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Orianna2000
11-06-2012, 08:36 PM
My MC encounters a bad guy who holds her against the wall, with his forearm across her throat, choking her. She has a knife in her hand, so she reacts by stabbing him a few times, then falling unconscious.

When she wakes up, I say that her voice is hoarse and it's painful for her to speak. There's also a red band across her throat, from his arm, which will later bruise. And when she gets emotional, maybe 20 minutes later, her throat closes off and she has trouble breathing. Is this accurate?

My biggest question is, for how long will her voice be damaged? A few minutes? Hours? Days? Permanently?

She's going to be interrogated because the guy she killed happened to be a military agent, but the plan is for her to feign innocence and blame the death on her friend, who has disappeared. But if her voice is hoarse, the officials are going to realize something's up and she'll need to concoct a different story. Her life depends on convincing them that she didn't kill the guy (they aren't going to buy self defense) so I need to figure out how long her voice will show the effects of the choking, and how badly she'll bruise. She can maybe conceal the bruises with makeup and by wearing a scarf, but the hoarseness will be much more difficult to hide, so I need to know if it's an issue or not.

onesecondglance
11-06-2012, 08:57 PM
I'd have thought the hoarseness wouldn't last more than half a day or so, at most a couple of days.

Speech is the interaction of four elements - air, your vocal folds, your soft palate, and your tongue. The vocal folds (or cords, if you prefer, but folds is a bit more descriptive) are flaps of muscle in your throat. Think of them a bit like sliding doors. They come together and vibrate against each other to create a sound from airflow. That sound is then made into a recognisable word by the movement of your soft palate and tongue.

Hoarseness is mostly caused by the vocal folds not completely closing, or vibrating in a way that means that air escapes between them. That can happen much more when the folds are swollen. When you shout the folds bang against each other hard, which can bruise them and cause them to swell. So if her encounter has bruised the vocal folds, then she will sound hoarse. This will last until the swelling subsides, which will take less time if she keeps hydrated and keeps silent. But if she is dehydrated and won't stop talking, the swelling will get worse in the short term, so it could be a day or so. I have trouble imagining that the ordeal would have damaged the vocal folds more than that, and a good amount of sleep / unconsciousness would be enough time for the majority of such swelling to go down.

I wouldn't buy permanent damage, unless there was a penetrating wound to her throat.

HTH.

jclarkdawe
11-06-2012, 10:43 PM
My MC encounters a bad guy who holds her against the wall, with his forearm across her throat, choking her. She has a knife in her hand, so she reacts by stabbing him a few times, then falling unconscious. Blood splatter all over her. Lots of blood. Which way does he fall? Backwards on his back or frontwards onto her? Blood splatter would be on the underside of his arm from the initial thrust. This would indicate an unusual position for his arm.

Try positioning yourself with a friend as the choker and you'll see what I mean. Height difference will matter here. But you'll discover that your stabbing range is in the lower portion of the torso, with a distinct upper motion of the thrust at the end. Bottom line is even without her statement, a good medical examiner will begin to figure out what happened.

When she wakes up, I say that her voice is hoarse and it's painful for her to speak. There's also a red band across her throat, from his arm, which will later bruise. And when she gets emotional, maybe 20 minutes later, her throat closes off and she has trouble breathing. Is this accurate? See the movie HANG 'EM HIGH. Bottom line depends upon the amount of force and duration. You could end up with permanent damage if the force is strong enough.

My biggest question is, for how long will her voice be damaged? A few minutes? Hours? Days? Permanently? How long does any damage last? Depends upon duration and strength.

She's going to be interrogated because the guy she killed happened to be a military agent, but the plan is for her to feign innocence and blame the death on her friend, who has disappeared. First question they're going to ask is how does she know this. But if her voice is hoarse, the officials are going to realize something's up and she'll need to concoct a different story. They'll realize pretty quickly from her answers to the questions. How do they know she isn't naturally hoarse? Her life depends on convincing them that she didn't kill the guy (they aren't going to buy self defense) so I need to figure out how long her voice will show the effects of the choking, and how badly she'll bruise. Then they need to get a new ME. There should be substantial signs of self defense on his body and the surrounding scene. She can maybe conceal the bruises with makeup and by wearing a scarf, but the hoarseness will be much more difficult to hide, so I need to know if it's an issue or not.

You're going to have to do a lot of research on forensic autopsies to pull this off to anyone knowledgeable. On the other hand, there aren't all that many people who are knowledgeable about this stuff.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Orianna2000
11-06-2012, 11:56 PM
The society has a level of technology equal to about the 1930s. They're not extremely sophisticated when it comes to forensics, so I think I can pull this off.

