Showing posts with label Suspense. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Suspense. Show all posts

Sunday, May 1, 2016

PMS Is Your Friend and Other Things I Learned Taking a Wilderness First Aid Class: Info for Writers

English: Mokelumne Wilderness, California US
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all - HOLY MOLY the list of horrible things that can go wrong far from help is long and daunting. What awesome plotting fodder. Things should never go easily for our heroes and heroines.

When faced with an emergency where professional help is anywhere from far away to non-existent, things just aren't looking good for your character. You can apply this information to a wilderness setting in your writing or to a natural disaster or terror activity in an urban center where resources have been stretched thin or destroyed. 

I'm using my crack acting skills. Can you feel my pain?

PMS is your friend -- no, honestly.
PMS stands for:
  • Pulse
  • Motor (ability to move)
  • Sensory (Can you feel this?)

Your character needs to check these at the beginning and the end of the first aid application to make sure they didn't do something that would make the situation worse. What? Your character made it worse? Hmm. Interesting plot twist.

For other cool acronyms that your character would know if they have advanced (more than band-aids and "Stay calm, I've called 911") first-aid capabilities go HERE.

Do NOT use paracord to tourniquet a limb unless the pressure is dispersed by a wider fabric. Your character can do a lot of harm. Use something that is wider, at least a few inches wide. (more about paracord and survival HERE

Do NOT - put sticking-out bones back in the skin. Same with sticking-out organs, for that matter. Cover them with sterile water-soaked fabric. Remember this phrase -- Sticking out? Leave it out.

Do NOT - pull sticking-out objects that impaled the victim out of the victim. Your character should brace the object and keep it in place until the victim has medical support. Remember this phrase --If it's in - leave it in.

Being knotty is good. 
Knots are important and can be oh so helpful. (Go HERE for an article on knots) This class added to my knot repertoire, but I realize I need more. Did your character learn to tie knots as a Girl Scout? Guess what? They're easily forgotten. Your character needs to practice them to keep them handy. This can be written into the plot line with any little thing - even a perfectly tied up tomato plant in the garden that caught someone's attention could lead to a conversation about why they have this skill. 
  • "I raced sailboats from the time I could walk." 
  • "My family was big into camping, and I spent most of my youthful weekends around a campfire tying knots and listening to stories." 
  • "I'm an Army Ranger, I dream knot sequences."
This is the new knot I learned -- a Prusik Knot:

How cool is that?
  • It can help someone climb out of a bad place. 
  • It can keep someone who's going after and injured person from falling into a bad place. 
  • It can tie up a tarp to protect the victim from heat stroke, or rain...
  • It can be used to create a traction splint for a broken femur so the bone parts don't migrate out through the skin, sever the femoral artery and have your character bleed out. (yeah - gross.)

Below is a video of a traction splint. You're not going to have one of these in the wild. Your character will have to devise what she can from what she finds or happens to have carried in with her. Remember, the more trained your characters, the better they will equip themselves and the better they will function. You get Joe-everyday back in the woods for a first time hike or Suzy-running-for-her-life in the jungle, and you've got problems. (Yay!)
(Go HERE for an article about running away in the woods)

If your character is well trained, find information on how to properly apply first-aid with the right equipment, then figure out interesting new ways to make this happen. If you need some ideas look under the Saving Your Heroine tab to see this in action with tampons, condoms, cans of Coke, dental floss, and others.

Also, if your character knows what they're doing, they probably had plans in place for themselves and their children. In this HUG A TREE article, I included videos I made about helping a tracker to find you, giving notice to the rangers, and packing a basic hiking bag that even kids should carry. 

People are freaking heavy
Just sayin'                                                                                     In the movies when they throw the 200 pound man over the shoulder and are running and gunning their way out of a situation - well, that's theater; unless of course, your character is highly trained and in top physical condition.                                                                                                                                               Let's just say if you think that's how I'm getting you down the trail, it ain't gonna happen. If push comes to shove (and it may look like just that) PERHAPS I could devise a way to yank you by the foot down the trail. BUT doing something like that would put me at risk of injury. What? Now both of your characters are down for the count? tsk tsk tsk - what a plot twist!                                                                                                 
My point here was - people are heavy. At one stage of a rescue, my job was to shift -- NOT LIFT -- just shift a guy up the back board with the help of two other people. That was a hard earned two inches of movement. 

