Authentic Interrogations in Fiction

3 Ways to
Make the World of an Interrogator Ring True
by Martin Ott
As a former US Army interrogator, I have explored the
subject of the interrogator in numerous short stories and poems. My biggest
challenge was in creating the world and the main character Norman Kross for my
debut literary suspense novel TheInterrogator’s Notebook
published by Story Merchant Books in February of this year.
Here are 3 tips to keep in mind if you’d like to create the
character of an interrogator or an interrogation scene in one of your stories.
#1. Research
Meticulously
If verisimilitude is important in fiction, it is even more
important in a story about truth-telling. In the many drafts I wrote of The Interrogator’s Notebook, I made sure
to keep an eye on recent news stories related to interrogation to ensure that
my references and character backstory did not feel dated. I read no fewer than
20 books that I kept on a shelf by my computer and used sticky notes to mark
key sections. Even after completing the novel, the research wasn’t over as my
copy editor challenged me to dig even deeper to make sure that the information I
provided was correct.
#2. Make Your
Interrogators Real People
Whether it’s a character in TV shows such as Homeland or 24, or the protagonist in a John Le Carré novel, we are interested
not just in what takes place in interrogations, but the private lives of those
people under intense pressure to gather intelligence. We want to see their
strengths and foibles, and the impact of having power over others. Often, a
great counterbalance is to create some weakness or powerlessness in the lives
of these interrogators in order to raise the conflict in the story. In The Interrogator’s Notebook, my
protagonist Norman Kross was a master interrogator expert at seeing the truth,
except when it came to understanding the truth about his relationships with his
own family and friends.
#3 Provide an
Interrogation that No One Has Seen Before
With the popularity of police dramas and military thrillers,
we have all witnessed dozens, if not hundreds, of mock interrogations involving
a myriad of techniques. So how do we make our scenes stand out from what has
come before? In The Interrogator’s
Notebook
, I decided to have the antagonist George Stark, an actor, only
agree to be interrogated while playing the role of another person. This was not
a one-sided relationships, and the interrogations provided a game that both
parties were playing with increasing stakes. Dialogue is also important— don’t forget
that it needs to be realistic and relevant to the plot.
About the Author
Martin Ott is a former U.S. Army interrogator, blogger and author
of the novel The Interrogator’s Notebook,
Story Merchant Books, and three books of poetry.