‘It pays to put a roof on your house…’

PURPLE OR ELEPHANT?

I’m writing my  next DCI Matt Proctor crime novel, (a series) and I’d like to share my approach to “PLANNING A NOVEL”.

How do you put your novel together? Please let me know.

I’ll set out my approach in separate blogs – this is the THIRD. There are SEVEN in all.  

(A recap – if you read my first two posts on 1. CORE, 2.OUTLINE, skip down to 3. PLOT/STRUCTURE– if you missed the earlier posts see archives).

From the outset let me say I’m more a ‘planner’ than a ‘pantser’- but please, you ‘pantsers’ out there, don’t tune out – we can all learn from each other. (I wonder if there really are out-and-out ‘pantsers’ or ‘planners’ – or are most of us somewhere in between on a spectrum?).

PLANNERS                            IN-BETWEENERS                                              PANTSERS

I may be a planner but one who leaves space for the story to breathe, to bend and flex, change direction at times. Yet the CORE story line remains.

PLAN because I think it makes me write my book faster and better. I’ll tell you why later.

SO…PLANNING A NOVEL

I need to know my story plot(s) in detail, understand the motivations, secrets and fears of my main characters before I can progress to writing my first draft. From my outline, I develop scenes and flesh out characters. The process is very much iterative, synergistic. I hop from one to another; adding to my character profiles, summarising a scene in a brief heading, modifying and reordering the outline chronology using a ‘scene order’ grid, to get a visual overview of the book.

The tabs across the top – like file labels – show the seven components, Core, Outline,Scenes, Characters, etc. Clicking the ‘Scene’ tab opens a list of the scenes down the right hand side. In the grid, the different colours show main plot, sub-plots, viewpoint character for any one scene. Clicking a scene on the right opens that scene’s pages – your writing.

Clicking the character tab lists all the characters down the right hand side. Clicking on a character name opens your detailed profile of that character.

(By the way this is a pic of an Acer notebook 10.1″ screen – not an Imax image!)

LUMIA - kINVER, JANE, MY DESK 2014 077

A great tool for doing this is Microsoft OneNote (as above). Some swear by Scrivener, Ywriter; another good tool is Hiveword. There are others. I think writers need to experiment to find out what suits them best. Two factors influencing my choice are a) the ability to write the book content within the planning tool, and b) to work offline sometimes – I may be on holiday and want an hour or so of ‘writing therapy’ but might not want to go on-line, or have available on-line access.

By giving me an overview and instant access to the components of my story on a single screen, I get control of the project and so I find the process of drilling down into the detail of my story easier, more efficient and fulfilling. Certainly much less frustrating than switching from one screen to another, hunting down folders and files, hopping back and forth from page to page on websites and between different websites.   ARRRGH…

  • In planning my novel I use seven COMPONENTS.  They are not written in a strict chronology – that’s important. They have synergy, they feed off each other. Maybe it’s like bringing up a family – you don’t focus all your energy on one child and when that job’s done, move on to the next. Oh, no, – you don’t bring kids up like that. You juggle, you compromise, negotiate, discipline, encourage, motivate, and so on. You spread your attention, your focus, your love. (OK, OK, we didn’t have seven children but you get the picture!). Now – please let me show you in specific terms how all this works (and for me it definitely does) in practice

TOM BRYSON’S SEVEN COMPONENTS OF ‘PLANNING A NOVEL’

  • CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!
  • OUTLINE – Two pages max. Written in present tense, with a start, middle and end. Split into key scenes with short headings. Leave room for the story to evolve.
  • PLOT/STRUCTURE – Spine of the story, the heart of the MC’s journey. Sub-plots add complexity and richness. The main plot (and sub-plots) summaries need only be a sentence or two.
  • SCENES – Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.
  • CHARACTERS – Absolutely critical. The reader must care about these people.
  • SETTINGS – Give ‘colour’, atmosphere, they complement characterisation, add credibility and context whether real or fictional places.
  • SYNOPSIS – Comes at the end because a synopsis is a ‘selling’ tool; your book summary. You write a synopsis when you’ve finished your book. (I include it as part of planning because you’ll need it for submissions).

