Monday, July 29, 2013

Police Sketch Artists - Drawing on Witness Recall


There on the TV screen, I saw the rendering of my attacker. The life-like drawing stunned me. With eyes fixed on the picture, my heart staggered drunkenly around my rib cage and panic twisted my lungs. Stalker leered down at me, a big man of mixed racial background with almond-shaped eyes and a flat nose over a wide full mouth. Two scars disfigured the left side of his face -- one ran from his nose to the corner of his lip, and another ran from his eye to his chin. On the right side, he adorned himself with a tribal tattoo that showed black against his light brown skin.

Your heroine survived the attack. She's sitting in the police station, drinking the swamp water they call coffee from a Styrofoam cup. A police artist takes your heroine down a long, echoing hallway to a quiet office. What will your heroine encounter?

The Police Artist's job is to make a rendering called a COMPOSITE SKETCH to be used to apprehend and possibly help convict the criminal.
* Ideally, the artist has a combined background in police work/criminology, art, and psychology.
* The room will probably have a comfortable chair for the witness. It will be void of face images - no art, or
   wanted posters or any other image that might subconsciously impede a good witness report.
* The artist will sit off to the side so the artist's own face doesn't get confused with the memory.
* The artist usually starts with open ended questions while making the initial rendering, "Tell me about the
    shape of his jaw line?" Then the artist shows the sketch to the witness. At that point, specific questions are
    asked. "Are his eyes the right distance apart?"
At the end of the interview the artist signs and dates their work – in case the composite sketch ends up in
   court as evidence.
* The process will last 1-2 hours

VIDEO QUICK STUDY (7:24) - An artist at work and his interview techniques

One of the first questions that the artist will ask is about race. The reason for this is not to determine the skin color but the underlying bone structures (skull shape and facial geometry). There are three main bone structure families
* Negroid
* Mongoloid
(There is also Aboriginal, which does not anthropologically fit into these three categories)

Next they will be asked about the age. The differences in bone structure shifts are most apparent in children, however, in adults the shift comes mainly in skin texture, tone, and thickness.
VIDEO QUICK STUDY (1:28) showing an age progression rendering and discussion of what factors are considered.

And then they will ask about body build.

An author will have to decide whether the witness is a good witness or not. 

The artists need to have good interviewing skills including an understanding of memory and how trauma effects it (more about this in next week’s blog). The goal is a quality representation of the suspect with an emphasis on forensics.  LINK to blog article about witnessing in F.A.T. Simulation 
* Does your witness have good eye sight?
* Are they dexterous at visual processing? Do they have a "memory for faces?"
* Is your witness someone who is detail oriented and paying attention?
* Memories can be distorted by stress
* Cross-racial features can be confusing
* Consider the lighting conditions
* Consider how fleeting the view
* Consider the angle of view

As the author, you will need to decide what techniques your artist will use

1) Interview with Hand Rendering

    From my art classes I learned that:
   * faces are generally not symmetrical
   * the face is generally 5x the width of an eye
   *The width between the eyes is generally the width of one eye
   *The eyes are about half-way down the face
   * the ears and nose are roughly the same height

    It is the artist's job to find where the suspect's facial geometry shifts from the Greek/Classical ideal.
    VIDEO QUICK STUDY  (1:10) an artist using a ruler to portion properly while rendering a time lapse
    drawing of a suspect. 

2) Catalog  

Scientists using scanners have found that we spend less time looking at the lower face. Our focus stays on the upper face. And surprisingly, (to me, anyway) less focus on the eyes than the rest of the upper face. The forehead, the hairline, and hair have priority in our memories. So if your character wants to disguise themselves, they should pay more attention to wearing hats and wigs. 

People recognize things more easily than they can recall them. For this reason, science indicates that the benefit of offering photos outweighs the bias that they could produce. So artists have binders that divide the different zones of the face into options from which the witness can choose. FBI facial ID catalog. Also photo albums of tattoos, scars, hats, clothing, and glasses are helpful for witnesses to use in  identification.

VIDEO QUICK STUDY 1 (2:16) Police artist discussing his use of the catalog
VIDEO QUICK STUDY 2 (2:13) Police artist discusses her use of catalog and her interview technique

3) Computer generated

    The pros include:
    * Faster and allow the artists to swap out one feature for another with ease.
    * Less expensive to produce images this way.
    * Easier to e-mail and easier to store

    Examples of this software include:
    * Identi-kit Link to their website
    * Faces Link to their website

    VIDEO QUICK STUDY (4:49) Using FACES computer composite rendering

One of America's foremost police artists is Karen Taylor  Link to information about Karen Taylor

VIDEO QUICK STUDY (2:48) Karen Taylor helping to solve the identity of "Brush Girl." 

