This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ten Ways To Write a Bloodless Death Scene: Jim Murray Guest Post

         I've found that LinkedIn is a wonderful place to meet other bloggers and authors.  Recently I met James Murray and was impressed by his new blog.  Jim's fiction deals with murder mysteries.  You can find his blog at James J. Murray.  Today I've invited Jim to share some of his sinister knowledge.   This is intended as information for writers--do not try these at home!

Ten Ways To Write a Bloodless Death Scene

Recently I was doing research for a new book.  The storyline called for one of the characters to be murdered.  Simple enough!  Shoot or stab the person, or use a dozen other ways to kill off the character.  But that didn’t fit with the storyline.  It was important that the killer not leave ANY blood at the crime scene, ESPECIALLY the victim’s.  Hmm?!  What method would I use to accomplish that?

I talked to a friend about my dilemma and the discussion led to some interesting suggestions about how to construct a bloodless murder scene, and the resulting research became even more fascinating.  To say I’ve become an expert at describing a bloodless murder scene might be going a bit too far, but I did learn a little valuable information that I’d like to share with my fellow writers of crime.

I say I learned “a little” because there are SO MANY ways to kill without shedding blood that it sort of overwhelmed me.  I began to think, “So many ways to kill and so little time to write about it!” 

At any rate, the following is a list of some of the more interesting and believable ways to accomplish the task.

                        The Temple Blow – The skull is thin there and the temple bone shatters easily.  More importantly, though, the middle meningeal artery is located there.  Rupture that and you cause a build-up of blood and brain compression.  That’s called an epidural hemorrhage.  Very effective and death will follow if the pressure from the blood is not relieved in a relatively short amount of time after the trauma.

               Cobra Venom Darts – Cobra venom is a powerful neurotoxin (causes general muscle paralysis and respiratory failure) and it contains an anticoagulant (causes blood not to clot and the victim can bleed to death).  It kills in as little as 60 minutes.  Imagine the cool chapter you could write if the victim realizes what’s happening but can’t do anything about it.  

                      The Russian Omelet – Cross the legs of your enemy and pin him to the ground chest down.  Then push the legs up toward his back and sit on them to fold and break the base of the spine.  It’s usually fatal.  I’m thinking the killer should be of “substantial” weight to make this a believable kill method.

                 An Airborne Toxin Release – There are any number of good choices, from a viral toxin to a lethal poison.  A simple Internet search fuels the imagination.

                      An Insulin Overdose – Insulin is the hormone that spits out of our pancreas whenever we eat sugary or starchy foods.  It transports the resulting blood glucose into our cells to be used as fuel.  Too much insulin primarily causes a low blood sugar level and this leads to a variety of symptoms (shaking, sweating, blurred vision, seizures and coma) before death.  Describe the symptoms properly and you’ve got a great murder scene, and some kinds of insulin don’t even require a prescription.

                        Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning – It’s a simple way to kill, but not very imaginative.  Lock someone in garage with a car running and soon the carbon monoxide build-up will kill because it replaces the oxygen in blood.  (The oxygen we breathe binds to the hemoglobin in our blood to oxygenate our bodies, but carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin instead and we essentially suffocate).  There are products, however, that kill in the same way as CO.  In a murder scene I wrote recently, I used an organic solvent that preferentially binds to hemoglobin instead of oxygen (like CO) in a murder scenario.  It proved to me once again that there’s no substitute for good research when writing creative, interesting scenes.
                  Ethylene Glycol – This is the main component of antifreeze.  It’s a colorless, odorless, sweet-tasting chemical that’s easy to add to most any food or drink.  It’s rapidly absorbed in our GI tracts and distributed throughout the body, creating a variety of wonderfully toxic effects.  The initial symptoms mimic a drunken state, but kidney failure is what usually causes death.  Interestingly, alcohol is the antidote of choice.  Maybe the KILLER should down the shot INSTEAD to celebrate a good kill!

                           Strangulation – A dramatic death for sure, but it’s been used A LOT.  It causes death in one of two ways: compression of the carotid arteries and/or the jugular veins, and deprives the brain of oxygen.  It can also fatally compress the larynx and/or trachea to prevent further air intake.

                         A Fatal Drug Dose – Any number of drugs (both legal and illegal) could be used, but the most rapid effects are gained if the drug is injected.  I recently blogged about what drug makes the perfect murder weapon and will talk more about that in future blogs.

                          The Adam’s Apple Crush – This is a hit to the larynx and a prime strike point to cause death if you connect dead center and with substantial force.  It makes a great kill scene for those Special Forces type characters.  The knuckle punch or a strategic kick closes the airway and denies the ability to draw in air.  Death from oxygen deprivation results.

       As mentioned, these are just a few of the more interesting murder methods to add to your crime research.  I’m sure you’ve come across others.  Want to share them with us?

Thoughts?  Comments?  We’d love to hear them.

