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10 Common Mistakes Authors Make About the Law

If you’re writing fiction, chances are a legal thread runs through your story. On screen or on the page, legal issues are often central to plots and backstory.

In mysteries and thrillers, past crimes may surface with present ramifications. Law enforcement officers and P.I.s need to know what’s legal and what isn’t. Amateur sleuths—the chef, gardener, or librarian—may start digging because they fear police won’t investigate or will nab the wrong suspect.

The law figures in mainstream and literary novels, too. And legal plots don’t require a crime. With a good storyteller, civil law can be gripping. Think of the possibilities in adoption (Jacquelyn Mitchard’s A Theory of Relativity; Ann Patchett’s Run), inheritance (Dickens’ Bleak House), even insurance (Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder’s movie based on James M. Cain’s novella).

But the law can be confusing, too. It changes constantly, and varies from state to state. Information and misinformation abound. Plus most of us, thank goodness, live happy lives without facing serious legal trouble. What follows is one lawyer-novelist’s list of common mistakes—and tips on avoiding them.

Everyone is invited to join us on May 28 to hear Leslie Budewitz explain the mistakes authors make when writing about the law. Join us for a short social time at 9 am central time, followed by a brief business meeting at 9:30 am. Our speaker starts about 10 am.

DARA meetings are held the fourth Saturday of each month from January to October. We're currently meeting on Zoom -- to get an invite to the Zoom room, please contact our Membership Chair, Priya Ardis, at

Naima Simone

About Leslie Budewitz

Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series, the Spice Shop mysteries set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in NW Montana. She’ll make her suspense debut with BITTERROOT LAKE, written as Alicia Beckman, in April 2021. A three-time Agatha-Award winner (2011, Best Nonfiction; 2013, Best First Novel; 2018, Best Short Story), she is a past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America. She lives and cooks in NW Montana.

Suspense Magazine calls her books “pure enjoyment.” Library Journal reviewer Lesa Holstine calls them “a treat for the senses.”

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