While we were encouraged to get the person to the rescue workers, if I'm alone, I'm going to try to get you safe and comfortable then I'll jog out and find help (marking my trail so we can find you). Seventy pounds is about my drag-your-butt-out-of-there limit. 

The Corporal's Corner

To actually move someone a short distance -- say up a hill and back down -- it takes eight.
  • The victim is strapped in place and ties are put in such a way
    that the victim won't slide out the top or bottom - your rescuer forgot? WHOOPS!
  • The head is protected with a blanket/jacket/whatever-is-handy if the victim had any spinal or head trauma.
  • Three people stand on either side of the backboard/hastily-constructed carrier.
  • Two more people stand at the head of the carrier system. 
  • The top right person is lead (this rotates through each pass) They say, "Ready?" (waits for confirmation from two standing in front) "Pass."
  • The carrier is moved up to the hands of the two in front. The two in the back run around the outside to now be front people. The leader is now the new person at the top on the victim's right hand side. Two people are in front and thus oh so very slowly is the victim passed fire-bucket-brigade-style up and down a hill. When on flat ground they can just grab hold and walk.
  • Any extra people who are around can act as balancers,
    watchers of holes, and rotate in to give relief. 
  • Everyone should be very quiet and focused so commands can be heard and heeded. What? Too much noise and they missed that there was a hole? The whole rescue team is now in a pile at the bottom of the hill? tsk tsk tsk. Now there's a plot twist (and an ankle twist. . .)

"Ready - Transfer" in action

I hope this was helpful as you plot your next great novel!

A HUGE thank you to CERT (for more information go HERE) and instructors Bill and Ray who were incredibly patient and knowledgeable. 

And as always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, 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.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

SEALED FILES: Plot Twisting with Kara Piazza, esq.


Hand-folded letter sealed with wax and stamped...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, I am sharing with you an interview that I needed in order to write part of a plot point in my novella, Mine.

I sought the expertise of writer/lawyer Kara Piazza. First, since Kara is a very thorough lawyer (which we love) please read the disclaimer:

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. All Kara's answers will be general and she cannot give specific legal advice in such a broad setting. She can give general statements and also it should be known that there are many nuances and exceptions in the legal realm so even the answers she does give might not always be the outcome in every legal situation.

Fiona -
Hey there, Kara, thank you so much for stopping by and helping today. Would you take a moment and introduce yourself?

Kara -  
I attended DePaul University College of Law (Chicago, IL) with my Juris Doctor degree. I then sat for the bar exam in Phoenix, and I am now a licensed attorney in the great state of Arizona. 

 In order to be permitted to practice law you must attend and graduate from an ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law school. You must take a number of required courses including Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Torts (to name a few). Then you
are allowed to choose which courses
you would like to take. 

 I chose to take courses that emphasized litigation (in court proceedings) and business law. I have a little over a year experience in the prosecutor's office where I spent much of my time in the courtroom.

Fiona - 
ThrillWriting is so pleased to have you and your expertise here today. One of the topics that I find confusing when it comes to reading about courts is the FILE. Is a court file available for public scrutiny? If yes, how would someone go about obtaining one?

Kara - 
Generally speaking, court files are considered public records once the court clerk has officially filed them. 

It may be different from place to place, but from my understanding, most places you can obtain copies of the records through the clerk's office at the courthouse where the case was heard. It may be called something other than clerk's office at different court houses, for example some might be called the recorder's office instead or variations of those two words. 

Usually, there is someone in the courthouse that can direct you if you tell them you would like access to a public file. Some clerk's offices will have a database that you can search (which is often cumbersome and not very user friendly) and some places you will have to tell the clerk's office what file you want. You will need the date the case was heard and/or the names of the parties involved. Generally, they use the last names (if the parties are individuals) or company names (if the party is a corporation).

