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The World of Iniquus - Action Adventure Romance

Monday, October 21, 2013

Duct Tape 101 for Writers


          Excerpt from WEAKEST LYNX:

          “Where did you find her?” Gavin asked.
          “The adjoining bedroom, on the floor, bound at the ankles and wrists. No signs of struggle. She was out when he tied her.” Dave’s voice sounded hollow and tight at the recounting. “At some point, she must’ve started to come around.  He gagged her with duct tape, wound it around her head a bunch of times. She worked it loose with her tongue - that’s what saved her life.

English: A roll of silver, Scotch brand duct tape.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like the idea of duct tape.
I can't tell you how many times it has come to my rescue - from taping my brake light back onto my car after I was rear-ended, to making this nifty pair of shoes. Kidding!

Found on FB, creator unknown
In novels and films, duct tape is a staple go-to for gags and binding. And why not?
* Duct tape is convenient
* The villain doesn't need to have a lot of  fancy-schmancy knot tying skills.
* It doesn't look strange to have duct tape in the car trunk where chains, cordage, and cloth strips might
   need an explanation.
* Duct tape doesn't leave marks like rope burns or handcuff bruising.

Sadly for us writers, duct tape does not live up to its reputation. Duct tape is actually a very poor choice. Since we here at ThrillWriting like to write it right, I want to debunk some of the duct tape myths.

Found on FB, creator unknown

So you're writing along and, oh no! Your heroine is in trouble! She was captured by the bad guy, and he wants to make sure she is secured and silent. He pulls out his roll of duct tape and sets to work.
* Duct tape mainly works on a psychological level like this horse tied to the plastic chair.
* Duct tape really does not provide much in the way of restraining capacity.
* If your character has a military or police background, it is highly doubtful that your character wouldn't
   know how quick and easy it is to escape from duct tape.
* If, on the other hand, your character is naive, young, and lacking in enough self-preservation to TRY to
   escape then perhaps your use of duct tape makes more sense.
* Maybe it's not your victim but your villain who is naive. Maybe the bad guy thought that the duct tape
Found on FB, creator unknown

 scenes in the movies were accurate. Well, then your heroine can laugh as she frees herself and makes her
* If your character is drunk or otherwise drugged, duct tape might just do the job.

Video (2:22) This is a newscast of a man restrained to his seat in flight to maintain the safety of the other passengers. The announcer asked a good question, why was someone on the flight traveling with a roll of duct tape? I see a plot twist.

Duct Tape Gags:
Found on FB, creator unknown

* A single piece of duct tape across the mouth has o effect, except perhaps as an irritant.
* Duct tape will not silence the victim; it will merely muffle the sound, no matter how many times you wrap it around.
* Duct tape gags can be be an asphyxia hazard.

   Please don't go playing with duct tape gags to
   test a plot point without proper help at hand.

* If your villain puts something in the victim's mouth to prevent sound or to increase the victim's tension level - such as a sock, rag, or panties - it is a high-risk choking hazard.

  Note: cloth in a taped mouth absorbs saliva, increasing the gagging reflex. This is a survival reflex and will trigger the limbic system to fight for life. Adrenaline and other hormones will flush the body. Cogent thought processes will be overridden as the victim panics. And as we know from Spyder McGraw in WEAKEST LYNX, "Panic will kill you. It makes you unable in mind and body."

Video Quick Study (3:17) Excellent demonstration of duct tape gags and their efficacy.

Duct Tape Handcuffs:

* Quick and easy to release.
* Can be done by slipping one hand out. This is easiest when the victim is sweating from adrenaline and has
   stretched the tape a bit. Video Quick Study (:36) Young boy duct taped to a tree wiggles out in less than
   30 seconds.
* Popping using the same technique I described in Breaking Out of Zip Ties LINK
   Video Quick Study (:19)
   Video Quick Study (:09)
   Video Quick Study (:19)
* Notice the length of the above videos. We are talking a matter of seconds to freedom. Granted, the last
   three were by rugged manly men. But the first was a young kid.
* Here's one where the man uses a twisting motion.
   Video Quick Study (2:13) Breaking the duct tape takes seconds.

