Fun post by Elaine Viets at Kill Zone Blog: Questions of Life and Death.
Can a body fit in your car trunk?
I sprung this question on a sweet, silver-haired couple who owned a Lincoln Town Car, the same car as Margery Flax in my Dead-End Job mysteries. They were in a shopping center parking lot when I asked that question. Maybe I have an honest face. Or, since they were Florida residents, they were used to crazies. For whatever reason, they obligingly opened their trunk. Yep, the Town Car trunk was definitely big enough for a body. Two, if the bodies were small.
This is not just writers. I was shopping with a friend once, just keeping her company, and she asked the salesperson, for no reason at all, just because she’s that kind of person, “Hey, could a body fit in this chest freezer?”
I don’t recall whether the salesperson said yes or no or politely pretended not to hear the question. I do remember lifting the lid of the freezer and deciding you could definitely put at least one body in it.
My favorite question at the linked post regards how long it takes to defrost a frozen body, which is nicely relevant to the above question about the freezer. I do wonder whether all pathologists get questions like this, or just the one in Elaine Viets’ town.
Most of the time, I expect Google and Google Maps can answer writer questions adequately. I remember researching how to hotwire a car — that’s another one Viets mentions:
A friendly mechanic spent an hour giving me lessons until I could describe the process. Don’t worry. Your vehicles are safe – nothing sparked no matter how many times I tried.
I didn’t get that far myself. I read about the process and decided it was too complicated by a mile and just left the key in the ignition instead. That provided a much smoother car theft.
This wasn’t a question, but it might have been — the time I was trying to figure out if you can make an (ordinary, normal, empty) car explode by shooting it (with an ordinary handgun). The answer is basically no, or as close to no as matters, so (as you may recall) I didn’t have Miguel shoot a car to get an explosion; I had him make explosives out of ordinary household materials instead. I don’t know that this would work, but I bet fewer readers know either, whereas a LOT of people know all about shooting cars and making them explode. When I commented about this on Facebook, they all explained how to make it work. (Pack the car with explosives, basically. Or use a much bigger gun.)
This sort of thing comes up here and there, including Quora — could XXX work? Would it be possible to YYY?
The basic answer, if you’re writing fiction: If almost no one knows it can’t work, then your job is to make it sound reasonably plausible when you put the incident in your novel. There are quite a few topics — guns, swords, horses — where mistakes will be noticed by a lot of readers. But there are many, many more topics where, if you make something sound plausible, nearly all your readers will accept it.
My favorite — don’t have a link, sorry — was when someone on Quora asked whether it would be okay to coat an entire space station in cobalt dust, which ought to happen because Reasons. I answered that it would certainly be fine with me. As a reader, I would enjoy a sparkling blue space station, and I wouldn’t be able to tell whether the dashed-off explanation made sense or not.