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Monday, December 12, 2011

Believability: To Use Jargon or Not to Use Jargon?

So I'm working on Draft 2 of my WIP which is tenatively titled Hold Still.  Basically it's about a police detective trying to catch a sadistic rapist. (Fun stuff, I know.  Violence in novels is a topic for another day.)  Anyway, since the novel is set right here in my native Philadelphia, I thought I'd get myself a real, live police source who could answer some procedural questions for me.  He's been very gracious and happy to answer all of my inane questions whenever I run into him (or run after him when I see him on the street, waving my little notebook frantically). 

So the other day we had this conversation wherein we discussed the following scenario:  you're looking for a suspect, you locate him and detain him.  What happens at this point?  He said that they'd take him to their Division (ah hah!  I got that one right already) and the first thing they do is "slate" the suspect/arrestee.  That means they write his or her name in a logbook that they have at the Division headquarters and then things proceed from there--the person may be questioned or simply charged, it depends on the case.  I've never heard of slating. 

So I said, "Is that like booking?" and he laughed. 

He said, "That's TV stuff."  In other words, no one really says that.  They don't call it that here in Philadelphia, in the very place where my story will take place.  Also he said that officers refer to the area that suspects are kept while they are waiting to be questioned, charged, or transferred as CCTV (apparently it's an area that is monitored by Closed Circuit Television).

(They also don't use 10 codes in Philly which I thought was pretty interesting.)

Okay, so if you're a writer, do you use slating in your book because that's what they would actually say or do you use booking because that's what your average TV-watching reader would recognize?

Here's the scene as I had it before I had the "slating" discussion:

            “Rush,” Chen called.  “Call on three.”
            Jocelyn signaled Kevin to give her a minute and picked up the receiver of the phone on the desk in front of her.  “Rush,” she said.
            “It’s me,” Inez said.  
            “What’s up?”
            Inez hesitated.  “I got your sister down here in booking.”
            Jocelyn slouched in her chair.  She closed her eyes momentarily and took a deep breath.  “For what?Drugs or prostitution?”
            Inez cleared her throat.  “Prostitution.”
            Jocelyn clenched her hand around the receiver, white-knuckling and releasing.  “Book her.”
            “What?”
            “Book her.”
            “I’m gonna send her up to you.”
            “No, Inez.  This is Camille’s third arrest this year.  THIS YEAR.  I appreciate the heads up but no more favors.  I’m done trying to help her.  Just book her.”
            There was a long pause.  Dead air.A rustling.  Then Inez said, “Okay, fine.”
***
Here is the scene after I had the "slating" discussion with my police source:
            “Rush,” Chen called.  “Call on three.”
            Jocelyn signaled Kevin to give her a minute and picked up the receiver of the phone on the desk in front of her.  “Rush,” she said.
            “It’s me,” Inez said. 
            “What’s up?”
            Inez hesitated.  “I got your sister down here in CCTV.”
            Jocelyn slouched in her chair.  She closed her eyes momentarily and took a deep breath.  “For what? Drugs or prostitution?”
            Inez cleared her throat.  “Prostitution.”
            Jocelyn clenched her hand around the receiver, white-knuckling and releasing.  “Slate her.”
            “What?”
            Slating was a term they used in the Philadelphia Police Department.  When a subject was arrested and brought into the division for processing, the first thing officers did was log the name of the arrestee into a book kept on the first floor of the division.  Then they were held until they were questioned or charged—or both.  “Slate her and charge her.”
            “I’m gonna send her up to you.”
            “No, Inez.  This is Camille’s third arrest this year.  THIS YEAR.  I appreciate the heads up but no more favors.  I’m done trying to help her.  Just slate her.”
            There was a long pause.  Dead air. A rustling.  Then Inez said, “Okay, fine.”
***
So what do you think? 

13 comments:

  1. I never heard of slating or CCTV and would have been fine with booking. :) I like CCTV better than slating though, that just makes me feel like I'm slapping someone on the face with a slate. Hmm. But it is cute that you're chasing the cop down with your little book. :)

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  2. Good question. I worked as a deputy sheriff here in Colorado for about three years. I worked book-in many, many nights (this was at a county jail and I got the suspects after the street officers had arrested and questioned them already). Anyway, for what it's worth, we called it "booking," and I think your readers might relate better to that word.

    Nice scene too!

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  3. Wow. Tough question. While I was reading your 'set up', I was thinking, 'cool, I'm all for authentic lingo, so long as you find a way to explain it. Bring it on!' And then I read the two examples. The brief explanation of 'slating' slows the narrative down by a surprising amount, for one short paragraph, and pulls me out of the story. I think, therefore, this would be a case of stick with what most people* know, and book her.

    On the other hand - I have seen some books where slang is used without any explanation (A Clockwork Orange is probably the best example), leaving it to the reader to figure out. It can work. So...I'm not sure. But I think my gut tells me to stick with 'book'.

    *Realizing that there are some people who won't know what 'book' means, but they are probably few.

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  4. That's an interesting question. I would like to say go with slating, except it sounds so strange when Jocelyn says it. It sounds almost like some medieval torture or something. :) So if you do use the term 'slating', introduce it beforehand. That's my suggestion. :)

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  5. I love seeing authenticity in books! I'm more likely to believe that the author did some real research rather than just rehashing what other writers have published in the past.

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  6. Oh man. That's a tough one. CCTV is more authentic, but it sounds like they're holding her at a news station. Know what I mean? I think I'd have to go with booking, in this case.

    ...Now I keep picturing you chasing the cop down, waving your little notebook back and forth. LOL

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  7. Oh, oh! I just saw. Congratulations on 100 followers! :)

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  8. Hmmm, for a cold, first impression read, I thought the first draft was very, very good. The explanation in the second draft broke the dialogue's pace, I thought. But, having said that, authenticity is important. Is there some place earlier on in the WIP where you could work this stuff in, so the reader would be prepared?

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  9. I personally like the first one better. I don't think that most people who read a novel analyze it down that far....maybe...lol

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  10. I'm for using booking. It's what we call it and it seemed to flow along with the story in the first example. As for CCTV, I like it. It's a term used all over too. I love this instant feedback!

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  11. Definitely book rather than slate. The number of people slate would make sense to is inconsequential. Whereas you'd be confusing a great many people using slate. And that explanation just gets in the way of the dialogue & action. It detracts from the tension you just built up when Inez calls Jocelyn. You could throw it in like slang, but don't draw attention to it. The most important thing is to keep the reader engaged, no disruptions.

    And YAY! 100 followers!!

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  12. I like the idea of staying authentic, but as many have commented, the necessary explanations could become disruptive and awkward. How is this jargon handled in other crime novels? Is slating specific to Philly? If so, maybe you could have a character be from a city that uses the terminology that's most familiar and thus still use the jargon readers will recognize. Just a thought. ; )

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  13. Hmmmm. Agree with the others - in your example, booking goes more smoothly. I think if you're able to work slating in w/o the info dump paragraph, it'd work. However, is it crucial the reader know what 'slating' means? Not really. It's interesting and all but *shrugs*

    Yay on 100 followers! I'd comment above but you already gave me a Christmas present! :)

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