Writers Explore: Disposing of a dead body

In honour of NaNoWriMo, let’s take a look at one of those topics that writers tend to Google far too much – disposing of a dead body.

Let’s be honest, if anyone took a look at the search history of a writer – especially a crime or mystery writer – it would probably be quite disturbing. One of the things that fascinates us writers is how a character might try to get away with murder.

So in this post, and purely on a theoretical basis, let us look at how to get rid of that pesky surplus corpse.

Before we begin, I should point out that every solution can come with an additional set of problems which can spiral out of control. There is no such thing as a perfect murder but a story about attempting one could be really interesting. If you write that, please let me know – I want to read it.

Disposing of a dead body: Moving the corpse

First things first. Have you ever tried to move someone who has passed out drunk? They become unbelievably heavy. That’s what a dead body is like. Your first problem is moving it.

You’ve got a few options here.

  1. Dispose of the body right there (tricky)
  2. Ropes, winches, and pullies (fiddly)
  3. Ask someone to help you (risky)
  4. Cut up the body (messy)
  5. Don’t kill anyone to start with (too late)

Whichever option your character goes for is going to leave trace evidence all over the show. However, your character has already got a body so there is no turning back now.

Disposing of a dead body right there

Oh boy, this is all sorts of problems. Dead bodies are basically a huge unprocessed sack of meat and other less pleasant things. They are going to smell bad after a short amount of time. The hotter, the faster that bad smell is going to show up.

Talking of showing up. Flies and other bugs are going to be attracted to the smell pretty soon. If you have ever watched Bones (or similar shows), then I am sure you have a lot of ideas about flesh-eating insects. However, mostly we are talking flies and maggots.

If “right here” happens to be the middle of a woods then you have probably been planning this for a while (you scary person). If the site of death is suitable for disposal then skip the moving stage and move on to a whole other set of problems.

Before you move on, remember that anyone might have known that the victim was heading to the site. Their phone may have GPS so their movements might have been tracked. They might have said something to someone. They might have dropped something on the way.

The fact is that you (or your character) might never catch all the clues and clean them up.

Disposing of a dead body with ropes and pullies

In terms of moving heavy things, some good climbing gear could be a huge help. You can, on your own, move the heavy sack of dead meat that is the victim in your story (this is still theoretical, right). However, you may leave trace rope fibres, cause most-death damage to the corpse, and/or leave trace evidence at the scene of the death. Also, you will have (possibly expensive) kit left over that was used in a serious crime. You will need to get rid of this afterwards too.

In this video, the basics of lifting a body (yourself or another) using ropes and pullies are explained.

Disposing of a dead body with an accomplice

This is another approach you could take. However, having an assistant means having a witness that could turn on you. If your character is of a particularly evil nature, they could always kill the accomplice at the disposal site and double their workload.

Two people moving about the crime scene substantially increases the chances that someone is going to leave a clue behind.

Disposing of a dead body in bite-sized chunks

If you choose to cut up the body Dexter style then there is a serious clean up going to be needed. Cutting is not much use if you are trying to minimise the trace evidence that’s going to show up on your character and the crime scene.

You could try plastic sheeting but it comes with its own problems. Dexter, if you have read the book or seen the show, had a legitimate reason for obtaining and using plastic sheeting but your character might not have a good cover story.

You could try strong bleach for cleaning the crime scene. However, obtaining industrious quantities of bleach just after a murder might raise suspicions.

Disposing of the actual body

One way or another you have moved the dead body to a new location. This probably involved a car, some really big backpacks, or some other form of transport. Assuming that no one saw you and the police are not already asking you to “come along peacefully”, what now?

Disposing of a dead body: with pigs

If you are a fan of British made crime films (Snatch comes to mind) then you probably think feeding a dead body to a pig is a good idea. It might be effective but in terms of plot, Fed to Pigs is a trope that has been a little overdone of late.

Pigs, as mentioned above, are sufficiently common in crime stories as corpse disposal machines that it is in danger of becoming a cliche. It could work but can’t you come up with something a bit more interesting?

Disposing of a dead body: Burial

A classic because it works so well. However, there are some drawbacks.

Digging a deep hole is hard work. you could get help but that has drawbacks of its own. Digging among trees, at night, while maybe a bit panicked is even harder. Doing all that and then not coming home and looking like you have been digging holes is probably impossible.

Digging in the sand is easier but so is the body getting found.

One often explored ide is to dig an extra deep hole and add a second victim (a family pet) somewhat higher up. This might throw the searchers off. It might not if they have read this, though.

Disposing of a dead body: Reuse a grave

If despite my warnings about the dangers of working with other people, you want to go this route then you might be able to find a corruptable mortician and arrange for your corpse to share a coffin.

If working alone is more your character’s style, then re-digging a fresh grave and dumping your poor victim in there, while risky while you dig, is still a logical choice.