Fiona - 
So these files have all the information in them for example, the victims name and address? The names and addresses of the witnesses? What about social security numbers, phone numbers, email, and so forth.

Kara -
Ok, so there are rules for the way things work in court. In law school we study what are known as 'Federal Rules of Civil Procedure' (FRCP) which gives us the rules of the game so to speak. These rules are binding in Federal Courts and most State Courts adopt their own set of rules but many are similar if not exactly the same as the FRCP. 

There is a FRCP that states that sensitive information like social security numbers, Tax ID numbers, birthdays, account numbers even the name of minors, should be redacted from the public file. This is as close to a black and white rule as you're going to get though again there may be exceptions where the court or parties may choose not to have this information redacted. With this information redacted, the rest of the file is then placed in the public record.

Fiona - 
Okay good - but a perpetrator who gets off on a technicality could find out the address of the victim? Her employer? I'm just thinking how exposed a character might feel to have the villain "knows her stuff."

Kara - 
That is the kind of information a judge would "seal" especially in situations of people that have previously been victimized by the defendant or if they can show the judge that such information could be dangerous if not kept out of the public record. 

However, both attorneys generally have access to the information and there have been instances of unethical attorneys passing on sensitive information like that to their clients even though they were not supposed to. 

If the court "seals" a file though, most times such information is kept away from such perpetrators (again generally speaking). For the sake of drama for a story, it is possible for a court to decide the information is not worth "sealing" and it is also possible for the information to slip out if it is sealed. But under our rules of ethics it's a huge no-no.

Fiona - 
Is it true that juvenile cases are sealed when they are 18?

Kara - 
Generally speaking juvenile cases are sealed.

Also, I should note from my answer on juvenile records that some states automatically seal those cases but some states don't. The states where they don't, the juvenile (once they reach the age of maturity, or sometimes they have to wait a few years after) can ask to have the file sealed and the judge takes into consideration a number of factors like the age they were when the crime was committed, what the crime was, and others.

Fiona -
What if it is not a criminal case - it is a civil case - If I was suing Mr. X for killing my man would that fall under the same sealing regulations? "I want his money for depriving my of my husband's income - but you can't know who I am?" 

Which leads me to a second question: do you have to tell your name in court in front of the accused can you be called "Jane Doe" for safety reasons?

Kara -
A defendant has the right to know his accuser so the person who files against them must be named. In cases such as child abuse, the accuser is typically the state which is why the children's name is usually replaced with just their initials. For witnesses, it can be a different story, here is where you can get away with using "Jane Doe" if you can convince a judge that it's necessary. It is generally left to the judge's discretion.

The court can seal both criminal and civil files. And right, that is a very common scenario for informants to be kept confidential with the use of the name "John/Jane Doe" for that specific reason.

Fiona - 
Right because - who wants to come forward and rat on the gangbanger, and then find his homies standing in her living room the next day?

What are other reasons that a file could be sealed - my thoughts are going to the government secrets - the military... ?

Kara - 
Reasons a file might be sealed. 
1. Birth records for "closed adoptions." 
2. We've already mentioned witness protection and child abuse but sometimes custody cases might be sealed as well to protect the infant (under 18 in legal lingo) 
3. Trade secrets are another biggy. And then of course 
4. What you're looking at state secrets. 
**This list is not exhaustive but these are usually the big ones.

Fiona - 
What did I not ask you about sealed files that you think we should know?

Kara - 
Hmm that's a good question. I think that the law is extremely unpredictable. 

In cases of record sealing, the judge is granted a lot of discretion. If you are wanting the information to be leaked (for dramatic effect or plot advancement) it is possible, and it is also possible that the judge will decide not to seal it in the first place. 

The right to face your accuser is a heavy burden to overcome and sometimes a judge will decide that the perceived threat against someone's safety is not enough to overcome this burden (or maybe the judge thinks there is no threat at all). It's such an uncertain thing but I think that is helpful in writing, it can really add to the drama and suspense.

Fiona - 
And finally, your favorite scar story. . .

