Rebellion comes in many forms, from the small moments to the large. In literature, movies, and real life, we experience these moments. Perhaps you decided not to do the dishes before bed, even though you always do the dishes before bed. It’s a small thing, but it’s a rebellion against your usual routine. If you’re a rebel of a different kind, maybe you tell an employer where s/he can put that ridiculous work assignment, and you walk out the door–with no notice at all!
We love rebels, we despise rebels, and sometimes we wish we could be–at least a little–more rebellious ourselves. As writers, we live vicariously through our characters, and make them as rebellious as we like. It’s so much fun to create a world and a set of characters to inhabit that world; but even better, is to write a character who throws caution to the winds, who says and does whatever s/he feels like doing. Of course, writers are cautious to create rebels that are either truly lovable or despicable, but either way, it’s a treat for readers and writers alike.
I recently attended an amazing conference, Writers’ Police Academy (WPA). This is not a writers’ conference, but rather a law enforcement and forensics training opportunity for writers (and readers or other interested folks who wish to participate). Created by a veteran police investigator and writer, Lee Lofland, WPA provides attendees with a unique opportunity to learn how to write the details of crime fiction accurately. In this, the event’s sixth year, instructors from a broad range of agencies and experiences (ATF, Secret Service, local law enforcement/K9, psychologists, forensic artists, and more) were on hand to educate attendees on the realities of their craft.
Of course, many instructors took the opportunity to remind attendees how inaccurate movies and television usually are when it comes to crime labs, police procedure, evidence processing, and pretty much anything else. (Suspend your disbelief, and all that.) But novel writers are held to a different standard than scriptwriters (no special effects to provide distraction!), and readers are not shy about letting us know when we get the details wrong, so the writers in this group were thrilled to learn where and how to get the details correct.
Hosted this year at Fox Valley Technical College’s brand new Public Safety Training Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, this three day conference included numerous and varied opportunities: blood stain analysis, fingerprinting (beginner and advanced), weapons use, driving, building breaching, and many more. The facility includes indoor and outdoor shooting ranges, a 727, a derailed train, Scenario Village (complete with mock gas station, bank, hotel, restaurant, and housing), and driving course. Attendees could not possibly fit each seminar or practical experience into their schedules.
Where’s the rebellion? Part of the fun of the event was encouraging our instructors to think about crime from a different angle. Instead of thinking about crime prevention, perpetrator apprehension, and the like, we were asking them to think how we could commit (in writing only) certain kinds of crimes. Attendees asked questions such as, “What explosive could I use to. . .?” and “If my character did this, could s/he avoid apprehension?” We were spinning the conventional thinking on it’s head, encouraging a rebellion of thought, you might say.
After all, arguably, the crime fiction writer’s best tool is the question, “What if?” Surrounded by fellow writers, from the very successful (Karin Slaughter and Allison Brennan!) to the not-quite-published yet, attendees spent a fantastic three days immersed in a creative rebellion, eschewing our “real” lives and jumping fully into the world of law enforcement and the minds of our fictional criminals. We’re pretty sure the instructors and staff had a good time, too.
You can learn more about the conference at the WPA website and Facebook pages. Lee can be found on Twitter and through his blog (linked above). Visit the FVTC website or Twitter for more on their amazing facility, staff, and programs.
Pamela A. Oberg | @stonecreekwriting