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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Useful forensic resource

   
Author Topic: Useful forensic resource
wetwilly
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A useful (if grim) resource I found when researching what a person's face actually looks like during a hanging. Considering how often characters in stories end up victims, perpetrators, or witnesses of violent acts, this resource can help you get the details right. Intended for use by forensic investigators, but secondarily useful to writers.

http://www.forensicpathologyonline.com/

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Grumpy old guy
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Well, if the job's been done right, the condemned's neck is broken instantly. Suicide by hanging, on the hand, is a completely different kettle of fish and it could take up to 20 minutes or so before death occurs.

That's a long time to hang around waiting.

Phil.

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wetwilly
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Mine (well my character's) is an attempted suicide. I wanted to know what happens to a person's face during hanging, specifically if the eyes really bug out (they do), and how much time I had to cut him down so he would be unconscious and seriously injured but not dead (3-5 minutes). Useful site. Also similar info about stabbing, beating, etc.
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Grumpy old guy
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The 'sights' of death are one thing, the accompanying details are another. A body caught in a relatively low intensity fire (read burning building) smells like over-cooked pork, hence the name 'long pig'. It's also interesting to note that, if the smell of corpse isn't to your liking, pinch your nostrils closed and breathe through your mouth. You might taste a certain 'oiliness' in the air, but the smell of putrefaction is eliminated. A better option though is to smear Vicks Vapour Rub (or its equivalent) under your nose.

Oh, the joy of discovery.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I'm curious who the viewpoint persona is who discovers the suicide; that is, who experiences the sensations: narrator, protagonist, other. Also, in a bald state, a suicide could as easily be a gratuitous event as not; therefore, how is the suicide discovery event relevant to the complication action? In other words, do the visceral details matter to the action or could the event be handled less front and center stage? These are as much rhetorical questions as matters of personal curiosity about how the suicide is reported and relevant.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Even if researched information doesn't actually end up in the text of the story (as in "punishing the reader for the writer having to do all that research"), it's good for the writer to know because it will come through at the very least as confidence in conveying the situation.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Oh, and thanks, wetwilly, for the link.
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wetwilly
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The short version is that the protag/POV character discovers the person trying to hang himself seconds after he jumps off the chair. The visceral details matter in that it is a shocking sight and they have an impact on the POV character. It is essentially the trigger to the story's climax and cannot be handled peripherally. In fact, I'm working on draft 3, and one of my fixes is that I told the event from a distance rather than showing it in scene.
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Disgruntled Peony
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Thank you for the link! 'Tis very useful. Also, good luck with your story!
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