Bio for James J. Murray:

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on a patient’s quality of life have been Jim’s expertise.  His secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter.  His obsession with reading murder mysteries and thrillers left him longing to weave such tales of his own.  Drawing on past clinical expertise as a pharmacist and an infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, Jim creates novels of Murder, Mayhem and Medicine that will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.   

           Be sure to stop by Jim's blog and see what it's all about.

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  1. A gruesome yet very useful post. Thanks, will make a note of these, should come in useful someday (I mean in a story, obviously).


  2. Yikes, so many ways to die.

    Great post.

  3. Cool post! What about death by duct tape?


  4. wow--i hope no stupid serial killers read your post---very interesting!

  5. Ew! That omelet thing made me cringe inside. That's horrible!

  6. Jim,

    Great post! Man you could be the master this! You're a nice guy for a writer to have around!

    I agree with Alex, The Russian Omelet sound vicious! OUCH!


  7. Thanks for this most excellent resource should I ever need to kill someone with out leaving behind any blood. Fictionally, of course. ;)

  8. Great ideas! I've said, in public, that I'll never divorce my husband, but I have contemplated murder. (I think Mrs. Billy Graham said this too, so I feel pretty safe saying it.)
    I do have a question: cobra venom darts - the victim bleeds to death. Internally? Cuz otherwise your whole bloodless murder scene is um, now bloody. Just sayin'.
    Great guest post. You sure have a knack for finding great guesters, Lee.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    Post A-Z Road trip!

  9. Appreciate the comments, guys. As Lee suggested, don't try this at home (unless of course you're writing a murder scene!).

  10. Well, I haven't considered writing a murder story or even a crime story yet, but this blog looks worth printing off for future reference. Did you come up with suitable alibis as well, in case I want to do in the OH?

  11. I haven't considered writing a murder mystery but I still found this rather fascinating, gruesome, but still fascinating. I have been encouraged to turn my blog stories into a ebook (G Rated). Who knows, I may change my mind a go for gruesome LOL. :-), Susan Cooper

  12. Those are a lot of ways to kill someone. I would have never thought of death by sitting. Of course, I'm not sure I'd be big enough to break a spine.

  13. Thanks, Jim, for this fascinating visit. Be sure to visit Jim's blog for more very interesting information like his recent post on the bath salt induced zombies.

    Thanks to all who visited and left comments.

    Susan Cooper--I was going to visit your site but your profile is not available and the link (if that is a link) didn't work. I'm interested in hearing more about your ebook. If you see this can you leave your blog URL.


  14. Susan -- I found your URL again and this time I subscribed to your site so I don't lose it!


  15. I'll second that, Lee. I appreciate all the interest & thanks to you for allowing me to be your guest. Cool experience!

  16. Poison was the first thing that came to my mind, but James has presented quite a few options.

  17. Don't mean to change the mood from murder, guys, but I'm about to post a Father's Day blog on my site. It's entertaining, a bit nostalgic for me, and should give you a good laugh. The link is

  18. Your blog is great and this guest post was awesome!! :)


  19. Love these! As a writer of course!! :) Lots of creativity here!

  20. James - Glad you're enjoying the experience of guest blogging. I'm enjoying you being here. The Fathers Day piece was very nice.

    Diane -- Yes the devious creative mind of a writer is always busy isn't it.

    Susanna -- Thanks four dropping by.

    Jemi -- Let's hope these things are just kept to books.


  21. The Russian Omelet sounds like it would be in a fantasy novel or in a fight scene. Still, when I first glanced at it while going through this list, I thought it was something in the brunch menu at a restaurant, lol.

    You're so right with the strangulation usage...I think there is going to be one in the screenplay that I'm writing.

    Blog: The Madlab Post
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

  22. Great ideas! Nice to meet you James :D
    I know insulin, but the Russian Omelet sounds over the top~

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! Impressive and kind of scary, but I like it!

  23. You will need a script for those syringes ;D

  24. Hi!

    I'm Roberto, from Italy, and i've found this "Ten Ways To Write a Bloodless Death Scene" really nice, with sharp medical and anatomical explanations, nice indeed!!!

    As a Ryukyu kempo Black Belt i have a little question, perhaps a silly one, but important to me, and because i never found an good answer until this moment i hope i can get it here.

    The question is this:
    I wonder what is the amount of force (power, PSI, kilograms, etc.) necessary to crush the tracheal rings with a thumb jab, a chop, etc.

    I beg your pardon if i've disturbed someone here, and exscuse me for my writing, hope it's as much clean as possible.

  25. Thanks for your comments, Roberto, and for the interesting question. Near as I've been able to determine by research is 150 kilograms of power, per the following site.

  26. Thanks for your answer, James, this is interesting, really interesting.

    I've read a lot of this kind of description; someone said that 10 pounds are enough, someone else said 5 pounds, you say instead that it takes about 150 kilos . . .

    It's looks like a really misterious request this one, with a lot of problems to give an final answer, eheheheh.

    BTW, i leave my question here, maybe someone else can give another answer, thus we'll be able to make a media.

    Thanks to add me, to host me and to have answered to me, OSS!


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