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bullet Tutorial for Writers

.40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point...
.40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point bullet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision

So things got pretty serious. Guns were drawn; a body sprawls on the ground. What the police find on the scene has a lot to do with what kind of bullet you as the author chose for this plot line.

If you need a tutorial about Step One - choosing a gun click HERE

Once your heroine has a gun in her hand, there are other things to consider. Let's begin understanding bullets and how they impact plot.


* The bullet is just the top piece of the round - the part that hits the
* A cartridge or round is the entire component 
   (brass + powder + primer) When the primer is hit by the hammer 
   or firing pin, it ignites the powder in the shell, forcing the bullet 
   in the only direction it can go - down the barrel of the gun.
* The caliber is a measurement of the bullet. (If the bullet has two
   numbers the first is the width of the bullet the second is the
   length of the round.)
* Another way to measure a round is by grain the higher the grains
   the more the bullet weighs - the slower it goes and the deeper it
   will penetrate.

INTERMEDIATE - How to read a bullet box:


*Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) - the entire case is encased in metal,
  offering the most penetration through your  target. The base is 
  exposed showing the lead.
*Total Metal Jacket - (TMJ) - The entire case including the base
  is covered
*Semi-jacketed (SMJ)- or just (J) for jacketed - the jacket only
  goes half way up the bullet.


.22 hollow point     9mm hydro-shock      9mm FMJ round nose/tip

Flat Point - (FP) has a flat tip (pictured below - left)

Round Nose - (RN) (below center) - This bullet will not expand in
      size with impact; it will continue on its trajectory. 

      This is an author's decision if she wants the victim to have an 
      exit wound, to die of impact/blood loss, or for the bullet to hit a
      secondary object or person. All of these would could result
      from a RN Click HERE to go to my blog article on Blood
A cut-through of a hollow-point bullet. The pr...
A cut-through of a hollow-point bullet.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hollow point -(HP) the tip is hollow. When it hits its

      target it will expand very quickly to almost 3x it's 
      original size. This means that the bullet expresses 
      the power inside of the body, damaging more 
      tissue than a round nose bullet. This expansion 
      also reduces the chance of a bullet exiting the 
      body and hitting someone nearby. This is safer 
      for self defense where innocent people are 
      nearby. This type of bullet creates massive pressure
      and the victim is likely to die of a brain embolism.
      Click HERE to go to my blog article on EMS and
       gunshot wounds.

Video quick study: First Science TV Round Nose v. Hollow Point (2:08)

Author's own picture. 9 mm pistol cartridge

9mm flat tip                     9mm round tip                    9mm hollow tip
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ADVANCED - Information about calibers

Baby Bear

.22 is cheap so it's good for target practice, but has minimal penetration - not great for defense.

Video Quick Study (5:56) This is a little in depth but shows him weighing the bullet (grains) and measuring the bullet for caliber, and also ballistic tests through testing medium.

.25 is used in small pistols it has a big kick - so a lot of recoil.
.32 penetrates a little deeper than a .380 and has less recoil  
.25 for a very small gun this is a good self-defense round

Mama Bear

38s and 9mm are the same size bullet. One is calculated in inches, and one is calculated in metric.The three kinds of 9mm  from smallest to biggest:

.380 Auto vs. 9mm Luger
.380 Auto vs. 9mm Luger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
.380 and 9mm Short are the
   same (9x17) a little more
   power than the 38 special - 
   goes in a small pistol.
* 9mm Makarav (9x18)
* 9mm Luger is also known on
   the box as a
   9mm Parabellum (9x19)
   These are accurate far
   away, up close they are devastating. At 15 to 20
   feet your character might have to hit a guy 6 times
   to stop him if he's drugged up.
   (This is the bullet I shoot in my Springfield)

This is probably as big a caliber as your character needs. But if you are trying to make a decision between giving your character a 9mm or a .45 here is a good comparison video
 9mm v .45 bullet (17.31)

Papa Bear

.40 is the same as a 10mm. But a 10mm is really a .40 caliber magnum (I'll explain in a second) The .40 does not have the penetration of the 9mm because it is heavier and takes more power to shoot.