Kara -
Haha I could probably write a whole book about it!
I have a Y shaped scar on my forehead from when I was a senior in High School. I went to a small school, and it was the first year we had a football team so for homecoming, the junior and senior girls did a powder puff flag football game. 

I'm super competitive so when we were playing, I was going all out. The final play of the game, I was running towards my opponent who had the football. I was reaching for her flag, when she slipped past me, and I realized too late that my teammate and I were on a collision course. I remember waking up a few moments later, lying on the ground, forehead bleeding profusely with my hand triumphantly clutching the flag. My teammate was bleeding next to me in the grass, moaning. 

The circle of people standing over me was swaying as I tried to focus. "How many fingers am I holding up." One of the teachers asked. "She wouldn't know that anyway," my friend quipped helpfully. The teacher rolled her eyes and asked, "Do you know where you are?" To which I replied, "I'm pretty sure this is hell." Another eye roll, and I was asked, "I need to make sure you don't have a concussion, do you know who you are?" At which a smile spread so wide across my face, I felt it in my head wound. "I'm batman."

Fiona - 
Okay, Batman, you obviously love drama - can you tell me about the novel you're working on?

Kara - 
I am currently working on a YA novel series. My first novel will be the Seeker Initiative. I am nearly finished and then will be querying literary agents with the hope of being published in the traditional manner. 

My novel is about a young girl named Alitheia Seeker who is faced with a very difficult task in the year 2215. The world has been enslaved by a powerful, tyrannical group called the Static. However, a more pressing problem exists: no one seems to know who these mysterious people are and most of the population doesn't even know that such overlords exist. Alitheia must decide whether to free the minds of every adult on the planet and risk an untold number of deaths, or ignore the disappearances and deaths of anyone who disagrees with the tyrants and leave the world at the mercy of these rulers. Alitheia and her friends are put in danger when they begin to ask questions the Static has worked so hard to suppress for over a hundred years. Overwhelmed by the answers they are finding, the young friends get help from an unlikely source, a group of black market traffickers. Known in secret circles as the AT, these renegades offer to join forces to bring down the Static. Just as it seems hope has arrived, the teens start to wonder if the traffickers are giving them better solutions or just a different set of troubles in disguise. Do you have the courage to ask the difficult questions when no one else is willing? If so, you might have what it takes to join the Seeker Initiative.

Fiona - 
Very fun! Best of luck. Thank you so much for your help. You can reach Kara at: Her Blog and on Facebook.

And thank you for stopping by, I love having you here.

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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Archery: Is there a Bow and Arrow in Your Plot? Information for Writers

Look at that bulls-eye!

I'm hanging with Melody Scott, the instructor for my certification class to teach level one archery, in front of the Olympic-sized target.

Archery is enormously fun - and it might just be the trick that turns your heroine form victim to victor.

Archery is a sport of repetition. Your character might have 
* taken classes at school and been on
   their archery team
* taken classes at a camp as a child
* learned as a scout
* learned as part of a country lifestyle/ family tradition

You might want your heroine to use a bow and arrow if - 
* she is trying to poison dart the bad guy
* the villain wants to tranquilize your heroine from a distance
* she is a special agent taking out the bad guy, and there can be
   no noise from a weapon (remember guns with silencers are NOT
   silent; they are suppressed. They make noise - attention getting
   noise. Now, since she is a fabulous shot - I'm talking 
   Hawkeye-on-steroids good, the villain will fall silently to the
   ground - but otherwise, the victim is going to do some screaming.
   Maybe that's a good thing. Hey, I don't know what you need to
   have happen next in your story line.

So let's start with some basics. There are four main types of bows.

These are pretty rare. Chances are, this is not going to be the weapon you choose(unless you're writing about the Greco-Roman and Middle Ages), mainly because it doesn't shoot very far.

de: Schie├čen mit der Sportarmbrust 10m en: Sho...
Shooting with sports-crossbow 10m (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now your character may have this on hand if they are reenactors or live in olden times. But too, if your heroine is in a do-or-die situation and must fabricate a make-do bow and arrow set, it's going to be like the longbow.