Basically, the MC is hoping to say that she witnessed her friend fighting with and killing the agent. The angle of the stab wounds might be off somewhat, because she's shorter, but because the dead guy is a military agent, the police won't have jurisdiction. The military has other reasons to suspect the "killer," so I'm thinking they're not going to look too closely. He's been under suspicion as a traitor for some time, so this is just the nail in his coffin, so to speak.

When I wrote the scene, I had her stab him in the lower back/side, repeatedly. He collapsed on top of her, pinning her against the wall. Blood everywhere. She bathed and changed clothing as part of their plan to shift the blame, but now that she realizes she has to explain her hoarse throat (and probably the bruising as well) she intends to say that the agent attacked her because she startled him (while he was snooping around her house), and that her friend came to her rescue. They grappled, he stabbed him, then ran away. Supposedly, she was in too much shock to stop him from leaving.

They know she isn't normally hoarse because she's had dealings with the military before. They know her. She considers saying she has a cold, but if they examined her--or even just made her remove her scarf, they would see the bruises and realize she's lying about something major. So now she's trying to come up with a feasible story to explain the dead guy and her bruises without implicating herself. Her friend is totally willing to take the blame, but he's run off, knowing they'd kill him if they caught him, so she has to do this without his collaboration.

onesecondglance
11-07-2012, 01:56 AM
From the sounds of it, her nerves are going to give her away more than a cracked voice.

jclarkdawe
11-07-2012, 02:02 AM
The society has a level of technology equal to about the 1930s. They're not extremely sophisticated when it comes to forensics, so I think I can pull this off.

The autopsy here is not really an issue of technology. You could do a good autopsy on this victim now or in 1930. Most of the issues in this autopsy are possible to observe with just your eyes.

Why a 1930s autopsy would probably fail to identify this as self defense is the lack of knowledge base. Not the fancy tools, but the having seen this stuff enough times to know what's going on. Realize the difference here, because a good coroner in the 1930s would have identified this as self defense. The thing is that most of them would not, as most coroners had a lot less qualifications and skill then they do today.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

GingerGunlock
11-07-2012, 03:57 AM
The autopsy here is not really an issue of technology. You could do a good autopsy on this victim now or in 1930. Most of the issues in this autopsy are possible to observe with just your eyes.

Why a 1930s autopsy would probably fail to identify this as self defense is the lack of knowledge base. Not the fancy tools, but the having seen this stuff enough times to know what's going on. Realize the difference here, because a good coroner in the 1930s would have identified this as self defense. The thing is that most of them would not, as most coroners had a lot less qualifications and skill then they do today.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Don't forget the issue that, depending on the area, coroners are/were elected officials, with no medical qualifications necessary for the job.

King Neptune
11-07-2012, 04:17 AM
I was wondering how she made a fatal stab, but she might have hit the femoral artery.

I think that the hoarseness would depend on the pressure on her throat, and that would partly depend on the size of the choker's arm; a large, wide arm would result in less damage, because the pressure would be spread over a larger area.

jclarkdawe
11-07-2012, 04:50 AM
I hadn't noticed this, mainly because I have the attention span of a gnat and hadn't read this far.


When I wrote the scene, I had her stab him in the lower back/side, repeatedly. He collapsed on top of her, pinning her against the wall. Blood everywhere.

Have him fall backwards. If he falls forward and on her, it will produce a lot of blood smear on his clothes as they rub against each other. Further, falling forward tends to indicate that he's leaning in, making it more likely he's the aggressor. Falling backwards tends to indicate someone withdrawing from a situation.

Again, act out this scene. Stabbing from behind tends to produce a stab that is hesitant, as you're afraid of stabbing all the way through him and hitting yourself. Even if this makes no logical sense, we have a lot of sense of self preservation and will avoid injuring ourselves. Further, depending upon the height difference, it tends to produce a low power stroke, as it can be difficult to reach this area.

More likely stroke would be from the front, about two inches below the belly button, favoring one side or the other (depending upon which hand you use -- remember that a left hand stab produces an injury on the right hand side of his body). Stroke tends to be upward, aiming towards the center line of the torso, with a twist. Basically a gutting motion, up and into the upper chest cavity.

Second most likely, and more instinctive, is under the victim's armpits, and into the middle of the back. Has some issues with ribs, and is awkward with a longer blade. It's somewhat hard to come up with an immediately fatal injury. (Lower back is even less likely to have an immediately fatal injury.)

On the plus side, back wounds tend to not indicate self defense if you don't know what you're doing as a medical examiner. But a stomach gut also doesn't tend to indicate self defense, as it's also very much an offensive move.