In this third blog in the series, I’ll focus on my third COMPONENT in PLANNING A NOVEL, namely the PLOT/STRUCTURE of my story. 

 3 (of 7). PLOT/STRUCTURE – your ARCHITECTURE.

Plot and structure are very much inter-related. In fact as I’ve repeated already several times ALL seven components feed off each other and should not be seen in isolation or as chronological. What kicks off a novel might be a core idea, a character, a place, a scene, a line of dialogue – a memory. As the story grows so the components can be fleshed out. When the actual writing starts is an individual matter – some pitch in and write from that first kick-starter, others hold back until as much preparation as possible is completed. Sooo…when I talk about plot/structure, remember this component influences and is influenced by all others (except perhaps the synopsis which I’ll talk about at the end). However, I urge that as the writing flows do return and fill out the component parts. Doing so, in my view, makes for better and more efficient writing.

So – is plot/structure one and the same? I think not – but I have integrated them into a single component because I feel they are more than cousins, more even than siblings – I see them as twins, and joined at the hip!  Plotting is about cause and effect, action and reaction, if this – then that. Structure is the ordering of these. Think architecture, your building plan; how do you sequence the events in your plot to create a coherent, well-paced and satisfying story. Let’s take an example.

In my novel ‘In it for the Money’  my core idea is:cropped-cover-money-fuzzy-6.jpg

‘DCI Matt Proctor fights to break an  international ‘match-fixing’ gambling syndicate and becomes their kill target when he gets too close. Serbian Mafia boss Petrovic hunts him – yet real power lies in sports boardrooms, directors’ boxes and wheeler-dealer agents. Matt Proctor is a marked man.’

For plotting purpose I use this core as my main plot. Remember?  Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure?

Sub-plots add richness and layering to the story – they amplify and contextualise the main plot. Put simply, sub-plots add to the main plot to  make for a better, more satisfying read overall.

Here are three sub-plots for ‘in it for the Money’:

  • DCI Matt Proctor’s ongoing relationship issues with police colleague DI Azzra Mukherjee,
  • Proctor’s internal tussle between loyalty to an old friend and sense of guilt/betrayal versus upholding the law,
  • Ali (Azzra’s brother) getting involved with jihadists.

The ordering of scenes gives the structure of the novel.

Make sure the end scenes work as well as the openers – putting a roof on your house keeps out the rain! Check that the main character’s wants, objectives have been answered –  might not always get what was wanted. Loose ends tied up.

A useful way of getting an overview of your story plot/structure is to use a ‘grid’ in which each scene heading is entered. A table or spreadsheet will enable scenes to be shuffled around to get the balance in rising  tension, pace, action, reflection, etc. If you prefer low tech to high tech, post-it notes or cards can be used instead.

Colours and/or ‘tags’ within the grid can help identify viewpoints and plot/sub-plot scenes. Here’s an extract from my current novel’s grid – about 70 boxes in all, one for each scene. (Numbers unique to each scene – shows how much shuffling goes on!)

/19 Celia spies on Adele, C tells G, argue, leaves Adele w/G. /19a MP visits Handsworth sees Daz, Red Den at racist rally. /55 Bahar challenges Omoto – Red Den hears

/15 Gabriel seduces Adele

5 *Attempt to kill Adele 53 Adele put in witness protection 6  V2 – MP called to gruesome canal murder 2-MONICA 7 MP/Az get close – mirror young couple 9 Azzra and MP row _ Azzra pours water over MP 10 *MP made SIO -sceptical about motives

Coming up NEXT. What’s the future gig? THE BIGGIE!

