Last Thoughts on Rebels

FVTC Firearms Instructors

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.

Blood stain analysis mascot
Blood Stain Analysis Mascot

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.

Lee Lofland (center), Colleen Belongea, and Dr. Joe Lefebre
Lee Lofland (center), Colleen Belongea, and Dr. Joe Lefebre

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.

Colleen Balongea, Instructor
Colleen Belongea, FVTC Instructor

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.

Pamela Oberg with FVTC Firearms Instructor
Pamela Oberg with FVTC Firearms Instructor

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

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

14 thoughts on “Last Thoughts on Rebels”

  1. Pamela, I am so jealous you got to go this year. Sounds like an amazing experience. And yes, asking a cop, “So how do I not get caught?” and getting them to think like a criminal probably is a bit rebellious!

  2. One year I will do this! And you’re right about rebellion. Sometimes the little things, like rebelling against our regular routine, feels so good–not because we’re becoming bad seeds, but because we all need to exercise that right to defy the expected behavior, and rebelling translates to freedom!

  3. Mary, it was wonderful, and your experience definitely encouraged me to go this year. It was worth it! I can’t say enough about the new facility. And the college staff were so excited to have us, too!

    Diane, it was absolutely worth the trip. I’d love to go again, and while I probably can’t go again next year, it’s on the list for a repeat visit. I love how you articulate rebelling as freedom. Perfect!

    Edith, I can see using this info for a long time! I bet you’d love the new facility, too.

  4. Oh, it sounds like you had a wonderful time! I am so sorry to have to miss it this year. I already have it circled on my calendar for next year. Thank you for sharing WPA 2015!!!

  5. Great recap! This was indeed our best and most exciting event to date, and next year, our 8th, is already shaping up to be even better. Where else can writers go to shoot live ammunition, drive police cars and spin them out of control, and, doggone it, we even have a full size 727 for use in live-action scenarios. There is no other event like the WPA in the entire world!

    If you’re interested, here’s a brief video of last weekend’s event as told by two of the academy instructors, Karin Slaughter, and me.

    http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/writers-police-academy-the-video-story/

  6. I haven’t been tempted to do this (since I’ve been lucky to have had so much access to all things cops as a police reporter) until I saw all your FB posts on it. It looked great! Thanks for sharing.

  7. It really was wonderful. Keenan, it would be fun to have a group there! We could cause a lot of trouble. . .:)

    Thanks, Lee! Loved the video.

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone. The conference experience was well worth the time and cost. (Did I mention, two new friends and I won the most wonderful bundle of jewelry in the silent auction? I now have the sassiest pair of dangling pistol earrings. . .bonus! Every well-dressed writer should have appropriate accessories. I have chalk outlines, Agatha Christie covers, pistol dangles. . .now I just need Dr. Katherine Ramsey’s handcuffs, and my collection is complete.)

  8. Sounds very interesting. So much has changed in police work over the almost 40 years I have worked in it. But humans still act and react in much the same way. A good sleuth has a working knowledge of forensics but it is people skills that tilts the balance. I try to make the crime fiction I write pay homage to the technical without getting the story lost in the “details”.

  9. Oh wow, it looks like an incredible experience! Thanks for sharing with us, Pamela. I have heard such good things about WPA already, but I loved hearing your take on it…

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