One of the ways that the longbow differs from a more modern construction is that there is no "window" of cut out. In order to see the target, the shooter must turn the longbow to the side - sort of gangsta-style.

Field games with longbow Fran├žais : Parcours f...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A third kind of bow - and one that would have been used in most training/education programs so the more likely that your heroine will have some facility with the use - is called the recurve.

Fiona Quinn shooting a recurve, Level One Instructor Certification

* The draw (pulling back the string) is done by the shooter with no
* If your heroine is buxom, she may have to open her stance a little
   to get the string away from her girls. Because it hurts, just sayin'
* Harder to maneuver in tight places, in and out of trees etc.
* Can become fatiguing after about 20 shots or so, depending on
   the upper body strength of your heroine
* Does she have enough arrows? Or do they keep magically
   appearing like they did for Catniss in Hunger Games? 
* Just like a gun, she has to have enough ammo to get the job done.
* Unlike a gun, if she misses - there is the potential for finding the
   arrows and firing them again. Heck! Even if she hits her target, as
   long as the arrows didn't bend against bone, or whatever, then she
   can pull them out and shoot them again.

Another modern and frequently owned bow is the compound bow.

Compound Bow

English: I, Ewok Slayer, Created this Image. C...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* It looks darned
   complicated, but it's pretty
   easy to use.
* The pulley system helps
   the shooter by supporting
   some of the weight of the
   draw (pulling back the
* In some of the more 
   expensive models, once
   the string is drawn, the
   mechanism holds the
   weight so the shooter
   doesn't tire and can spend
   more time trying to aim.
   This is especially helpful
   to hunters and trying to
   shoot moving objects. For 
   example, if she's trying to 
   take down a Yeti with a
   tranq so she can do some
   field tests...
* Depending on the model,
   it is about half the length
   of a recurve, this is better
   for moving in small spaces
   and working with 
* This is also a cheaper 
   weapon than the recurve
   so it is more likely that
   someone would own it.

There are ten steps to shoot a bow and arrow.
1. Stance - the shooter should have
   ` feet parallel, shoulder width-apart
   ` a balanced frame so they look like a flat "lower-case t"  when
     their string is engaged.
   `They should stand perpendicular to the target
2. Nock or nocking the arrow
Reflecting on arrows
Reflecting on arrows (Photo credit: PeterThoeny)
   `There is a little pincher end
     on the feather-end (vane or
     fletchingof the arrow
     that needs to be clipped 
     onto the sting.
   ` There is a nock locator on
      the string that was carefully
      measured and placed to help
      the shooter find the right
      position for the arrow. If
      your heroine is constructing
      a make-do bow,
      she could use dental floss or
     string to put this in place.

3. Set - the archer will pick up the weapon by the grip. It settles
    into the meaty part of the hand and is held between the thumb
    and first two fingers. Everything on the pinky-side of the hand
    from the life-line over is off of the grip. This allows the bow to
    move properly with the arrow. Your shooter wants the bow to

4. Set-up - raise the bow up string hand should be by the nose.

5. Draw (also called loading)
   ` pull the string straight back using the back muscles. 
   ` the elbow should be directly behind or a little higher than the 
     arrow. If it's lower, then your heroine might be using her bicep 
     because she isn't strong enough to pull the weight of the string
     with her back. The weight can be considerable. Each bow is 
     different. On a compound bow - the weight is easily adjusted if
     the character has an Allen wrench. But some of the hunting
     compound bows might have a 70 lb draw weight. On a recurve,
     the only way to adjust for weight is by changing limbs (the ends)
     - so that's probably not going to happen in your story.
  ` The archer uses the middle three fingers and rests the string at
     the first joint of the ring and index finger and on the pad of the
     middle finger. The thumb and pinky are tucked out of the way.
   `Note the lady below has two finger below her arrow and one
     over. This can cause the archer to pinch the arrow so that it will
     not fly correctly.

Nina - archery
 (Photo credit: ninahale)
6. Anchor - 
    `The fingers touch the face - usually the cheek or chin
    `The shooter always tries to put their fingers in the exact same
      space each time.

