You asked me to poke you about how to professionally structure my fugitive investigator in my story. While I’m working on the homework for Lesson Six, I wanted to put this back out there for you!
I used to teach an entire month-long class in private investigation for writers… 😉 BUT, that being said, and since this isn’t that class, let me state a few overall things on the specifics and authenticity of writing any career for your character.
Every career/position/hobby comes with certain parameters. Airline pilots must know how to fly planes and read charts and deal with emergencies…. tree-trimmers must know how to operate saws and climb trees and know something about the right and wrong way to trim limbs… parents of a baby must know how to change diapers. My point is: there are certain GIVENS and most of us inherently are aware of them. So, in fiction, you write using those known GIVENS as much as possible to give realism to your character and the “world” even though, yes, it’s fiction.
But there are times when those givens don’t work with what’s needed in the plot or for characterization. This happens a lot more in SFF type stuff, but it can happen in contemporary or cross-genres.
The example I use in the PI class is that most states in the US require any applicant for a PI license (in those states that require licenses; a few don’t) to be a minimum of 21 years old, have a clean criminal record (yes, I was cleared by the FBI), and to either have previous law enforcement or military law enforcement background OR (as in the case of FL), investigative reporting or Human Resources/Hiring experience for a large company AND two years of college classwork in investigations.
But what if you wanted to write a novel with a PI heroine but you wanted her to be 18 years old and her only job was as a waitress in a bowling alley? (This could be a fun kind of cozy mystery. I also remember reading series where the private detective was a nun who was helping out her father or uncle who’d operated an agency…) Anyway, you could either set the story in one of the few states that had no requirements for a PI license, OR you could–at some point in the story–make mention that the state of NJ had just altered it’s requirements, deleting the law enforcement requirement (which Jersey has) and opened it to anyone over the age of 18.
The better way IMHO though is to find out the requirements of whatever job you MC has in the story, based on the story’s location, and then redesign the MC’s backstory–much of which may NOT be in the story–to fit. This gives authenticity to the story because eventual someone will read your story who has BEEN that occupation, and they’ll helicopter your book if you play fast and loose with the facts.
Anyone who’s read Susan Grant’s SF books know she writes a lot of jet fighter scenes (her stories are mostly set on this planet). She can do that because 1) she’s a former USAF jet pilot and 2) she currently flies 777s for United Airlines. She has “street cred.”
HiDee, what I think you need to do is figure out what actions and decision your hero needs to make in your plot, and then, with some research and based on your family’s own experience, decide if your MC is going to be genuinely with the US Marshall’s fugitive division, or if he’s in the private detective/recovery profession. But don’t have a foot in both camps because you’re going to have a lot of inconsistencies and, yes, some ex-LEO is going to leave an unkind review about your lack of facts on Amazon…
Other than that, if you want to run some ideas by me after this class ends, you can contact me by email and maybe I can help you narrow down what you need to know. 🙂
//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//