Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FREEZE! Information for Writers

The Brain Limbic SystemImage via Wikipedia
Do you remember the old cop shows? “Freeze! Police! Put your hands in the air!” Now it’s “Stop Police!” - It’s weird that I have a bone of contention with this change. But I do. I understand why the change was made; “stop” is a universal word, a word that is recognized in most languages - along with “T-shirt,” “cool,” and “okay.”

That last one, “okay,” is why we’re taught to thump our plastic CPR dummy on its shoulder and yell, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” The presumption being that if the possible victim were from Northern Siberia or the African !Kung Tribe, they would still understand what was being asked. And so if the person had just decided to take a nap on the sidewalk, they could open their eyes and say “Okay,” and I would know to leave the napper alone - that an intervention with my crack CPR/Artificial breath skills was not needed. However, I would suggest that if I were being chased by a police officer yelling at me in a language that I did not understand - I’d still get the gist. A figure with the authority to lock me up is yelling at me? I have some choices to make.

The choices that can be made in the cop yelling scenario come down to the
limbic system. Your rational brain may be saying one thing, but your primordial self, the self that kept your genes swimming in the pool and not dinner for a mastodon (okay mastodons were herbivores, but you get my point). Your limbic brain can say three things:
1. Flee! In our collective backgrounds, this was a bad, bad idea. We’re slow and weak compared to the other animals on the survival show called Earth. Mostly it was a feline that was trying to eat us and movement set off the “MmmmYummm!” response in our predators that rarely turned out well.
2. Fight! Again, we are slow and weak. What’s a human to do? Even with our incredible brains developing incredible weapons, chances are still bad for the human. The last choice - which is actually our brain’s first choice, since it is the most effective - is…

By yelling FREEZE! The police officer bypasses the intellectual brain (which probably isn’t engaged at this point anyway) and speaks right to the inner caveman (or woman). “Hey. I see you. I’m an authority who can put you in jail. You have three choices. Run. Bad choice. Fight. Really bad choice. Freeze. Ah, that’s the ticket. You freeze and we’ll do things the easy way with no one getting anymore hurt than required.”

STOP! To me sounds like a yellow light - a choice. I could try to run it; I think I have enough momentum to make it. Or, I will put on the brakes and come to the asked for stop. “STOP!“ is an intellectual choice - and the intellect is not engaged, so why do it? Because the !Kung tribesman might not understand? Please. (I’m not picking on !Kung tribesmen - I just love the clicking consonants, and it is as far from English as I think we can get.)

FREEZE! Is not always our friend. I’ve experienced the limbic freeze on occasions when I thought that maybe it was a miracle that my genes made it this far. I remember going to Connecticut to learn how to drive our Land Cruiser over rocks and such. I wasn’t really all that jazzed about doing this, but it was a learning opportunity that had presented itself, and I’m addicted to those. Even though I had been almost a week without sleep, and knew that I was an idiot to go forward, there I was, for six-hours straight, driving down the side of a mountain using the engine brake. At the end of the day, my intellect-self was all used up. I sat at the top of yet another hill. My instructor wanted me to drive between the tree and rock at the bottom. My eyesight was so blurry that I couldn’t see the rock and tree.
”I can’t see. I think I’m done for the day,” I said. “Just this one last run and we’ll be done for the day,” said my instructor.

Bad choice. I started down the hill and my limbic system went into overdrive. I screamed like a girl. My body froze. I remember thinking that I wanted to hand the steering wheel to the instructor, so he could drive. My foot froze on the gas peddle. I tried with every part of my intellect to override my limbic system and lift my foot. The best I could do was to edge my left foot onto the brake slowing us down. My instructor was laughing his head off beside me thinking I was whooping it up as the last hoorah of a productive day of scaling rocks in a car. Yeah. Not so much. As we started to hit trees, it dawned on him. “Hey, this chick is not in control of her body.” He reached over - and this is the part that I don’t get - grabbed my legs and pulled BOTH of my feet off their respective pedals. Now, personally, if I had my brain still functioning, and I was the instructor, I would have left the brake foot down and only pulled up the gas pedal foot. But I have to give the guy a break - he probably was battling his own limbic system as his 50,000$ car hit tree after tree. Sigh. Sometimes these things don’t work out quite like our ancestors might have hoped.

The limbic system does not only engage in instances of imminent danger. Our brains are always searching our environment to try to keep us safe. Our limbic system is always engaged. And to this end is always making little adjustments to our bodies. These show up in our body language. If the limbic concept is interesting to you, may I suggest a book?

