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    postheadericon Get to the Point, Counsel: Top Ten Tips on Writing Courtroom Scenes by Debra Mares

    0367Debra Mares, author of The Mamacita Murders, is my guest today!

    Get to the Point, Counsel: Top Ten Tips on Writing Courtroom Scenes

    Law-related television shows, movies and books are hot.  And it’s not because they deal with the boring aspects of real life courtroom drama.  Once you step into a real life courtroom, it involves three things: Waiting, waiting, and more waiting.  TV shows only have 30 minutes and maybe an hour.  And there’s no time to wait.  So when you’re writing a courtroom scene, get to the point!  Here are some other tips on how to write an effective courtroom scene.

    1)   Know the courtroom. Sit in one, listen to the sounds of the paper ruffling, the chains clinking, and the attorneys speaking.

    2)   Pick a juicy crime.  Make sure what’s going on in the courtroom involves a serious crime like a homicide, serious assault or something that matters to the community is at stake.

    3)   Don’t forget the past. Build the tension with the past history and relationships of the characters and play it out in their interactions with eachother in the courtroom.  Describe the internal struggles and conflicts the characters are facing before they walk into the courtroom.  It affects how they perceive and react to the courtroom environment.  A defense attorney’s dad who was wrongly convicted may be a true believer with blurry ethical lines.  A prosecutor who’s child suffered abuse from a neighbor may be hard charging.

    4)   Create a sense of urgency.  Use the time deadlines of the case and court calendar to move the story forward and have the characters rush to the finish line within your scene.

    5)   Leave out the boring stuff.  Don’t focus on the boring nuances of courtroom procedure, reasons for objections, or caselaw.  Leave that stuff for us real life attorneys!

    6)   Focus on the people.  Write about who’s in the audience section of the courtroom and who’s not.  The grieving mother of the victim or the nervous wife of the defendant provide heavy emotional appeal and conflict.  Other characters worthy of exploring include police officers, clerks, defendants, attorneys, plaintiffs, jurors, judges, victims and witnesses.  Ask yourself what makes them wind up with the roles they have.

    7)   Make the courtroom a character. The criminal justice system or lady justice can make it’s own character.  Detail the opulence of the courtroom then contrast it with the flock of low income inmates in orange jumpsuits being herded in.  Consider a tattered courtroom measured against the wealth of high profile defendants and their attorneys.  The details of the courtroom can be used to voice the narrator’s opinion about the legal system in general.

    8)   Weave in your character’s dramatic need.  Remember what your character’s dramatic need is throughout the entire novel and make sure it’s apparent throughout your courtroom scene.  Make sure the character is struggling for that need always.

    9)   Force someone to lose. Make sure each character has something to lose in the courtroom.  Something is always at stake, like their reputation, money, veracity, integrity, freedom or mental strength.  Make your least suspecting character lose it for once!

    10)             Be accurate.  If you don’t know the answer to a question about the courtroom, ask an attorney or judge.  We spend a lot of time in them and they are like a second home to us, especially to prosecutors or defense attorneys.  So ask us!

    Check out the courtroom scenes in The Mamacita Murders.  What do you find most effective when writing courtroom scenes?  Share your ideas by emailing them to  I look forward to hearing from you!


    Debra is the granddaughter of a Mexican migrant farm worker and factory seamstress, was born and raised in Los Angeles, is the first to graduate college in her family, and grew up dancing Ballet Folklorico and Salsa. Debra followed a calling at eleven years old to be an attorney and voice for women, currently lives in Orange County, and appreciates international travel and culture.  She has been a county prosecutor in Riverside, California since 2004 and is assigned to the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit. Debra has prosecuted cases ranging from gang homicides and domestic violence to political corruption and major fraud. Debra co-founded Women Wonder Writers, a community outreach organization and co-created The Write of Your Life, a mentorship and writing program for at-risk young women throughout RiversideCounty. The Mamacita Murders is Debra’s first novel and first in a series of legal thrillers and chick lit mysteries. To follow The Mamacita Murders and Gaby Ruiz’ next call to action, visit
    Twitter URL: @DebraMares
    Facebook URL: Debra Mares

    You can visit her website at


    When Laura, a seventeen year old key witness goes missing during trial, Assistant Prosecutor Gaby Ruiz is called to action. Ruiz investigates the sexual assault on Laura, who is left for dead in a motel in a drug- and gang-ridden community. Did Clown, Laura’s boyfriend, try to kill her when she tried to leave the Lincoln Gang’s prostitution ring or – did a random assailant ransack Laura’s room and assault her or – or did law enforcement try to kill Laura to protect one of their own?  The investigation twists from the backwoods in Tuckford County to the back rooms of law enforcement buildings all the way to the Walled City.

