I just finished writing a scene for my next book. My main character, an Oakland homicide investigator named Matt Sinclair, and his female partner received a tip that someone they’re looking for in connection with a murder they’re investigating might be in a restaurant. They were told he’s an associate of one of the suspects, but since there were three suspects involved, he could be one of the other suspects. They just don’t know.
The two homicide sergeants meet with two uniformed officers and enter the crowded café, looking at faces and trying to match one with the photo from the man’s driver’s license. Sinclair spots the man at the same time the man makes him for a cop. The bad guy pulls a gun and Sinclair draws his.
Time slows. Sinclair feels like he’s moving in slow motion as his gun clears his holster underneath a rain coat and suit coat. He punches it forward where it meets his left hand. The hands lock onto the gun. The gun comes up to eye level. He takes up the slack in the trigger, a microsecond from pulling it the remainder of the way to the rear.
The scene is many times longer than this. It took me an hour to write. When finished, I got up from my computer and my hands were shaking. My character lived. It was over, but I felt like I had years ago when I carried a badge and gun for a living. Every cop has experienced incidents like the one I wrote about. We handled them. But when they’re over, the adrenalin that shot into our systems and allowed us to focus and survive dumps out.
I remember standing around after incidents like this shaking so badly I couldn’t hold my pen. My legs felt like rubber and my speech was as jagged as the nerves in my body. Writing this scene took me back to those incidents. It felt real, even though I wasn’t holding my Sig Sauer in my hand and I’m 3000 miles from Oakland.
I wonder if this happens to other writers, or if it happens to other retired cops when they watch a particularly real incident on TV, read an authentic passage in a novel, or rehash one of their war stories to a friend.