Police and Fire Classes to Write more Realistically #IWSG

It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will share about how spending time with the local police and firefighters has helped me make my characters and scenes more realistic, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

What do you know?

I love the old axiom “write what you know.” Unfortunately, that can be somewhat limiting. In the mystery I am writing, I’ve been able to make the characters more realistic but drawing on emotions I’ve felt; emotions that we’ve all felt: fear, guilt, love, protectiveness, and anger. But what about details?

Police K9 Unit

I’m not a Police Officer

The main characters in the mystery I’m writing are in law enforcement. One is a conservation warden for the DNR. Another is a police detective. I’ve never been either of those. I like to have realism in my writing, so I decided to take an opportunity to get a close-up look at the way law enforcement agencies handle things from day to day.

But I play one in my book

For the past month, I’ve been part of an 8-week course called Citizen’s Academy. It’s the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time. Citizen’s Academy is a program in cities around the United States. The one I attend is hosted by Blaine, Minnesota. While most Citizen’s Academies are limited to the way the police department works, ours is co-hosted by the Blaine Fire Department.

Some of the things we’ve done are:

  • Toured the police and fire departments and learned how our city’s safety services are organized.
  • Using “Fatal Vision” to see the effects o alcohol impairment on drivers.
  • Putting out fires using fire extinguishers.
  • Driving real police vehicles and doing mock traffic stops under the instruction of police officers.
  • Seen the importance of fire sprinklers by being in a trailer and having it set ablaze, then watching as the sprinkler puts out the fire.
  • Meeting a police K9 team and learning about how the dog and handler work together
  • Learning about arson investigations

And this is only the beginning.

In the coming weeks, we will be able to:

  • gear up as firefighters, climb the engines and ladders, experience the equipment and do a search and rescue.
  • Use a car fire simulator
  • Practice “Use of Force” scenarios
  • CPR
  • Fire inspections
  • EMS Basics
  • Vehicle Extrication (Jaws of Life)
  • and more!

Finally, on October 25th, we graduate.


This has been an eye opening experience. I’ve seen first hand some of the things the men and women who protect us, experience. Now, I can write scenes involving law enforcement in a more accurate way.

My advice

Learn all you can about your characters. Then, rather than putting the details of your life into your characters, you put the details of your characters’ lives into yours. It will make your characters more believable, and give you credibility as well as a more knowledge. Plus, it can be a lot of fun.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography


6 thoughts on “Police and Fire Classes to Write more Realistically #IWSG”

  1. That’s amazing experience–the entire process. I’m impressed. You will definitely come across as much more authentic than those who simply Google the job.

    • Thank you, Jacqui. I think it helps to feel more secure about the authenticity of our writing, too. We can be freer when we know we have the details right.

  2. Wow, what an awesome opportunity! I want to do that and I’ll never write anything to do with law enforcement. I think it’s something all citizens should do.

    • I agree, Alex. I’ve always had respect for police and fire officers, but my view of what they experience has been broadened immensely. Last night we put out a car fire and did search and rescue. I am so sore today.

  3. I so want to do this! I just looked it up and it isn’t offered in my county. It is in the county next to mine, but you have to be a resident of that county. Bummer!

    • That’s too bad, Nancy. Maybe they will consider offering it in the future. They do usually limit the classes to residents OR people who work in the county/city.

Comments are closed.