COMPONENT NUMBER 4

4 (OF 7) SCENES

© tombryson2015

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PLANNING A NOVEL – STEP 2 – OUTLINE

PURPLE OR ELEPHANT?

I’m writing my  next DCI Matt Proctor crime novel,(a series) and I’d like to share my approach to “PLANNING A NOVEL”.

How do you put your novel together? Please let me know.

I’ll set out my approach in separate blogs – this is the SECOND. There are SEVEN in all.  (If you missed the first see previous posts).

From the outset let me say I’m more a ‘planner’ than a ‘pantser’- but please, you ‘pantsers’ out there, don’t tune out – we can all learn from each other. (I wonder if there really are out-and-out ‘pantsers’ or ‘planners’ – or are most of us somewhere in between on a spectrum?).

PLANNERS                  IN-BETWEENERS                  PANTSERS


I may be a planner but one who leaves space for the story to breathe, to bend and flex, change direction at times. Yet the CORE story line remains.

I PLAN because I think it makes me write my book faster and better. I’ll tell you why later.

SO…PLANNING A NOVEL

(A recap – if you read my first post on CORE skip down to OUTLINE – if you missed the first post see previous posts).

I need to know my story plot(s) in detail, understand the motivations, secrets and fears of my main characters before I can progress to writing my first draft. From my outline, I develop scenes and flesh out characters. The process is very much iterative, synergistic. I hop from one to another; adding to my character profiles, summarising a scene in a brief heading, modifying and reordering the outline chronology using a ‘scene order’ grid, to get a visual overview of the book.

LUMIA - kINVER, JANE, MY DESK 2014 077

‘SCENE’ TAB OPEN – SCENE ‘HEADS’ ON RIGHT – MAIN PLOT/SUB-PLOTS COLOUR CODED

(By the way this is a pic of an Acer notebook 10.1″ screen – not an Imax image!)

A great tool for doing this is Microsoft OneNote. Some swear by Scrivener, Ywriter; another good tool is Hiveword. There are others. I think writers need to experiment to find out what suits them best. Two factors influencing my choice are a) the ability to write the book content within the planning tool, and b) to work offline sometimes – I may be on holiday and want an hour or so of ‘writing therapy’ but might not want to go on-line, or have available on-line access.

By giving me an overview and instant access to the components of my story on a single screen, I get control of the project and so I find the process of drilling down into the ‘core’ of my story easier, more efficient and fulfilling. Certainly much less frustrating than switching from one screen to another, hunting down folders and files, hopping back and forth from page to page on websites and between different websites.   ARRRGH…

LUMIA - kINVER, JANE, MY DESK 2014 076

CHARACTER TAB OPEN – SELECT CHARACTER ON RIGHT – DETAILS LEFT

  • In planning my novel I use seven COMPONENTS.  They are not written in a strict chronology – that’s important. They have synergy, they feed off each other. Maybe it’s like bringing up a family – you don’t focus all your energy on one child and when that job’s done, move on to the next. Oh, no, – you don’t bring kids up like that. You juggle, you compromise, negotiate, discipline, encourage, motivate, and so on. You spread your attention, your focus, your love. (OK, OK, we didn’t have seven children but you get the picture!). Now – please let me show you in specific terms how all this works (and for me it definitely does) in practice

TOM BRYSON’S SEVEN COMPONENTS OF ‘PLANNING A NOVEL’

  1. CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!
  2. OUTLINE – Two pages max. Written in present tense, with a start, middle and end. Split into key scenes with short headings. Leave room for the story to evolve.
  3. MAIN PLOT – Spine of the story, the heart of the MC’s journey. Sub-plots add complexity and richness. The main plot (and sub-plots) summaries need only be a sentence or two.
  4. SCENES – Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.
  5. CHARACTERS – Absolutely critical. The reader must care about these people.
  6. SETTINGS – Give ‘colour’, atmosphere, they complement characterisation, add credibility and context whether real or fictional places.
  7. SYNOPSIS – Comes at the end because a synopsis is a ‘selling’ tool; your book summary. You write a synopsis when you’ve finished your book. (I include it as part of planning because you’ll need it for submissions).