    Gabriela Ruiz is a sex crimes prosecutor in Tuckford County and runs The Mamacita Club, a community outreach effort from her chrome Vintage Airstream motorhome. She travels with her girlfriends around the county to reach at-risk women. Women affected by drugs, gang and domestic violence, sex crimes, and broken homes–they’re all in The Mamacita Club. Gaby has spent all of her professional life seeking justice for others. But it is not until Laura goes missing, that Gaby is able to start searching for justice for herself and begin to fix her own guilt-ridden past for not protecting her mom from an abusive relationship–this time to save her own life and seek closure over her own mother’s death.


    postheadericon 10 Things You Might Not Know About A Story of the West

    0367Susan Spence, author of A Story of the West, is my guest today!

    10 Things You Might Not Know About A Story of the West

    1. The models on the cover of A Story of the West are my husband and Hooper, a horse we raised.
    2. The name Lavold was borrowed from a man who used to own the ranch where we now live. When this area was first surveyed, this section was given to the railroad. Theodore Lavold bought it from the railroad in 1895 and set up a sheep shearing station.
    3. My idea for a novel came from the pivotal moment in my hero, Matt Daly’s, life. I then wrote the book around that event.
    4. When I first started writing, I didn’t even own a computer. I bought a spiral notebook and a bag of pens and started writing.
    5. The Big Die-Off that I wrote about actually happened. During the harsh winter of 1886-87 well over half of the cattle on the northern plains died. After that ranchers began putting up hay to feed their herds during the winter.
    6. This is my first attempt at telling a story.
    7. My research for A Story of the West took me to both the public library and around to the small local museums in the area where I live, which I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise.
    8. When I wrote most of the scenes in my book, I could envision myself being there. I think this was, at least in part, because I have lived in these same places most of my life and learned a lot of the history. This enabled me to realistically imagine how something could have been done, even if I didn’t know for sure.
    9. I believed I had written a good story or I never would have attempted to publish my book. It took me quite a while to complete, but in the end I was able to weave a story that holds the reader’s attention. The feedback I’ve received from people who normally avoid this genre reaffirms that it is a story that appeals to anyone who enjoys an engaging read.

    10.  Writing and publishing a novel has expanded my life in many ways, from learning a new skill to increasing my confidence in myself.


    Susan Spence has always been intrigued with life in the west in the 1880s. She researched historical accounts and first-person narratives as she prepared to write A Story of the West. A lifelong resident of the west, she currently lives in Montana on an old sheep shearing station with lots of furry critters and one partially furry critter. This is her first novel, and she is busily working on a sequel due out in late spring.

    You can visit her website at

    A Story of the WestABOUT A STORY OF THE WEST

    Matt Daly’s eyes narrowed as he faced the stranger in front of him. “I know I don’t have a quarrel with you because I don’t know you,” he growled.

    “But I know you,” the menacing outlaw sneered back, clearly ready to use the Colt revolver hanging from his hip.

    Only a few years earlier Matt and his father had trailed a herd of longhorns north from Texas into Montana Territory. Upon arriving, they decided to stay and raise cattle on the fertile grasslands.

    Shortly after the Northern Pacific rail line was completed and it became easier for people to head west. Lavina Lavold stepped off the train in Miles City with her family and immediately caught Matt’s eye. When they fall in love, Matt’s life seems perfect.

    There are unscrupulous men, however, determined to build cattle empires. A ruthless neighbor decides he wants the Daly’s claim, and he will stop at nothing to acquire their ranch. Since the entire area is undeeded land, it is up for grabs and there is no law on the rough frontier to prevent a range war. When Matt refuses to back down, his life takes a dangerous turn.

    Forced to abandon his family, his travels take him down a long road of misery. An encounter with an Indian medicine man helps him to regain his sense of self, but not until after he gives in to his desperation.

    A Story of the West depicts life during the open range ranching days of the Wild West. Besides plenty of action, I have added a women’s perspective to settling the American West. I researched the era to ensure historical accuracy and have written an accurate portrayal of life during this time, as well as an exciting read.

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