Writers, Know Your Bites

A while ago, I read someone’s manuscript describing the protagonist being dive-bombed and pecked by a crow. The mood promised shades of Hitchcock’s The Birds until the medics arrived. They took a look at the screaming woman’s wounds and diagnosed them at self-inflicted cuts. There went my suspension of disbelief. So I decided to share my thoughts on bites and what one might include to make the scene believable.

You see, any medic worth his license can tell the difference between stabbing and a bite by the pattern of the wound. What’s more, the medic can figure out what did the biting. Stabbings and cutting leave straight gashes and lacerations, and also internal injuries because they’re deeper than they’re wide (See image below left. The knife travels in a straight line. Mutilation leaves patterned lines.

People dealing with City of Brotherly Death's zombies must know their bites. Bites from birds and other animals may require rabies injections, but that didn’t come up in the story. Some birds can’t exert enough force to break the skin. Birds of prey like hawks, eagles, etc. can put a bad hurt on you. They dive at people and leave a jagged wound with or without bleeding, like the one directly below. Their claws can rip fresh wounds with lightning speed. Bird bites also carry the risk of infection.

People dealing with City of Brotherly Death's zombies must know their bites.A lot’s been said about shark attacks, but they’re not evil creatures that look for humans to eat. Most times, a shark might bite, drag the human through water, and then let go; it has mistaken the human for something it usually eats. In any case, the shark’s bite will leave a pie-shaped wound – perhaps broken bones in addition to tears in the skin or severed limbs. The damage can be fatal.

Bug bites vary depending on the type and whether or not they’re poisonous. A spider bite will leave a faint red mark, perhaps a blister, which will then loosen to form a deep boil like the one below.

People dealing with zombies in City of Brotherly Death must know their bites.

Citizens of City of Brotherly Death, know your bites!Finally, the zombie bite – the worst kind, for the victim will get infected and become undead. Zombies do more damage to the skin than you might think because they don’t feel pain. They won’t care about how hard they bite or indulge any hang-ups about damaging their teeth. As it is, the human jaw can generate 180 psi. We’re capable of tearing flesh and biting off the nose/ear of other people. Zombies exert twice as much force, and if they’ve been reanimated for a long time, the teeth may be jagged and sharp. Note the damage in figures to left and below right.

Citizens of City of Brotherly Death, know your bites!The legs and arms tend to be most vulnerable – it’s natural for a person to throw his arms over his face to ward off attackers. With zombies, this won’t work.  Best defense is to fight or run like hell. Body armor for the hands and feet come to mind. That and a great headshot.

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