In this second blog in the series, I’ll focus on my second COMPONENT in PLANNING A NOVEL, namely the OUTLINE of my story. 

 2 (of 7). OUTLINE – your roadmap.

OUTLINE

I keep my outline to two pages, single spaced. Write your outline as if you were telling someone about your story.

Using present tense gives a sense of immediacy – places your story in the ‘here-and-now’. Keep referring back to your CORE to make sure you stay on track with the main storyline.

In crime novels/thrillers your story will feature a main character, antagonist(s), an ally(ies), possibly a love interest.

Remember what I said earlier about the iterative nature of my approach to novel planning –  as you write your outline, dip in and out of your character profiles, throw  in snatches of dialogue if that helps, focus on the key scenes. Hang on, you say – I didn’t mention character profiles before. Well, yes I did if you look at my seven components. I said the components aren’t written in a chronological sequence – no, it’s done in a messy, flitting back and forth manner. That is the way the creative mind works, relax those synapses.

I set up my seven components in separate sections, files, folders – whatever – at the outset and as I work on each, I’m switching between them continually. However, it is important to be clear what component is your primary goal at any one session. Don’t be a butterfly, more a bee gathering pollen but always aware where the hive is.

Next, break your outline into discrete scenes. No need to rewrite your outline here, just find the natural scenes in your outline, put in a paragraph break, then tag the paragraphs with a ‘to-do’ symbol. Now you are building up a scenes outline that you use as the basis for writing the fundamental building blocks of your novel – scenes.

Here’s the OUTLINE of my novel SARCOPHAGUS. (I’m only showing a short piece to give you the general idea – also I don’t want a spoiler – after all you may like to buy the book and read it!)

WEE TIP – CHARACTERS IN CAPS – WHY? FUTURE BLOG.

“SARCOPHAGUS is a political thriller set in Ukraine.

Ex-British army bomb disposal sapper GREG STEVENS (40 – born in Ukraine) gets a call from the past. His former army unit commander HAROLD BREWSTER, now UK defence minister wants to call in a favour; in Northern Ireland he saved Greg’s life. Now he wants to use Greg as a credible front to investigate a Ukrainian oligarch, BOGDAN KATCHENKO.  Katchenko is suspected of laundering EU/UK grants to fund fake diamonds production.

Brewster approaches Greg because he has a hold over him; also Greg’s industrial expertise gives him credibility. Weird thing is – Brewster wants Greg to give Katchenko the ‘all-clear’ – ‘UK security interests’. Greg, now CEO of Newton International is put under even more pressure from his chairman SIR OLIVER NEWTON who wants Greg to do Brewster’s bidding.  ‘Big defence contracts at stake’.

Greg resolves to do the spying job – not to repay his debt to Brewster; but to find the truth.

Greg’s father ANATOLY is dying and wants to see his Ukraine homeland a last time and be reconciled with his estranged brother PYOTR. Greg takes Anatoly and his daughter ELLEN to Kiev. He feels guilty about refusing Ellen anything; having been responsible for the death of her mother – his wife KAREN, in a car accident.

In Kiev, Greg meets NATASHA, a doctor related to Pyotr and they become lovers.

Greg crosses swords with Katchenko, a Mafiosi figure who runs the EU money scam (with Brewster as co-criminal).  He befriends TARAS PRAKHOV who is Katchenko’s chief scientist but who wants out of Ukraine. Greg offers to help and gets information on a memory stick about the fake diamond operation run by Katchenko.

He is mugged and his room searched by Ukrainian police, Katchenko makes his enmity of Greg clear.

Greg meets up with US journalist SEAN O’NEILL whom he knew from his Belfast army days. They team up – O’Neill is undercover US Homeland Security also trailing Katchenko, but investigating dirty nuke bomb making…”

Coming up NEXT. What’s the future gig?

