Bang! You’re Dead! Or Not?

10 Aug

One of the most common questions I get from writers is what happens when someone is shot. Do they fall over dead? Do they bleed to death slowly? Are they able to run and jump and fight? The answer is that all of these are possible.

You’ve seen it a thousand times in movies. The good guy shoots a bad guy, the bad guy drops to the ground, instantly dead, very little blood, and his hair is perfect. Doesn’t usually happen that way in real life though. In order for a gunshot to be immediately fatal, it usually has to strike the brain, the heart, or the very upper part of the spinal cord. A gunshot in these areas can result in instantaneous death but even in these circumstances the victim often survives. At least long enough to get to the hospital and often long after that.

But most gunshot injuries are not to those areas and are not instantly fatal. Typically the victim bleeds to death if not properly and quickly treated. This will happen faster if the lungs are injured because here the victim can literally drown in his own blood. It will be much slower if the bullet enters the abdomen and damages a major organ and slower still if the bullet injuries an extremity. In any of these areas, damaging a major blood vessel will lead to more rapid exsanguination than if no vessel is struck. This means that, depending upon the exact nature of the wound, the victim could bleed to death in minutes or hours or even days.

But how many times can someone be shot and still survive? Again it depends upon the nature of the wounds. Several gunshot wounds are worse than one but again it depends upon the damage done and the rapidity of blood loss. Almost anything is possible.

Witness Angel Alvarez. Someone must have forgotten to tell Angel that he couldn’t survive multiple gunshot wounds. Either that or Angel didn’t pay attention. Twenty one. That’s how many he survived. Don’t know whether this will make Guinness’s book but forensic experts believe that this could indeed be the record.

Read the story here.


3 responses to “Bang! You’re Dead! Or Not?

  1. jenny milchman

    August 11, 2010 at 9:57 am

    An excellent explanation of why you can’t take short-cuts in crime fiction…authenticity can be lost, all for a quick fall to the floor.


  2. The Lucid Dreamer

    August 11, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Fascinating article!!! It’s rare that one is treated to questions such as “But how many times can someone be shot and still survive?” 🙂

    Seriously though, it’s clear how an understanding of how gun shot wounds effect people for real makes for good writing. I enjoyed this post.


  3. J.D.

    August 12, 2010 at 4:35 am

    Imagine what that does to the killer’s confidence–having to reload.



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