7. Transfer
    `When the string is in place, the shooter takes a moment to adjust
      the weight of the bow from the arm to the shoulder and back.

8. Aim

9. Release
    `The arms stretch in opposite directions and the chest expands

10. Follow-through
    ` The drawing hand continues back to the neck.
    ` The shooter should also have a spot that they always end.
    `  Follow-through is maintained until you hit your target.

So now I'm going to show you a very quick video of my shooting. 
* In the first shot, I wasn't aware that I had an audience and was
   focused. Look at my form: my stance, my arm levels. Bulls-eye!
* After I did a little victory dance, I realized I was being taped.
   Pressure! And on top of that, hubby asked me to do a cognitive
   chore - list ten items in order. This requires different brain centers
   than pure shooting (memory, speech, etc.). With these
   distractions, watch my elbow go up past my ear. Look at how that
   torques my body. I still got a bulls-eye. But honestly, I didn't
   deserve it, and I was a little shocked. All of that is to say, if your
   heroine is trying to function amidst havock, she will have to be
   darned good, or you should write her failing.  


Video Quick Study (16:00) Waaaaay longer than you need to watch, but I thought you would like to see a compound bow in use. Note that the women are using a clip that acts like a gun trigger, so they do not actually pluck their own bows at this level of competition. Also, the long metal polls help to stabilize the bow.

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.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Skeletons in Her closet: The Forensics of Skeletons for Writers


I curled up like a cat on Miriam’s living room couch with a cup of hibiscus tea steeping on the table beside me. Miriam was on the phone with the police, jotting notes about a case they wanted her to work for them. Someone’s Great Dane came home this morning with a human skull in his mouth. The detective needed a jump-start – some information to get going with while the skull waited its turn on the forensics lab shelf. ~ WEAKEST LYNX

Writers, if your crime scene includes skeletal remains or even remains that have advanced to a soupy mess, the person who is called in to take control of the bones is a FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST.
***NOTE: The forensic anthropologist is applying their post graduate studies in biology and anatomy as well as their understanding of trauma to research the bones. They do not solve the crime. They do not interview suspects or witnesses (LINK to Interrogation for Writers). They simply: study, document, report, testify (where necessary).

Forensic anthropologists can help identify ske...
Forensic anthropologists can help identify skeletonized human remains, such as these found lying in scrub in Western Australia, circa 1900–1910. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forensic Anthropology - Dem Bones!
Video Quick Study (3:13) Tanya Peckmann talks about her job.

Servicemembers search for POW/MIAs on Wake Isl...
Servicemembers search for POW/MIAs on Wake Island Greg Berg uses a sifter to look for bone and artifacts at a dig site Jan. 12 on Wake Island. Mr. Berg, a forensic anthropologist, was sent to do a site survey after Wake Island officials notified the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command of bones located on the island. JPAC officials are charged with achieving the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of past conflicts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The job of Forensic Anthropologists is to make some determinations concerning the skeleton that was discovered or exhumed. They are called in by officials to remove the remains.
* Remains are placed in a body bag for transport to a
   forensic laboratory.
* The remains are reconfigured to a supine position, and
* Any remaining soft tissue is cut away from the skeleton
* The bones are abraded with steel wool to remove dirt,
   bugs, and soft tissues.
* The bones are then soaked in a chemical solution to
    further clean and prepare them for examination.

This Video Quick Study (12:04) is a non-narrated look at a forensic anthropologist team at work

The Forensic Anthropologists attempt to make the first sets of identifying data:
* Approximate age
FAFG - coded corpse
FAFG - coded corpse (Photo credit: xeni)
* Sex
* Size/height
* Ancestry


* Teeth and bone growth help to identify the proper age.
* Precise age determination is easier in children than in adults because of the statistical probability of various
   developments taking place in teeth and bone fusion/growth plates.
* Age results for adult remains are given in broad ranges.
* 206 is the average number of bones of an adult.
* An adult  skull has approximately 22 bones.
Parts of a long bone
Parts of a long bone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* A newborn skull has approximately 44 bones.
* In assessing age in children, the long bones of the body
   show dramatic changes with age.
*ossification of the growth plates follow general
  - First growth plates close at the elbow
  - next ankles, knees, hips, then shoulders.
  -  The last growth plate to close up is the central tip of
     the clavicle around 23-28. (health and nutrition
     effects this age span)

Video Quick Study (1:48) - bone changes from infancy to adult

   * Teeth form from crown to root.
   * At birth primary teeth are already present in the jaw.
   * At 6 mos most infants have visible teeth.

