Dead Bodies . . . what to do with them?
In my current work-in-progress, someone dies (shocking, I know). The novel was inspired by something that happened when I was a kid of about 12. We were on a family vacation in Salida, Colorado staying at a quaint little “guest ranch” just this side of Monarch Pass. The towering Fourteeners all around us were awe-inspiring, but what I really remember were the sheer drops as we drove up into those mountains. At one point, my mom started talking to one of the locals about how easy it would be to drive right off the edge of the mountain and someone said something about a mangled guardrail. The local told us about a woman who had driven her car off the road in the middle of a snowstorm. She said the car was still down there, at the bottom of the ravine. Said it was too dangerous to try to retrieve her body. That has always stuck with me. Very much made an impression on me.
Although that was an interesting story, writing my novel required research. I went on a ride along with a police officer and asked questions about how the officers would react if a woman were found standing on the side of a road, where another individual appeared to have gone over the edge. If you are writing about crime, I encourage you to go on a ride along. Most departments will allow you to do so, and it’s a fairly simple matter to apply. You will likely have to pass a background check. Before you go on the ride along, do a little research. There are lots of resources, but I recommend the article at PoliceLink, which you can find here.
I have only been involved with planning a funeral once, so I did a little research about funeral directors. YouTube is a great research tool for writers. I ran across an interesting short documentary (For Life) which gave me ideas for dialogue and action. If you use YouTube for research, look for documentaries or first person reviews.
Another part of my story that required research related to death was that the body isn’t recovered. That brings up some interesting questions, about how the individual is declared legally dead (this is known as death in absentia). In Missouri, this is a statutory question and requires that the person be missing for five years. If you have legal questions, you can usually check the Revised Statutes for your state. These can also give you ideas for plots. For instance, Missouri laws cover details like the definition of dead (think medical thriller) and disposing of the body (what if a funeral director cut corners to save costs?).
So, now you know how I spend my free time. :o) What have you researched lately?