.45 is highly effective in dropping the target in one shot.

Video Quick Study: 10mm ammo energy test   (7:28) go to 3:50 mark

Rabid Klondike Mama Bear Protecting Her Young -or-What is MAGNUM?

A magnum round is a high powered round. So for example you can have .22 magnum or .45 magnum
* Lots of recoil
* Painful to shoot
* This is for hunting (a back up when an angry bear is running full
   tilt at the heroine) not usually for self-defense.
   The gun must be designed to handle magnum bullets unless of
   course you want your heroine to put a .44 magnum (name of a
   round) or .44 special (name of a round) and blow her gun apart
   because the gun couldn't handle the pressure.

Popular wisdom says, a bullet shot from any handgun at a distance of three feet will probably stop anyone. Most of the time a civilian is shooting, it is that close in range. Stopping power is not as important to a civilian as it is to a police officer whose range moves out to nine yards. So your gun/bullet choice depends on who is doing the shooting and why.

Sonic v. Subsonic Bullets Shot with a Suppressor - 

Brian Coates, U.S. Marine Corp., veteran

LINK Nottoway Shooting Sports

PLOT TWIST - One thing that I should point out is that just because a bullet will load into the gun, it does not mean that there will be success in shooting it. A particular round might misfire or jam. Once you know which gun is being used, research which bullets work best. Though, this could create a plot twist for you. Perhaps your heroine is new to the gun scene and buys a weapon for self-protection, purchases some bullets, loads it all up and there is a catastrophic failure. She could be hurt instead of the villain.

Image publicly distributed source unknown

VIDEO 1 - Bullet Basics 101 (8:01)

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Choosing a Handgun for Your Character


English: Trigger Double Action Italiano: Grill...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. 
I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision.

Decision One - Why is your heroine carrying a gun?

Target Shooting - chose a gun that
    is comfortable to shoot and the
    ammo is inexpensive.
    (.22 is cheapest)
Conceal Carry - strong enough
     bullet to do the job (higher
     caliber), light enough and small
     enough to conceal on the body.

Home Protection, Back Woods, Zombie Apocalypse
     for all 3, she might want a 
     higher caliber
     (bigger bullet - .357, .44) to
     protect against large animals
     such as bear or werewolf.

This is a picture from one of my target practices with a Springfield 9mm XD-S/20 feet/32 bullets.

DECISION TWO: There are two kinds of handguns - the revolver and the semi automatic

English: Enfield No. 2 Mk I* revolver produced...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The revolver gets its name from the barrel that must revolve forward to bring the next bullet into play.

The industry standard is a six-bullet cylinder.

If the villain is using a revolver then your heroine can count bullets and has a window of opportunity when he has to reload.

Now choose:
Single action - your character will have to cock the gun before she can pull the trigger. This slows down her firing ability.
Double Action - every time your character squeezes the trigger it will pull the hammer back and fire


* Extremely simple
* Point and shoot
* They fire every time - if they fail to fire in an emergency situation
   simply continue to pull the trigger and the cylinder will continue
   to rotate and prepare the next round
* Easier to clean and maintain than a semi-
* Can be left loaded without issue


* Smaller capacity than a semi
* No recoil spring to help you with recoil action - the shooter's hand
   takes the recoil. This HURTS so, in my opinion, not a great gun
   for target practice but okay for emergencies.

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A semi-automatic fires the bullet in the chamber, extracts it, ejects it, and loads a new round


* More control than a revolver
* More comfortable to shoot because of the recoil spring
* Higher capacity (holds more rounds)
* Quicker to reload


* Not as simple as a revolver: there are more parts such as the
   magazine release and the slide release.
* Not necessarily as reliable because they can jam occasionally. 
   The character would have to clear the jam before she could
   continue shooting.
* Must take apart to clean and maintain
* If you leave your gun loaded for a long time the magazine springs
   can become compressed so one should not leave it loaded (or just
   replace the magazines every once in a while). But this might 
   be a reason for a complication in your plot.

Semi- automatic video quick study (6:15)

DECISION THREE - What is the gun made from?

This mostly has to do with weight - how carry-able is it? How accurate is it? How much can your heroine handle?

Three Most Common Materials

Steel and Polymer (around 26  oz.)
Steel and Aluminum Framed (around 32 oz)
Full Steel ( around 40 oz.)

DECISION FOUR - Safety or no safety?