Video Quick Study (3:17) Dr. Snow identifies Gacy's
                                        victims by age.

English: diagram of a human female skeleton, b...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


* Prior to puberty, the skeletal remains cannot
   be identified as male or female without DNA.
* A pelvis in a female is wider from front to back.
* Joints tend to be larger on males.

THE SKULL - this information is statistically correct. Measurements are made and compared at different points on the skull to determine a statistical probability rather than a 100% certainty.
* Male occipital protuberance is larger to attach larger
   neck muscles.
* Male brow ridges are larger
* Women tend to have higher smoother foreheads.
* Male jaws tend to be at a 90 degree angle with
   squared corners.
* Women's jaws tend to be smoother with
   pointier chins

Video Quick Study (2:35)

the adult skull is normally made up of 22 bone...
the adult skull is normally made up of 22 bones. Except for the mandible, all of the bones of the skull are joined together by sutures, semi-rigid articulations formed by bony ossification, the presence of Sharpey's fibres permitting a little flexibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


* Is best identified from a full skeleton.
* Statistics have been developed to allow a range based on skull size.

the adult skull is normally made up of 22 bone...
the adult skull is normally made up of 22 bones. Except for the mandible, all of the bones of the skull are joined together by sutures, semi-rigid articulations formed by bony ossification, the presence of Sharpey's fibres permitting a little flexibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


* Without DNA ancestry is difficult.
   LINK to DNA article
* DNA is best harvested from the teeth, though it is
   possible to extract from bone.
* Skull structure yields the biggest clues about
   race/ancestry based on math formulas.
* Few people today come from a racially pure
   ancestral line, making identification more difficult.
* In order to apply the statistics to ancestral
   identification, a fairly intact skull is required.

Skeletons under excavation at Walkington Wold
Skeletons under excavation at Walkington Wold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beyond excavation (LINK to Crime Scene Info for Writers), and the preliminaries of age, sex, size and ancestry, a forensic anthropologist can offer investigators other identifying information:
* History of bone breakage
* History of surgical interventions such as ACL replacements and other injuries where screws and implants
   were used.
* Nutrition over the life span
* Toxicity over time such as arsenic or mercury.
* Exposure to heavy metals like lead

* They can also help determine the number of skeletons in a mass destruction such as a large fire or plane

They can inform and testify about stab wounds and what type of weapon might have been used through trauma analysis.
* Was the break:
   - antemortim trauma - before death like healed fracture or screws from surgical repair.
   - post mortem trauma - what happened to skeleton after the death - like an animal
   - perimortem trauma - bone damage at or around the time of death, such as  a broken jaw or cracked

To gather this information they use CAT scans, and other medical diagnostic machinery.
Video Quick Study (3:51) Discusses high-tech tools.

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.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Schizophrenia for Writers - Her Problems Are All In Her Head


English: Image showing brain areas more active...
English: Image showing brain areas more active in controls than in schizophrenia patients during a working memory task during a fMRI study. Two brain slices are shown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In several of the books that I have read recently, schizophrenia has played a key role in the stalking and attacking of the stories' heroines. The volatility and changeability seen in the villains mental health make for interesting plot twists.  

When I worked as an emergency interventionist for the courts, I had a few clients who were diagnosed with schizophrenia. They were all non-compliant with their medications for varying reasons. This made some of my clients very scary individuals - but not all.

Schizophrenics do not all have voices in their heads telling them to "Kill her! Stab her! Hurt her!" Indeed, people with schizophrenia are not all violent towards others or themselves. But schizophrenia is fluid and changes in symptoms should be expected. This means that one never knows if the schizophrenic with whom they are interacting is safe or not.