What Every BODY is saying - An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro

In his book, he talks about the limbic system and how it controls subtle behaviors. Applying this information would add nuance and authenticity to characters’ reactions.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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Book Review: Police Procedure and Investigation

South Australian Police officers wearing duty ...Image via WikipediaHowdunit - Police Procedure and Investigation - A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland

Is listed on Amazon for $13.59 and used from $9.90

RATING: Highly recommended

Lee Lofland was involved in law enforcement for two decades and is now a writer and the sponsor of The Writers’ Police Academy. (For further information about the 2011 WPA please see my labels below. Also, there is a link under my blog list for Graveyard Shift - Lee‘s blog). In person, Lee is hysterical, and I very much looked forward to reading his book, that I was lucky enough to win in the raffle.

This book walks a crime writer through the labyrinth of law enforcement. Chapter 1 starts with an overview of our policing system. Who is in charge of what? How is a police department organized, and just what does a sheriff do anyway? Lofland reviews the hiring process -which is arduous. The departments look into every nook-and-cranny of a potential hire's life. It’s very intrusive. Lofland then reviews the missions of the various federal, state and local agencies. Very helpful if you are trying to figure out who is going to show up and investigate. For example, I thought that
drug culture fell under vice - it turns out that many departments have a separate drug department because the manpower need is so great. And the illicit drug investigators will work closely with gang investigators, etc.

Lee then spends a chapter helping us to understand the training. Last spring, I had the opportunity to go to our
State police Academy to ask questions. These men and women must maintain high standards in all aspects of their training - one little glitch and they are out. Most police officers with whom I have spoken all tell me that their job is the culmination of a life-long dream; they had always known they were supposed to be officers. Can you imagine the heartbreak of failing to attain the uniform?

Lee goes through the pertinent aspects of the job. He talks about what a police officer does versus a detective. How arrests are made and searches conducted. How death is categorized and investigated along with crime scene investigation techniques including fingerprinting,
DNA, and autopsy. He includes the court process, prisons and jails, and the death penalty. And, Lofland loves to critique TV, so he included a chapter entitled, “C.S…I don’t think so.”

Of further help to writers’ is a glossary of terms, an index of 10 codes, drug quantity, and federal sentencing tables.

Lofland has written clearly, in an accessible voice, with vocabulary free of cop-speak. It is non-fiction that has the hold-you-to-the-page quality of a novel. A great reference - if you’re doing your due diligence and want to get the sequencing, procedure and players right.

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Book review: Making Crime Pay

eigen werkImage via WikipediaMaking Crime Pay, the Writers’ Guide to Criminal Law, Evidence, and Procedure
By Andrea Campbell

Available at Amazon new for $27.50 used from $0.14

Rating: Recommended

I admit that I bought my copy, used on Amazon, for ten cents. I more than got my ten cents worth. I read this book because it was listed as a resource book on the “
Sisters in Crime” website. I have had a course in law, and almost all of my clients were under my care by court order, so I already had a fair acquaintance with the legal system. I would have appreciated having this book back then, for quick reference and better understanding of the process.

This book is divided into three parts:

Part 1 - Criminal law is explained. What is the difference between a
federal crime and a misdemeanor? Crimes are defined as well as defenses, justifications and excuses.

Part 2 -
Criminal procedure - this includes the rights of the accused, search, seizure and arrests.

Part 3 - A Walk Though the
Criminal Justice System - this covers arrest procedures, charging, and booking. There is a chapter on juvenile justice and how that differs from the adult system.

Sprinkled throughout are historic points - which could be a boon to a historic novelist. Also, there are “Writers’ Tips.” These tips help the writer to pick out an interesting twist that could develop the plot line in a new way. There are “FYI” inserts that are like a heads-up to bring an aspect forward that a writer needs to take into consideration when writing a scene. Campbell includes photos of various documents used in the criminal process such as a
search warrant. There is an index, which helps to make looking up a detail easier.

Not a great read for entertinment value. The writing is clear and makes the concepts understandable with straight forward language. I mostly pulled it from my purse to read while waiting for various appointments. Little nibbles were satisfying.

An overall read will give a writer a base from which to launch a plot line. Having this book on the shelf to check on a vocabulary word or resolve a processing question is a handy resource.

I hope this was helpful. If you have anything to add - or if you know a great book that I should look at - please feel free to leave a comment below.
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Book Review: The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds

The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds by Katherine Ramsland

Available at Amazon for 10.20 new and from 7.35 used

Rating: Recommended with reservations

Katherine Ramsland is an engaging and interesting speaker, and I very much enjoyed meeting her at the Writers' Police Academy, where I bought her book on Forensic Psychology. In my thriller series, A Wrench in My Toolbox, I have a severely
mentally ill criminal, and I wanted to do my due-diligence in making sure the crime scene was reflective of the inner workings of this man’s brain. This was not the correct book for me to accomplish this. It was quite different from what I had anticipated from the title and my quick leaf-through at the book table.