With a safety on, even if there is a bullet in the chamber, squeezing the trigger will not produce a shot. This might pose a problem for your character if her adrenaline is flowing, her brain isn't functioning, and she can't figure out why the bad guy is still attacking her.

Without a safety - her shot is quicker. However, accidents can happen. Would this advance your plot?

DECISION FIVE - Is this a good fit for your character?

* How big are her hands? (check grip size on gun)
* How strong is she? (check weight)
* Can she take the recoil? (a revolver might put her on her butt and
   that might be where you want her)
* What capacity (how many bullets does she need to do the job? 
   Or fail at the job?)
* Reloading (How fast? How many times? How successful?)
* What caliber of bullet does she use? Bullet tutorial

I would suggest that after doing some research and making some initial decisions, that you go by the gun store and hold the gun that you think your character would use. I have very small hands and some guns are just too large for me to grip properly. Glocks for example have HUGE grips and are not great for small hands reaching the trigger. Blog entry of me shooting a Glock at a F.A.T.S. demo CLICK HERE

I shoot a Springfield 9mm XD-S for comfort, and accuracy in range shooting and home protection. It fits my small hand, is a good weight and size, and I can use extended clips to increase my capacity. The trigger pull is about 6 lbs. which is easy enough for my strength level. 26 oz. Though pretty difficult for me to field strip (open it up to fix a problem). Small enough for concealed carry. 
Excellent overview of the XD (8:36)

While I write my blogs from the perspective of the heroine, my friend at Confidential Resource thinks you should note:
Hand size is not a gender issue. Handguns are all about the shooter's hand size. Hand strength is also an issue as most people don't work with their hands today. However, hand size is the most critical issue.

The reason it is so important is that the pistol barrel must align with the forearm to enable accurate controlled fire. To line-up with the forearm the tips of the second and third fingers must press on the side of the grip opposite the palm. Without this, you will not be able to acquire or maintain a proper firing grip. For people with small hands, this means a narrow front-strap that is well rounded--think 1911, P220, or perhaps the SR9 pistols. Of course, the reach to the trigger face is also an important consideration.

For concealed I like:
Sig Saur P238 Copperhead (video 1:38) It is easy to conceal (.380ACP caliber). It hurts to shoot. Watch your character's grip - the gun is so tiny she might get her hand over the barrel/slide.

I also like the Ruger LCP and the Kel-Tec P3AT Ruger and Kel-tec (video 8:38) The Ruger LCP is what Kelli carries Women Carrying Concealed blog entry


Did you know?

When you have a magazine in your semi it is not considered loaded. A loaded gun means that you have a round in the chamber. Careful when you're writing. If you write that the gun is loaded and then the character racks the slide, then you have made a mistake.

Should the gun be loaded? Talking to experts, the prevailing wisdom says:
   * If the semi has a safety, yes
   * If the semi has no external (thumb) safety then no (remember
      this just means not having a bullet in the chamber) 
Revolver - yes.
Conceal carry? yes.

Confidential Resource: Sources & Methods for the Investigator  ( @locuscommunis on twitter) explains that:
Experienced shooters always refer to the 'condition' to describe the pistol's state or readiness to fire. A proficient gun handler will usually keep the pistol in Condition One or Four. Institutions that know their people are incompetent will often dictate Condition Three to avoid negligent discharges in administrative handling.
  • Condition Four: Chamber empty, empty magazine, hammer down.
  • Condition Three: Chamber empty, full magazine in place, hammer down (Israeli carry).
  • Condition Two: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer down (extremely dangerous, especially with SA pistol).
  • Condition One: With Single Action: a round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety on. With striker fired pistol: a round chambered, full magazine in place, striker at ready position. With Traditional Double Action (TDA), DAO, or LEM: a round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer at ready.
  • Condition Zero: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety off.

Best video series I have ever seen on guns is:

And before I leave today can I just add this one little bit of information...? A pet peeve is someone who writes a silent shot with a silencer. Shooting with a silencer removes the sound and light to a distance that makes it easier to shoot without flinch (my target paper is always so pretty when I shoot with a silencer) but it IS NOT SILENT! 

LINK Nottoway Shooting Sports

See how this article influenced my plot lines in my novella MINE and my novel CHAOS IS COME AGAIN.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Drugging Your Character - Date Rape Drug Information for Writers


Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision

Some statistics indicate that 40% of all sexual assaults are due to date rape, that 1 in 3 women experience an assault - as many as 1 in 4 women are successfully assaulted. 

