Showing posts with label thrillers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thrillers. 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, February 15, 2015

Every Day Carry for Police: Information for Writers

We're going to take a quick look at the typical tools available to officers as they confront their days.

Politiekoppel met VLNR: Portofoon, transportbo...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Duty Belt


  • Weight - upward of 30 lbs. (think one-year-old baby) many of the belts are made of leather, though modern uniforms often use nylon to be lighter and washable (think body fluids). 
  • Gravity - with all of that weight, the belt wants to slip down. "Belt keepers" circle the duty belt sometimes referred to as a Sam Browne, to hold it snugly to the officer's dress belt. These are snapped into place. See an example of what it looks like HERE.

Advantage - 

  • Having equipment at the handy.

Typical EDC (every day carry)

  • Pepper Spray - TW blog article
  • Semi-automatic pistol in a security holster - TW blog article
  • Magazines (clips) - TW blog article
  • Phone - TW related article
  • Flashlight
  • Mini-flashlight (typical preparedness saying "One is none and Two is one.")
  • Asp -  TW blog article
  • Portable radio
  • Taser - TW blog article
  • Handcuffs TW blog article
  • Handcuff keys
  • Zip ties - TW blog article
  • Glove pouch (latex)
  • Bullet resistant vest (required by some jurisdictions adds about 5 lbs to the already 10-15 lb duty belt)
  • By individual discretion - back up gun (police personal gun often in an ankle holster)
  • By individual discretion knife/utility tool such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman.
  • By individual discretion a kubotan - TW blog article

The Patrol Vehicle

  • Mode of transportation
  • Mobile office
  • Equipment storage

Modifications might include:
  • Push bumpers TW related blog article
  • Rifle mounts
  • Prisoner partitions
  • Specialized locking systems
  • Wiring systems which support the add ons
  • Hidden lighting systems
  • Bar lights
  • Weapons lockboxes
  • Camera equipment
  • Sirens
  • Radio equipment
  • Computer terminals (called MDT for Mobile Data Terminal)
  • For officer safety, the light that usually comes on when opening the door is often disconnected.

In the Trunk of the Patrol Vehicle:
  • Fire extinguishers
  • First Aid Kit
  • Shotgun TW blog article
  • Gas mask/protective suit
  • AEDs or Automatic External Defibrillator (at around 1200$ these are slow to getting in each vehicle)TW blog article
  • Traffic cones
  • Flares
  • Floatation devices
  • Rechargeable flashlight
  • Snow chains

Other Equipment might include:
  • Radar 
  • Alco-Sensor (for initial analysis of blood alcohol levels)
  • Tint meter
  • Ballistic shield
  • Pepperball gun - this shoots round pellets (like paintball pellets) filled with a powder form of pepper spray. Shot at the feet the powder will spray up to disperse a crowd; hit in the chest of an aggressor or suicidal person it gives the officers time to take non-lethal action.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. Cheers,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.

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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Friday, November 22, 2013

Yup, I'd Say He's Dead All Right: Algor, Livor, and Rigor for Writers


Grave (Photo credit: howzey)
WARNING - this article contains photos of bodies that might be considered graphic or disturbing. Please be aware of your comfort level before reading his post.

Excerpt - CHAIN LYNX

     "Wilson wanted to make sure that he was long gone, and the body was in bad shape when it was found?”
     Deep snorted. “Bad shape, that’s an understatement.”
     “How so?” I asked.
     “It didn’t take the week to find the corpse. The heat in his motel room was on full blast, and they smelled the body from the lobby.”
     “Oh, Gross!”
     Deep waggled his brow. “I’m glad it wasn’t my job to pour him into a bag."

Here's a Video Quick Study (6:11) which humorously goes through the normal steps of what happens from death to interment.

Death is not a pretty sight. It doesn't resemble the Hollywood and television deaths or the deaths often portrayed in literature. There is a series of events that take place. Before we take a quick look at three aspect of decomposition -- algor, livor, and rigor -- let me just address three little sniggly bits. 

1. Urine and Feces - Urine and feces will only leave the body if the bladder or bowl was full.

    The sphincter muscles containing the waste matter relaxes, as do all of the muscles, no longer holding the
     contents inside. If the person has been in the process of dying over many days then they probably have
     not eaten or been hydrated and there is nothing to evacuate. If it is a sudden death, but the person has
     just relieved themselves, they will not eliminate at death.

