A pretty grim thing to think about I know, but for an aspiring crime fiction writer, something we need to explore a little bit.
If I’m going to write a scene in which my protagonist detective arrives at the crime scene, to look over the body of a man who has been missing for two weeks… I’m going to have to describe it in some detail to help the reader visualise what is happening. And it needs to be accurate.
Personally, I have no idea what a person looks like minutes, hours or weeks after death. This diagram found on Business Insider UK at least helps us begin to understand what goes on.
It’s pretty gross.
It’s sad to think that mere hours after we die we don’t look like ourselves anymore: sagging, shrinking and blotching until we resemble (and smell like) something grotesque.
Death breeds life…
Though we think of them as ‘dead’, bodies are actually teeming with life. Soon after the brain ‘dies’ the enzymes in our bodies go to town chomping at our cell membranes which kicks off ‘putrefaction’. Within days those same enzymes start digesting themselves with the help of bacteria. In fact it takes just four months for that soft tissue to completely disappear, leaving behind just the skeleton.
I am interested to learn more about determining time of death based on body temperature and rigor mortis, and will look at this in another article.
Are there any other good infographics that could help us understand better what happens to us? Are there any vital bits of info missing here we need to know in order to write crime fiction?
Let me know in the comments!