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January 13, 2014

Guest Post: Blood Splatter Class and Hand to Hand Combat - Hannah Jayne on The Police Writer’s Academy

 

In thrillers, detectives are always analyzing blood splatter patterns, police officers in the Missing Persons Unit are having urgent meetings and protagonists, "bad guys" and cops alike are shooting guns at the exact right angle. So how do authors, whose typical work attire, as Hannah Jayne writes below, "includ[es] slippers and pajama pants" know how to create such believable, detail rich crime scenes? The Writer's Police Academy, of course! In this post, Hannah --- whose new book SEE JANE RUN came out January 1, 2014 --- describes a day in the life of this one-week camp in Greensboro, North Carolina, where authors are transformed into handcuff-wielding, body-searching, tough-as-nails versions of themselves.

 The Thursday before Labor Day pretty much started like any other. I sleepily made my way through scrambled eggs, downed a latte and shoved a granola bar in my backpack. It was still summer and the world outside was too hot and sticky which made the air conditioning on the bus that much colder. I slung my backpack on the seat next to April’s and sighed.

“Why do we have to start so early? Technically, we’re on vacation.”

“You are,” April said. “I’m not.”

            I gave her the sympathetic look we’ve swapped between each other for the last three years. The one that says, “I’m sorry, but I’m glad it’s not me.” When the bus heaved to a stop in front of the school, we rolled out.

            “Can you hold this until lunch?” April said, handing me her backpack. “I’ve got the underwater body search.”

            “Yeah, sure. If you get back early, I’ll be in blood spatter.”

            And so begins the day of two thriller writers at Writer’s Police Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina. We call it “research,” but it’s basically the coolest one-week summer camp on Earth, made just for authors.

On our own turf we’re book nerds, laptop jockeys, working under constant deadline and dodging people’s jokes about our work attire including slippers and pajama pants (which it totally does). But out here, we learn --- and do --- the things our characters do. April goes off to suit up and drag the Greensboro City College pool because her next book features a fearless teenage rescue team. I hightail it to blood spatter because I need to know how to determine a wound from the blood trail left. Did my teen try and commit suicide like everyone thought, or did someone else slit her wrist? I cram my notes into my journal and run the minute class is over. My next book has a Missing Person’s unit and a kidnapping, and Detective Todd will start whether I’m there or not. In the hall, I shove April’s backpack back to her and pile mine on top of it.

            “Hand to hand combat after,” I yell. “See you at lunch!”

            Back at the hotel we compare notes and wounds.

            I point to an angry looking bruise. “I couldn’t get out of the chokehold at first.”

            She huffs and points at an ankle that looks fat. “Tripped over a root during the shallow grave study.”

            I show her my red wrists. “Slipped out of a pair of handcuffs.”

            She shows me her bruised thumb. “My gun kept backfiring.”

            Behind us, a guest is explaining to another guest why there is a sudden influx of people at the usually quiet hotel.

            “Oh,” he says. “It’s just a bunch of writers here for some sort of convention. They probably just sit in a conference room for hours and make stuff up…”

            Not exactly.