing About: An Interrogation

For a mystery novel, or a story about murder, you may find you need to write about an interrogation, as I had to.

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. To write a convincing interrogation, you really have to understand the role of the police officer in the scene as well as the suspect’s role. 

#1 Decide on the interrogator’s stance.
A.   The police officer should either try to get on the suspects 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”. 
B.   Or the police office can play the “bad cop” (my favorite tactic), and browbeat 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.
#2 Pick the suspect’s role.
A.   If the suspect is innocent, or you want to paint them that way, the suspect should seem confused and horrified at what is going on. They can portray nervousness because they didn’t do what the detectives are claiming they did. They could even show fear for their own lives or for someone they know. 
B.   If the suspect is guilty you could still use the technique from A, but make them jittery and more nervous to portray the fact that they are lying by stuttering, backtracking their statements, and not being coherent. Of course, there is another route to go here. The road where the detectives know the suspect is guilty, and heck, the suspect knows it too! This is where the suspect will be cocky, find humor in the situation, mock the detectives, and not show an ounce of concern for the crime committed. 

Image by Chrys Fey

Next you have to understand interrogation techniques. In the initial interview, which determines guilt or innocence, the detective can use casual conversation to get the suspect talking so they might be thrown off by questions about the crime and have a difficult time lying.

Interrogations 101:
· 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.
What happens during this process depends on the roles you chose for the characters and the outcome you want to occur. Plot is always something you have to keep in mind!
FACT #1: When the suspect is remembering something (that happened), his/her eyes will often move to the right, but when he/she is thinking about something (like a story or a lie) his eyes might move upward or to the left. 
FACT #2: If the suspect starts fidgeting, licking his lips, or running his hand through his/her hair, these are signs that he/she is lying.
To help you further write an interrogation, research police interrogations and psychological police tactics. And yes, watching shows and movies can be helpful too.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am not a professional. I do not know everything about interrogations, just enough to write a fictional one.

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