If you happen to run a crematorium then you have further options but I’m guessing this is back to the problem of bribing someone and keeping them quite. Maybe acid could do the job of fire…

Disposing of a dead body: Flesh Eating Hydrofluoric Acid

This solution (excuse the pun) crops up on shows like Breaking Bad. To help you give an authentic portrayal of using acid to dispose of a dead body, we turn to science for answers.

This video shows the results of experimentally dipping chicken into three different acids. Chicken, in this case, is a reasonable analogy for disposing of a dead body without the need to do something horrific to another human being.

Disposing of a dead body: Fire

So you don’t have access to a crematorium but you think a fire will remove all evidence. This is no small task.

A burning corpse is going to stink. I mean really stink. All that hair and body waste are going to hum worse than your hasty cover story.

You will need to get the fire hot. Around 1000°C for three hours should do it. After all, a body is mostly water. A fire like that is going to raise questions. On the other hand, DNA and other trace evidence will get eaten up.

An alternative would be to use a steal works. At 1370°C the only thing that will be left will be a little extra phosphorous which would make the steal a bit harder and more brittle. Again, this might be a clue if your character is not careful enough.

Disposing of a dead body: Water

BoatContinuing our theme of the elements, what about water? If you have access to a boat then maybe taking a trip out to sea might hold the answer.

The problem is that bodies float. So you will need to secure them to something heavy. When they go down to Davie Jones Locker you need to feel secure that they are not coming back up.

You will also need a site that is deep enough that no one is going to go down there. The deeper the better. That means a tench or somewhere past the continental shelf. However, out there currents can do amazing things so choose carefully.

The sea is not a forgiving graveyard and things frequently come back when they are least wanted. Have you seen what washes up on the beach? In Margate, for example, World War Two munitions (live and deadly) still show up from time to time.

The general advice seems to be to roll the body in a chain link fence before sending them to their final resting place.

This had the advantage of potentially removing the body forever but the headache of making sure no evidence ends up on your boat. How good are you at cleaning? A single drop of blood or a stray hair could be enough to put the canny detective on the character’s trail.

Disposing of a dead body: By eating them

eat itBy far the most effective method, if a little slow, would be to butcher, cook, and eat the body. The bones and teeth could be ground up into a fine powder and used as a food additive. Grim but effective.

If you own some dogs or other animals, they could help you.

For extra horror, if the character owns a restaurant…

Other considerations

Cleaning up after the crime is a whole other story. Almost everything you do is going to leave traces and no matter how carefully you clean, you might miss something. To make your character’s life harder, the people investigating the murder will be experts at finding things while you (or your character) are newbies.

Here are a few things that you might want to add to your research list.

  • Luminol – reacts with haemoglobin to enable investigators to detect tiny traces of blood.
  • Bleach – because you don’t want luminal to be your downfall
  • Matches – because burning it all down may be your only choice
  • A change of clothes – everything your character had on is evidence

A change of clothes

Seven years after the police took his boots they were able to get DNA evidence that led to the arrest of mass murderer Robert Pickton. Basically, your character needs to burn their clothes.

Of course, a change of clothes is no help if you cannot get clean yourself first. Which will probably leave your DNA all over the cleanup site. I did mention the problems pile up. Have fun solving that one. More bleach and luminol might be called for but good luck explaining why you washed the bathroom with that stuff.

Blood and Magnets

Blood contains iron and iron reacts to magnets. Does that mean you can clean up blood with giant magnets?

Warning, this video contains blood.

More ideas for disposing of a dead body

This reddit thread has a long discussion on the subject of getting rid of a body. Let’s just say that the pigs get talked about a lot.

What’s the best way to get rid of a dead body? from AskReddit

Feel free to chip in with your ideas for how a character could realistically get rid of a dead body. I’d love to hear your ideas.

You might be interested in our previous Writers Explore which looked at mental health. This topic might or might not tie in depending on what sort of story you are trying to tell.

NaNoWriMo meet up – Margate

Thanet Creative was planning to organise a NaNoWriMo meet up but then I noticed that there was already one taking place in Margate.

Some wonderful person (Christie Drozdowski) has arranged for a write-in every Sunday from 4 pm to 6 pm at Bernie’s Chocolate Bar.

I shall be taking my ancient laptop (maybe) and attempting to pop along most weeks. As we’ve had to put Sunday Writers on hiatus for a little while (Tea and Chat is back on Tuesdays though), this is a perfect opportunity to get out and meet fellow novelists.

If, like me, you feel like a monkey hitting keys sometimes, meeting other writers can help to put the old imposter syndrome in its place.

Perhaps I will see you there?

Key details

 

Technobabble: Good or bad?

technobabble

Now we are in the window of crazy writing called NaNoWriMo, I thought I would take a quick look at a topic I have been abusing for comic effect – technobabble.

What is technobabble?