COMPONENT NUMBER 3

3 (OF 7) MAIN PLOT

© tombryson2015

Starting my next cop novel…how I plan a novel

New Year – new novel.

I’m planning my next DCI Matt Proctor crime novel, number three in the series and I’d like to share my approach to “PLANNING A NOVEL”.

How do you put your novel together? Please let me know.

I’ll set out my approach in separate blogs – this is the FIRST. There are SEVEN in all. 

From the outset let me say say I’m more a ‘planner’ than a ‘pantser’- but please, you ‘pantsers’ out there, don’t tune out now – we can all learn from each other. (I wonder if there really are out and out ‘pantsers’ or ‘planners’ – or are most of us somewhere in between on a spectrum?)


PLANNERS                  IN-BETWEENERS               PANTSERS


I may be a planner but one who leaves space for the story to breathe, to bend and flex, change direction at times. Yet the CORE story line remains.

PLANNING A NOVEL

I need to know my story plot(s) in detail, understand the motivations, secrets and fears of my main characters before I can progress to writing my first draft. From my outline, I develop scenes and flesh out characters. The process is very much iterative, synergistic. I hop from one to another; adding to my character profiles, summarising a scene in a brief heading, modifying and reordering the outline chronology using a ‘scene order’ grid, to get a visual overview of the book.

LUMIA - kINVER, JANE, MY DESK 2014 077

‘SCENE’ TAB OPEN – SCENE ‘HEADS’ ON RIGHT – MAIN PLOT/SUB-PLOTS COLOUR CODED

A great tool for doing this is Microsoft OneNote. Some swear by Scrivener, Ywriter; another good tool is Hiveword. There are others. I think writers need to experiment to find out what suits them best. Two factors influencing my choice are a), the ability to write the book content within the planning tool, and b), to work offline sometimes – I may be on holiday and want a hour or so of ‘writing therapy’ but might not want to go on-line, or have available on-line access.

By giving me an overview and instant access to the components of my story on a single screen, I get control of the project and so I find the process of drilling down into the ‘core’ of my story easier, more efficient and fulfilling. Certainly much less frustrating than switching from one screen to another, hunting down folders and files, hopping back and forth from page to page on websites and between different websites.   ARRRGH…

LUMIA - kINVER, JANE, MY DESK 2014 076

CHARACTER TAB OPEN – SELECT CHARACTER ON RIGHT – DETAILS LEFT

  • In planning my novel I use seven COMPONENTS.  They are not written in a strict chronology – that’s important. They have synergy, they feed off each other. Maybe it’s like bringing up a family – you don’t focus all your energy on one child and when that job’s done, move on to the next. Oh, no, – you don’t bring kids up like that. You juggle, you compromise, negotiate, discipline, encourage, motivate, and so on. You spread your attention, your focus, your love. (OK, OK, we didn’t have seven children but you get the picture!). Now – please let me show you in specific terms how all this works (and for me it definitely does) in practice.

THE SEVEN COMPONENTS OF ‘PLANNING A NOVEL’

  1. CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!
  2. OUTLINE – Two pages max. Written in present tense, with a start, middle and end. Split into key scenes with short headings. Leave room for the story to evolve.
  3. MAIN PLOT – Spine of the story, the heart of the MC’s journey. Sub-plots add complexity and richness. The main plot (and sub-plots) summaries need only be a sentence or two.
  4. SCENES – Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.
  5. CHARACTERS – Absolutely critical. The reader must care about these people.
  6. SETTINGS – Give ‘colour’, atmosphere, they complement characterisation, add credibility and context whether real or fictional places.
  7. SYNOPSIS – Comes at the end because a synopsis is a ‘selling’ tool; your book summary. You write a synopsis when you’ve finished your book. (I include it as part of planning because you’ll need it for submissions).

COMPONENTS

in this first blog in the series, I’ll focus on my starting COMPONENT in PLANNING A NOVEL, namely the CORE of my story. 