Well, you say, they just didn't use enough duct tape. Here is a video quick study showing a man wrapped head to toe in duct tape like a mummy. Of course he knew he would get more oxygen in by breaking the gag first, but I guess his panting added to the drama.
Video Quick Study (2:40)

Taping someone to furnishings has the same effect.
* If the person is sober and willing to try (and willing to feel discomfort) then escape is a matter of minutes if
   not seconds away.
* Use the same techniques as with handcuffs, either rotate or pop.
* Duct tape may remove some hair and the top layer of skin, it doesn't even leave much of a red mark.
   Certainly not a welt.
* It is not particularly painful. When I was experimenting with this - and yes, you know I had to - it didn't
   bring tears to my eyes or even make me say, "ouch." If your character has experienced a salon eyebrow
   waxing, she's pretty much inoculated.

Found on FB, creator unknown
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  1. So I gave this one a spin to add more thought to it. I don't really have a lot to add here. Most of what Fiona wrote about I discovered too.

    It's pretty easy to work off of your mouth most of the time. If it's wrapped around your head it does take a lot more effort, but given enough time it will probably still come off. A single strip can be worked off in less than 30 seconds.

    It's not the best restraining method either. For the most part it's just an inconvenience. I was able to get out of it pretty quickly most of the time, and usually just spent more time pulling it off myself than actually trying to work free. One thing I noticed: I tried it with some regular old duct tape I had laying around and fresher Gorilla tape, and the Gorilla tape is definitely harder to get free from. It's still not usually hard to get out of. I could see it possibly being an issue for a child or maybe a very small woman. I am a man and therefore bigger and stronger than most heroines would be but I'm not a big guy (about 160 lbs.) so I don't think it would make a huge difference.

    I did have a lot of trouble with one escape attempt: when I was taped to a chair, with tape wrapped around my body and arms and my hands taped down to the chair separately. I actually couldn't get out of that one. I also had some trouble with the tape wrapped around my body and my wrists, but did eventually get free from that.

    So I don't think duct tape is completely useless for restraining someone, but it has its limits. It will slow the victim down at the very least, and could be useful if the villain simply needs to hold them up for a fast getaway, such as a robbery when the villain just needs to get out of the house and away before the police can be called. If applied just right it can be difficult to escape, but more than likely a good heroine would be able to get free before too long has passed.

    But having tried both now, zip ties were much, much harder to escape.

    1. Awesome that you tried this! Thanks for this information!


  2. I have a question Fiona. I've been reading on different kinds of captivity methods and found a restraint called the 'hogtie'. A hogtie is simply your hands are laced behind your back, your ankles are roped, and they then are then tied together. This is a restraint which I think traces to the Western times. Click on the link for your reference (

    Assume your hands are taped behind you and your ankles are taped, but they are roped to each other. How would one escape this? Do you think you could attempt to escape this? How about showing the video to prove it?

    1. Hi,

      I'm familiar with hogtying. If you are writing that into a scene here are some things that you should consider:
      * Getting someone hogtied would take their permission, their incoherence, or several people.
      * Once hogtied, there is a weird problem that causes death - yup, DEATH - so I would never put myself into this position.

      The heroine's escape will rely on several factors including such thoughts as:
      * The means of being tied - the thickness of rope/the quality of the knot
      * The dexterity and flexibility of your heroine
      * Her level of anxiety

      Hope she does great on her escape.

    2. You can really die from it? From blood clots from the unnatural position or suffocation or something else?

  3. I wish I had questions, but my bad guys never seem to escape from my good guys.

  4. I'm really enjoying reading the information on your blog Fiona. I recently wrote a short story in which two bumbling criminals used duct tape to tie up a victim, but they had also incapacitated him with a knock to the head. My victim makes no attempt to escape his duct tape bondage, but it's good to know that my bumbling criminals bumbled by binding the victim in duct tape and not something more secure. Again ... I really find your blog very informative and useful and am glad I found you on Twitter!