Technobabble is generally the bashing about of likely sounding science words to explain something that either you do not understand or that you should not be explaining but which, for various reasons, your plot hinges on. Extra credits do a great job of explaining technobabble in this video. As do TV Tropes (warning TV Tropes).

Is technobabble good or bad?

Technobabble is easily abused for hack writing. In that regard, it is very bad. If your story is already struggling to get the audience to buy into the concepts you are pushing adding complicated fake jargon rarely ever helps. I’m looking at you Star Wars prequel trilogy.

On the other hand, if done well, a little technobabble can stand in for “this is complicated so don’t worry about it”. In that regard, it can be good. Bonus points if the science makes perfect sense too.

I’ve been using technobabble to make science jokes as humour within humour for a year or so and find it whole heaps of fun. If you don’t get the science you see comical technobabble but if you do understand the science then there is a whole extra layer of jokes for you to enjoy. At least I hope you enjoy it.

Which is where you come in.

Over to you

This post marks the return of our “over to you” section. Tell us your opinion on technobabble.

  • Is technobabble always bad?
  • Can it be good?
  • What are some of your favourite examples of technobabble?
  • Midichlorians aside, what are some examples of very bad technobabble?
  • Have you used technobabble in your own writing and how did you go about it?

Continue reading Technobabble: Good or bad?

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, are you ready?

NaNoWriMo, the month of novel writing, starts tomorrow. Are you ready?

Me? Not at all. I have the barest of bare-bones plans. That could have something to do with all the DIY that has been going on in my home. The current phase culminates today with a Writer’s Tea and chat (and food) to which everyone is invited.

All I can tell you about my NaNoWriMo is that it will feature the characters from this story. I called it Dimensions and Parallel Universes with Jack. My writing group call it “that story with the cat in it”. I am working on an RPG set in this universe. (Well, I am a geek).

Not my first WriMo.

I have been doing NaNoWriMo for a long while now. And, aside from one bad year, have always met my target. Apparently, my “best” NaNoWriMo day ever was 19,717 words written on 29th of November, 2012. I don’t remember it but I clearly doing some hard-core writing.

If you are thinking about writing a novel, NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to get started. Add me as a writing buddy; my profile is right here.

Do you WriMo?

  • What do you think about NaNoWriMo?
  • Are you taking part? (Are you ready)
  • Have you tried before? (Tell us about it)

Do you NaNoWriMo?

Who else has heard of NaNoWriMo? If you have yet to encounter it, this is your introduction to something that will take you nought to novel author in just 30 days.

NaNoWriMo, or the National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write a novel in just one month. Impossible you say, that’s what I thought and yet, all these years later, I have a growing collection of first drafts and an increased confidence that each one is better than the one from the year before.

NaNoWriMo is not just for amateurs. Many authors who stared in NaNoWriMo went on to be traditionally published. About 449 traditionally published books started in NaNoWriMo. And that’s just the ones they know about.

This year, participants will be inspired by weekly “pep talks” penned by published authors, including Roxane Gay, Kevin Kwan, Julie Murphy, and Grant Faulkner. NaNoWriMo will also provide participants access to mentorship from authors including Emily X. R. Pan, Mur Lafferty, and Jasmine Guillory.

A novel in a month?

A novel in a month. That does not seem possible. How do the NaNoWriMo folks do it?

The secret is not worrying and just getting stuff down on paper. The fact is that it is hundreds of times easier to fix an imperfect manuscript than it is to write a perfect one.

After that, it is just a case of doing a little math (or letting me do it for you). The target word count is 50,000 words. This is 1,667 words a day. Or about three to five typed pages. Which amounts to a page in the morning, one at lunch, another before tea and two more in the evening.

That’s not so hard right?

How to make NaNoWriMo even easier

There are many secrets, tips, and hacks to make NaNoWriMo even easier but here are three quick tips that will turn anyone into a novelist in just one month.

1. Tell everyone what you are doing

I cannot tell you how much more motivated I feel when I know that everyone is going to ask how my novel is going. That part of my brain that works very hard to avoid embarrassing me (the part that gets trumped by own idiot missteps) can work for you too. I find that I work very hard to keep on target when failure means everyone knowing about my failure.

As motivation hacks go, this one is huge.

2. Come up with a few ideas ahead of time

Nothing takes the pressure off like having a handle on the characters and settings for your story. You can find some tools to help build characters in our Facebook group. You can also get support in the forums, particularly the QnA for aspiring authors. There is a long-running thread with questions to ask in a mock interview with your main protagonist (lead character).

3. Break your story into 30 little chunks

Break your story up into 30 bite-sized chunks. Each of those, oh I don’t know but let’s call them chapters, can tell one part of the story.

This takes the pressure off because you will not need to ask yourself “what do I write today?” because you already have a plan.

Are you going to be doing NaNoWriMo?

Thanet Creative are planning to make Thanet much more NaNoWriMo freindly by holding write ins and supporting WriMos (participants) in our regular writing group events.

What’s stopping you becoming a novelist?