 1 (of 7). CORE – a basic idea.

  • CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!

Q.  What is in that CORE as a novel writing idea?

A.  Main Character with a Goal, facing tough Opponents, hitting Insurmountable Obstacles, and under threat, using their Sole Abilities to win through.

Here’s the CORE of my novel IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

‘DCI Matt Proctor fights to break an  international ‘match-fixing’ gambling syndicate and becomes their kill target when he gets too close. Serbian Mafia boss Petrovic hunts him – yet real power lies in sports boardrooms, directors’ boxes and wheeler-dealer agents. Matt Proctor is a marked man.’

Think of an apple, a pear. The core is where that fruit started. In that core are seeds. And in the core of your novel are the seeds that will grow your novel. Define that core in no more than 50 words – keep those words in front of you – and then let the seeds grow.

Coming up NEXT. What’s the future gig?

COMPONENT NUMBER 2

2 (OF 7) OUTLINE

Be good to see you – and talk crime/thriller writing

Website header collage straightPicMonkey

WE’RE TALKING MURDER!

DEAD keen on books?

Talk by local crime and thriller writer

TOM BRYSON

 For readers, for writers, for everyone!

Local crime and thriller writer Tom Bryson will be at Bridgnorth library to talk about his latest Birmingham cop crime novel ‘In it for the Money’. Tom is writing a DCI Matt Proctor series, the first was ‘Too Smart to Die’; he is now working on a third to be published in 2015. He says, ‘I find readers enjoy making connections in my novels with real places they’re familiar with – the story and characters are of course fictitious.’

Tom Bryson has also written an international thriller ‘Sarcophagus’ set in Ukraine and a WW1 story ‘The Zeppelin of Kinver Edge’.

 Crime writer Tom Bryson

at Bridgnorth Library, Shropshire, UK

Friday, 5th December  2014, 7.00 pm

ADMISSION £3.00 incl. free refreshments 

www.tombrysonwriter.wordpress.com

New crime novel out now

‘IN IT FOR THE MONEY’

 cropped-cover-money-fuzzy-6.jpg

Brum/Black Country cop DCI Matt Proctor investigates murder, match/spot fixing – and he needs to ‘fix’ his personal life! 

 (No. 2 in Cop Matt Proctor series – now writing No. 3)

How the police can help crime writers

Getting the inside info…

The pace of change is increasing everywhere, not least in the world of police investigations and forensic science. So that’s why I contacted the Press Office of the West Midlands police service to seek help in updating my understanding of the latest practices. They were most helpful, for which I am genuinely appreciative.

image photo : Police car with a flasher at lorry crash

I gave some thought beforehand about what I needed to know and used a check-list that I submitted in advance. Working through the list covered all the ground – and more.

My visit to police headquarters in Birmingham was a truly eye-opening experience and I am sure will lend greater credibility and verisimilitude to my crime writing. At least that’s my hope – although I fear all those keen-eyed police procedural experts out there will still find slips and flaws! Still, as they say – that goes with the territory.

However, verisimilitude is ‘the appearance of being true’ and after all, I am writing fiction. So if – or rather when – I’m challenged, in defence I’ll hold up my hands and say, ‘At least I made the effort to get things as right as possible.’

Here’s how my visit was reported in the press office news section:

(Click the link below to read the article as it appeared on the West Midlands police website)

http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/latest-news/news.aspx?Id=936

Saturday 24 May 2014

A murder suspect fugitive leaps from a moving train − narrowly missing a high-speed commuter shuttle − and staggers across a boggy field in a desperate bid to shake off the detective chief inspector in hot pursuit.
The female DCI leading the manhunt rugby tackles him in a swollen brook and, as the two trade punches, an exasperated cry echoes out from an armchair far, far away.

“Oh for goodness sake…that would never happen. I’d be lucky to get out of the office during a murder case!”