Assuming normal luck, the stab wound has to be made before you start to black out. However, if you stab someone, it takes some time before it takes effect. This situation can definitely produce two dead people, with the choke victim successfully stabbing the assaulter, who then dies.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Orianna2000
11-07-2012, 05:23 AM
I figured she would hit him in the liver or kidneys, at the lower back. Wouldn't that cause pretty severe bleeding and a quick death?

As far as him leaning in and then collapsing on her, he is the aggressor, like you said, so that's exactly what happens. The position of the body at death is not as important (I'm guessing), because after he collapses on her, the male MC shows up, shoves the body off, and then positions it later as needed. There's a considerable time gap between when the attack occurs and when the officials show up to investigate. Does that work?

She's using a short kitchen knife, specifically a paring knife, so it should be easy for her to stab anywhere that's necessary. I had her go for the lower back, so she wouldn't risk hitting a rib and dropping the knife. She has to stab repeatedly, because he's choking her and won't let go, and she's desperate and in full panic-mode.

I'll see if my husband will volunteer to act the scene out with me. He's going to think I'm crazy. . . .

jclarkdawe
11-07-2012, 06:20 AM
I figured she would hit him in the liver or kidneys, at the lower back. Wouldn't that cause pretty severe bleeding and a quick death? It's quick, but not that quick. You're talking minutes, not seconds. It could go either way.

As far as him leaning in and then collapsing on her, he is the aggressor, like you said, so that's exactly what happens. The reason I'd want him to go backwards is because you've got a legitimate reason for not saying it was self defense. The position of the body at death is not as important (I'm guessing), because after he collapses on her, the male MC shows up, shoves the body off, and then positions it later as needed. Rigor will happen quickly, and post-mortem lividity will also show up. Moving bodies around would probably be pretty obvious to any coroner. There's a considerable time gap between when the attack occurs and when the officials show up to investigate. Does that work? Once fluids have dried, the scene is pretty well set regardless of how long afterwards the officials show up. Once fluids are on the floor, you're going to get smears when things are moved.

She's using a short kitchen knife, specifically a paring knife, so it should be easy for her to stab anywhere that's necessary. I had her go for the lower back, so she wouldn't risk hitting a rib and dropping the knife. She has to stab repeatedly, because he's choking her and won't let go, and she's desperate and in full panic-mode. That's what I figured.

I'll see if my husband will volunteer to act the scene out with me. He's going to think I'm crazy. . . . You're a writer and he doesn't know you're crazy??? Strange. Very, very strange.

Remember that your death scene has to portray the choker as a victim, not an aggressor. Anything that tends to help make the choker appear not to be the aggressor is a good thing. Lots of little stab wounds in a small area tends to indicate a defense injury rather then an offense area. Lots of little stab wounds all over the body, on the other hand, is definitely offensive.

One thing you can do to muck up a crime scene is to drag a blanket all through the fluids.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Orianna2000
11-07-2012, 06:39 AM
No, he already knows I'm crazy. But acting out a murder scene goes a bit beyond your typical, everyday crazy. ;)

I'm not so much concerned with them knowing whether it was self-defense or not, because she tells them her friend was fighting the guy and stabbed him out of self-defense. Same scenario, just different players. She claims she was unconscious when it happened and when she woke up, her friend was gone and there was a dead guy in her hallway.

Also, I decided to cover all my bases and have the general who's in charge of the investigation decide to let her go, regardless of the investigative findings. She won't know, but he's pretty desperate to recruit her to the war effort, and he secretly admires the fact that she might've killed an agent who broke into her house. I'll say that the coroner's findings were inconclusive if I can find a way for the MC to learn this, but where someone else might've been convicted based on "inconclusive," she'll be released, thanks to the general's interest in the case.

Still, I do want the scene to be realistic, so I may post it in SYW at some point, so y'all can tear it apart. I'll let you know if/when that happens.

I hope this all makes sense. It's been a long day and I don't usually write murder scenes, so this has been draining!

MoLoLu
11-08-2012, 06:57 PM
Can't add much to the killing but I've been choked roughly (though nowhere near death) on two occasions and aside from hurting where the pressure had been worst, I didn't feel much of anything. Annoyance, mostly, and in the aftermath I drank a lot while swallowing continually to see if the pain had lessened. Don't think I ever sounded hoarse but then again neither choke-attempt was anything near fatal.

However, on both occasions, once the shock had worn off, I cried to myself in a quiet moment. Psychological confusion seemed to be more lasting than any of the physical pain.

Note: I'm not a pain resistant person, I've had minor cuts that hurt a lot worse than being choked.