Related blogs:
How a Predator Courts his victim
The NEW rape definition - makes it easier to send the perp to prison

So some personal information - 

I have two personal connections to these drugs. One had a "as good as it could get under the circumstances" outcome and one did not.

The first.
I was at a frat party as a young college girl - and had never heard of date rape drugs. But with my very first drink that particular night, I was out of my head drunk and passing out. Luckily, my friend, Suzie, saw me and kept me safe. I was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with Rohypnol poisoning.

The second.
Suzie went to Switzerland with another friend. One night at a pub, Suzie went to the ladies' room, and when she came back, her travel buddy was gone. Just gone. No one saw the girl get up and leave. After 24 hours, the police got involved. They dragged the lake and found the girl's body. Later, the police disclosed the bar video of a man's hand moving over both of their drinks. Suzie was saved by her trip to the ladies' room  prior to sipping her drink. The long line meant Suzie wasn't there to see her friend's symptoms or to see the two men "escorting" her friend out the door.

So let's start off by keeping your character safe (or reverse if your plot line needs her in trouble):

1. Don't let her drink anything
    that she didn't see poured or that
Cosmopolitan (cocktail)
Cosmopolitan (cocktail) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    she didn't open 
    herself (unless
    it's via a waiter).
2. Don't let her drink
   from a punch bowl.
3. Always have her
    watch her drink (rest
    her hand over the
    top of her glass or
    leave a napkin or
    coaster over the 
4. Have your
    character take her glass with her to the ladies' room. 
5. If she gets up to dance, she should get a fresh drink when she
    gets back to the table (yes, even if your character is drinking 
    water or a soft drink).
6. If your character thinks she's been drugged, she should ask for
    help immediately (preferably not from a stranger) her window is
    small between awareness of something odd happening and
    inability. She should be taken to an Emergency Room and a
    toxicology report taken.

English: A girl sleeping in the heat room in t...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


* Is the #1 date rape drug effecting almost 50% of sexual assaults.

ROHYPNOL - Roofies

* A white tablet or green tablet. The green tablets dissolve slowly
   and may leave particles at the bottom of the glass and will turn
   the drink blue (this was a safety feature added by the
    manufacturer to try to prevent the drug from being used for date
   rape. Go ROCHE!) Bitter taste (possible).
* Works in 15- 20 minutes effects last 8 -12 hours

Health risks for your character:

* Nausea
* Slurred speech/problems talking
* Muscle relaxation/loss of motor 
* Drunk feeling
* Confusion
* Problems seeing
* Dizziness/sleepiness
* Loss of memory of events that took
   place while under the influence of the
* Unlikely to be fatal though the risk
   increases with other drugs (recreational or prescription), alcohol
   levels, pre-existing conditions such as type 1 diabetes, respiratory
   issues such as asthma, and circulatory issues. 
* This drug works by suppressing the central nervous system and
   respiratory systems.
It passes out of the system in 24 hours.


*Originally used by weight lifters to stimulate muscle growth. It
  comes as a clear liquid, a white powder, a tablet or capsule form. 
  Odorless, and nearly tasteless - it can also taste salty -
  though almost undetectable when mixed into a drink.
*Takes effect in 15 - 30 minutes and can last 3-6 hours.
*Usually made at home or in "street labs"

Health Risks for Your Character

* Relaxation
* Drowsiness
* Dizziness
* Blacking out
* Seizures
* Not remembering what happened under the influence of the drug.
* Problems breathing
* Sweating
* Vomiting
* Slow heart rate
* Dreaming feeling
* Coma
* Death


*A powerful hallucinogen originally used as an animal tranquilizer.
  Frequently found in a powder form that is sprinkled over
  marijuana or tobacco (so this drug doesn't have to go into a drink)
  but can also be found in a clear liquid form.                                          

Health Risks to Your Character 

* Distorted vision and hearing
* Lost sense of time and identity
* Dream-like out of body experiences
* Feeling out of control
* Impaired motor functioning
* Problems breathing 
* Convulsions
* Vomiting
* Memory loss
* Aggressive or violent behavior                                                                  
* Depression
* Slurred speech
* High blood pressure


Video Quick Study

Drink Savvy - preventing date rape products
Crisis Interventionist Talks About 3 Major Date Rape Drugs, Preventitive Strategies

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.