If you are writing a plot line in any genre that includes someone driven by mental health issues, here is some information to help you develop a character with schizophrenia.

Characteristics of schizophrenia  include: 

* Delusions
* Hallucinations
* Disorganized speech and behavior, symptoms that cause social or occupational dysfunction.

Diagnosis can only be assessed after  symptoms have been 
* Present for six month
* Include at least one month of active symptoms.
   Video Quick Study (1:48) real footage of a mental health schizophrenic breakdown
   Link Quick Study (7:04)  Aileen Wuornos killed seven men and was executed. Look at her eyes.
   You can see the sclera  (whites of her eyes) all the way around. This is a KEY SIGN of high stress.

English: A schizophrenic patient at the Glore ...
English: A schizophrenic patient at the Glore Psychiatric Museum made this piece of cloth and it gives us a peek into her mind.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Schizophrenia symptoms are typically separated into 2 categories:

Positive symptoms
This photo was taken on January 15, 2010 in Ce...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Extra feelings or behaviors that are usually not present.
* Delusions - believing that what other people are 
   saying is not true  - often leading to paranoia.
   This is the person who wraps their room in aluminum
    foil so the microwaves can't effect them,
    or thinks that the government has put tracking devices
    under their skin.
* Hallucinations - Hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling, or
   smelling things that others do not experience.
   So for example, one of my clients presented with a
   friend who happened to be a dragon. This dragon
   would fly around the ceiling. She didn't like to stand up
   in her house and would often duck down and drag
   me with her because the dragon was flying around and trying to hit her with its wings. On occasion, the
   dragon would become angry and frighten her; she would take all of her medications at once to make
   the dragon leave her alone. She'd call me to tell me - then we had to have her stomach pumped. She
   was very sweet and in my experience never caused harm to anyone else, but she was tormented by the
   images - no sounds - just the very-real-to-her image of the dragon.

   Video Study (14:00) TED Talk about a woman's  experience with auditory hallucinations. She was not
   violent or suffering - but this is her story of medical intervention.
   Video Quick Study (6:36) a first person view of various hallucinations - very interesting.
   Audio Quick Study (3:38) auditory hallucination simulation
   Video Quick Study (9:53) schizophrenia simulation
Disorganized speech and behavior
   Video Quick Link (9:22) four patients experiences various symptoms of schizophrenia talking. 

Messages covering the windows of a house from ...
Messages covering the windows of a house from a patient with schizophrenia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Negative symptoms: A lack of behaviors or feelings that usually are present, such as:
* Losing interest in everyday activities, like bathing, grooming, or getting dressed. Many of our homeless
   have this attribute.
* Feeling out of touch with other people, family, or friends
* Apathy - Lack of feeling or emotion.
* Having little emotion or inappropriate feelings in certain situations
* Having less ability to experience pleasure

Notice that many of the NEGATIVE symptoms mimic depression. LINK to Depression for Writers 
I was recently listening to the blogger/writer from a blog I read who was speaking on NPR. She was diagnosed with depression and was discussing her episode. She said that her anti-depressants were helping. But to my ear, boy did she sound like she was exhibiting negative signs of schizophrenia. She described her utter lack of emotion. The only piece that prevented her suicide was the idea that her husband would find her body. This was the only feeling she could conjure up. Depression and schizophrenia diagnoses often overlap. 

weird place! tries to reproduce what it's like...
weird place! tries to reproduce what it's like to have Schizophrenia. Don't stay in there too long. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Schizophrenia affects different people differently and
   symptoms can vary from person to person.
* Some people may have many symptoms, while others
   may only have a few.
* Men diagnosed with schizophrenia usually start to

   show symptoms between their late teens and early
* Women usually develop symptoms during their
    mid-20s to early 30s. LINK

It used to be that schizophrenia had sub-types like paranoid schizophrenic, but in the the new DSM V (the psychiatric bible) these have been done away with because the illness is so fluid and changeable that these specifications were not helpful to the treatment. They are now noted as displayed symptoms.

Want to see this article in action?
Check out this Fiona Quinn 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.

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