   "The woman’s lifeless body collapsed like a heap of dirty laundry in front of the door. Urine pooled out from under her." ~ Missing Lynx

Eye death
Eye death (Photo credit: @Doug88888)
2. They close their eyes -Closing one's eyes, as well as
     holding the mouth/jaw shut requires engaged  muscles. At
     death the eyelids will be half open and the jaw will be open
     and off-side. According to my daughter who is a telemetry
     nurse, the mouth slacks and drifts to the side.  
3. Frequently as death approaches the individual will go into a 

    coma or a coma-like state or they become agitated and 
    delusional. From speaking with nurses and hospice workers,
    there is no last second confessional. They go into a state of
    flux, and they expire.

Death is the cessation of all metabolic activity and functions.

1. Legal death can be reversed.
2. Biological death cannot be reversed.

WHAT DOES OCCUR POST MORTEM? How long has this person been dead?

* Breakdown happens because of the lack of body function and an increase in bacteria

   (and other organisms such as bugs).
*  How quickly the body breaks down is largely a function of temperature. 
*  The colder the temperature the slower the chemical changes that breakdown organic matter.
    The cold temperatures also retard organisms such as bacteria and bugs

Video Quick Study (1:08) 5,000 yr old man found frozen in a glacier. The body is amazingly intact.

These changes overlap in time:

Algor Mortis - 

English: Al Gore's Hearing on Global Warming
Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NO! That's Al Gore. We're talking about ALGOR mortis when the dead body cools. 
   * The body loses 2 degrees C. in the first 2 hours and approximately
      1 degree per hour after that. How cool the body gets depends on the ambient temperature.
   * Glaister Equation.Link to formula This is most accurate in a temperature controlled environment.
   * The fatter you are the more you store heat (faster decomposition)
   * Temperature of the body at death also increases decomostion. Did they have a fever? Had they just run
       a marathon?
   * Clothing - More clothes trap more heat.
   * Ambient temperature
      Video Quick Study (5:09)

2. Rigor Mortis - 

   * Rigor mortis first appears approximately 1-2 hours after death. 
   * Progressive stiffening occurs for approximately 12 hours,
      persists for approximately 12 hours, then
      diminishes over the next 12 hours as tissues break down as a
      result of autolysis and putrefaction.LINK
   * Because rigor mortis is a chemical reaction to ATP and has to
      do with shortening the muscle, it is
       interesting to note that in someone who has been physically
       active - fighting or running over a period of
       time - the rigor mortis will set in more quickly.

Video Quick Study (0:48) the difference between cold stiffening and rigor mortis
Video Quick Study (3:10) talking about Michael Jackson and rigor mortis

Livor mortis Deutsch: Totenflecke
Livor mortis Deutsch: Totenflecke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3. Livor Mortis - 
   * There is no longer a functioning circulatory system so
      the blood settles where gravity takes it and is seen
      as purplish on the surface of the skin.
   * If an object is laying below the body, such as a
      weapon, it could show up as a lighter spot on the
   * Darker skin makes this harder to see.
   * This takes place for about 8 hours. After 8 hours the
       blood no longer moves even if the body is turned
   * Skin color might provide information about the cause
      of death. For example cherry red is associated with
      carbon monoxyde poisoning and pink is an indicator
      for cyanide.
   *  Marbling may develop with the delineation of the
       vasculature as a result of the reaction of hydrogen
       sulfide produced by bacteria with hemoglobin from the
       lysis of erythrocytes, as shown belowLINK

Marbling outlines the vasculature in this decedentMarbling outlines the vasculature in this decedent as the postmortem interval lengthens.
 4. As the body continues to decompose
    * bacteria increases and produces a gas. 
    * The body might bloat from the gases esp. in the abdomen. It 
       can bloat to the point of bursting. This
       bloating brings bodies to the surface of the water if the person
       drowned or a body was dumped. According to Cookie, a 
       recovery diver who spoke to us at the WPA, the body will float
       around the seventh day and will descend again once the fish,
       birds, etc. who are eating the body poke a hole in the
       tissue allowing the gases to escape. 

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

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