I am not a TV watching fan; I don’t have enough time in my day. I have never seen the show Criminal Minds and this was a problem for me. The points made in this book are made in reference to various specific episodes of Criminal Minds. Ramsland does paint a quick picture as a reminder - or for those of us who are not CM fans. I’m sure that if I were reading along and then watched the noted episode on the net, this would all be very rich in further understanding. I would recommend this book as a companion to the CM show. If you are a CM fan and would like to leave a comment about this below, I invite you to do so.

I have a degree in psychology and an MS in counseling and so much of Ramsland’s clinical information I knew; or, it was a different application for what I already knew. I would suggest that someone would get the most from this book if she already had an interest in, and therefore a grounding in, this subject matter. It is not a book for someone to pick off the shelf as a starting place.

Ramsland starts the book with a brief history of
criminal profiling. She continues on to give some information in brainstorming and the development of a profile. Though this section alludes to the process, the process is never revealed. She talks about varieties of deviance, victimology, and risk assessment.

The part that I found most interesting was geographical profiling.
Geographical profiling uses a complex computer analysis system to include the crime scene and the victimology to try to predict the comfort zone of the perpetrator, where he or she might strike next or where s/he might be found. That would be a cool component to add into a writers’ arsenal.

There is a glossary of terms at the end of the book. There is also an extensive bibliography, which might prove helpful. From a writer's perspective of gaining useful, applicable insight, to bring scenes into alignment with science, I would probably go a different route.

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Book Review: Reading People

Cover of "Reading People: How to Understa...Cover via AmazonReading People - How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior - Anytime, Anyplace. By Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, Ph.D., and Mark Mazzarella

Available at Amazon for 10.88 new from 3.01 used

Rating: Highly recommended!

Jo-Ellan Demetrius is renowned for her ability to select a jury that will give her client a favorable outcome. She worked on the
OJ trial. To be effective at jury selection, Demetrius had to hone her observation skills and her ability to read people. This book shares what Demetrius looks for when she meets people, both professionally and privately.

This is not a typical
kinesics book. You will not learn that if a woman dangles her shoe from her foot that it is probably a sexual invitation (or her shoes are killing her, and she’s desperate to get them off her feet). I enjoy studying kinesics because it helps me to develop my characters’ individual, non-verbal vocabulary. When I chose a dialect and a word pattern for a certain character, I like to back it up with the correct-for-that-character gestures, stances, and ways of moving and being in their environment. Kinesics - or body language books - helps me to choose what is right for each character.

This book, instead, explains how a legal mind looks at a person and how these observations apply to the courtroom. If you are writing a lawyer - and your lawyer is good at what she does, then the information about human observation techniques might come in handy. If there is a big court scene in your book - you might want to bring in a jury selection advisor who can talk about the jury - the pros and cons of each
juror being selected and how that plays out in the outcome of the case. Very interesting - the ramifications of various personalities on the outcome.

This book is not fast paced- though it is intriguing. The authors take the reader from step one to the final conclusions. They teach the hows and whys of observation and the accompanying thought processes. There is a chapter about effective listening as well as how and when to listen to intuition.

One of the ideas, which is repeated throughout, is that not every action and word choice is indicative of a whole. Sometimes people just act “off” - not themselves. It is when someone strays from the norm that the most attention should be paid. Is the generally smiling, jovial neighbor suddenly morose and drooped? Hmmm…..It is most significant when our characters act out of character. That cues the reader in - something odd is going on here; I’d better pay attention.

From a counselor’s point of view - this book encompasses much of my training. The listening techniques are techniques I used with my clients. The observations, right down to clothing choices and presentation styles, were things that I documented in my files. It was interesting to see these techniques from a different point of view.

As a writer, I like to be reminded of the importance of the small details. They help to give dimensionality to characters even if they just step in and step out of a scene. To me, when I read, if an author has included a detail that reminds me of someone I know then I can color that character in with greater ease. Who knows? The character might just remind me of my neighbor, who always dangles her shoe from her foot as she sits cross-legged - as if she were inviting a sexual overture from my husband. Not good.

Yes. I highly recommend this book for anyone in contact with humans - who might want to develop people reading skills and awareness. I highly recommend this book for writers who are developing rounded characters

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