The disbelieving TV critic is West Midlands Police Superintendent Mark Payne. A hugely experienced detective, he’s led many homicide enquiries during his 20-year career…and precisely none have involved a punch-up with his number one suspect in a stream!

Today he’s agreed to meet Stourbridge crime fiction writer Tom Bryson who is on a modern-day policing fact-finding mission in order to keep such outbursts from readers with insider knowledge to a minimum.

“It’s important to have a solid working knowledge of how police investigations unfold,” said Tom, whose fictional top cop DCI Matt Proctor has cracked two complex West Midlands murder cases.

“For my books to be credible they must have their foundations in real-life police practices and techniques − but at the same time there has to be creative licence to keep audiences captivated. It can be hard to juggle…and I can imagine there are many police officers who shake their heads in disbelief when watching TV crime dramas!

“In the 1980s I worked in the personnel department at Lloyd House (the force’s HQ) so I’m familiar with police processes − but science and technology used by police to stay ahead of criminals advances so fast that it’s important for me to get a refresher.”

Tom is talked through terminology such as “nominal” − a common police label for a criminal − and acronyms like PoI (person of interest), FSI (forensic scene investigator) and HOLMES − a very apt crime fighting abbreviation for Home Office Large Major Enquiry System.

HOLMES incident rooms are set up to manage complex cases and see detectives assigned specific roles − statement reader, receiver, indexer, allocator to name a few − to ensure no information slips through the net, any links are identified, and all leads are followed up.

image photo : British police

Det Supt Payne also brings Tom − whose 2012 novel Too Smart to Die opens in dramatic fashion as a dead body turns up on the council steps in Victoria Square − up-to-date on advances in forensic science and communications analysis.

He said: “There have been incredible advances in how we’re able to forensically recover and examine tiny particles of DNA − including prints, blood, hair, saliva and skin − and the lead officer must manage these evidence opportunities. That means appointing separate FSIs at each scene to avoid cross contamination of DNA samples.

“And it’s amazing what we can do with phones and IT technology these days to obtain an accurate picture of who our suspect was contacting and where they were at times central to the investigation. I won’t divulge some of the wizardry…a lot of what we recover is crucial in building up a solid prosecution case.

“An SIO might also consider calling a pathologist out to a murder scene if there’s something odd about the positioning of the body or the injuries, and will also oversee the post mortem and interview procedures.

“Another big change is that only a few years ago you could lock down a crime scene and manage the information flow. Citizen journalism has brought lots of benefits − and helped us trace wanted people − but also presents many challenges. I’ve had key witnesses tweeting about what they saw and residents of homes overlooking the scene taking photos or videos and sharing them on social media. Information management is much more difficult now.

“Unlike in TV dramas where the lead officer is actively involved in all lines of enquiry from knocking doors and assessing CCTV to chasing suspects and quizzing them in interview, I’m so busy managing the enquiry that I’ll rarely step out of the office!”

Richness of character goes hand-in-hand with plot depth for author Tom so Mark’s candid account on juggling personal, family and work life whilst immersed in complex investigations was equally insightful.

Tom added: “It’s important to explore the lead characters’ personalities so to get a first-hand account of how all-consuming running a murder enquiry is was really helpful. Mark recalled emotional moments when his children have pleaded with him not to go in at weekends, and countless occasions where he’s missed family gatherings or school plays.

“And even when SIOs aren’t physically at work managing the enquiry Mark said it’s hard to escape…even when at home watching TV or over dinner he’ll be mulling over lines of enquiry, actions and potential motives. But when you’re responsible for finding a killer, and getting justice for bereaved families, it must be hard to take time out.”

Tom Bryson’s second novel (in cop Matt Proctor series) ‘IN IT FOR THE MONEY’ − again centring on DCI Matt Proctor − was released last month (April 2014).’

Coming soon ‘BLOOD RED RABBIT’ Psychological thriller/romance set in Ireland.