The ABCs of Murder Weapons in Fiction

Pole weapons Szczyrzyc MonasteryIf you read or write mysteries, you know the importance of a good weapon for the villain to use to plot the demise of the victims. The problem is that sometimes, we writers sit at the computer and think, “How in the world can I kill these people off in a way that hasn’t been done to death?” (No pun intended there.)

So I’ve compiled a list of potential weapons, from the typical to the way out there, for inspiration when writer’s block slows down the deaths in your next murder mystery. Use them if you dare.

  1. Arnis sticks – Any martial arts sticks, really, would do. Escrima, kali, even a bo staff. No, most people don’t walk around with martial arts equipment in their hands, but if your bad guy is in a gym, owns a gym, studies the art, (is a ninja!), this option can work for you. Both of my kids are taekwondo black belts (second and first degrees) and they work with swords, sticks and staffs. Stars and nunchucks will follow. Your guy has options.
  2. Baton – Before you think majorettes and short skirts (although that could work too), picture the dim lighting of a symphony performance or the darkness of an orchestra pit… A conductor’s baton of course. It’s rigid and pointy and can be jammed into any opening or soft spot on the head or neck to cause brain trauma or fatal bleeding. Hopefully its use isn’t an indication of the quality of the music.
  3. Cord – This could be as simple as twine or as new-fangled as tech cords (phones, televisions, etc.), but wrapped around a victim’s neck, any cord can be fatal.
  4. Drowning – Unless your characters are land-locked without access to running water, drowning is an option for any villain. Oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, bathtubs, pools, hot tubs… A rain barrel or bucket would do in a pinch.
  5. Explosion – Yes, explosions might require a bit of technical savvy. But if your villain has Internet access, your villain can make a bomb. Molotov cocktails, fertilizer bombs, pipe bombs… C-4, digital timers. What’s your villain’s background and access?
  6. Fire – Cavemen had it, why can’t your bad guy? Pin somebody in somewhere and set the place ablaze; he’s going to die of smoke inhalation or the fire. Or just turn him into a human torch. Your bad guy would have to be really sadistic to do it, but maybe he’s into cannibalistic barbecue.
  7. Gun – Does this really need to be discussed in detail? There are numerous sites discussing all types of guns, from tiny palm-sized pistols to giant military-grade truck-mounted beasts. Figure out your need and look them up. And don’t forget the pistol-whipping option… The bad guy can always beat someone to death with his weapon.
  8. Hockey stick – Any sports gear with the potential for violence would do. Hockey: the stick, the blades of the ice skates, the Zamboni machine. Baseball: the bat, the ball pitching machine. Field events: javelin, shot put balls. You get the idea.
  9. Icicle – No evidence left behind with this one. The perfect weapon. Stab and melt.
  10. Jaguar – Well, any animal can be used to kill on behalf of the villain. The problem? Training the animals to obey. And, of course, where to keep the animals. This could work on some kind of reservation or a zoo. Or using a snake to bite someone or strangle someone (snakes you can easily keep at home). Work out the logistics of the animals, and you have a winner.
  11. Knife – Knives, swords, daggers… any kind of blade. Knives can be easily hidden on a person, made of materials other than metal (so they can be smuggled past metal detectors), and can even be weapons of passion. An innocent dinner could turn deadly over the main course. Just make sure the diners are eating steak, not pasta, so there are knives on the table.
  12. Lasso – Cowboys aren’t always the hero. That lasso can easily become a noose. Don’t pretend you haven’t considered it when looking at those horrid rodeo clowns.
  13. Mine – Don’t forget about mines. Booby traps are a great way to get rid of secondary characters. They go snooping where they shouldn’t be and they meet an untimely end.
  14. Nail file – Villains shouldn’t always be the bad guy. Or maybe girls shouldn’t always be the ones getting the manicures. A sharp nail file to an artery can make an effective weapon — for a boy or a girl.
  15. Obsidian – That’s one of my new favorite minerals. It’s gorgeous. But that’s not the only one to consider. Think of all the stones that artwork can be carved out of… obsidian, marble, limestone, alabaster. If your villain is around statuary, he has a weapon.
  16. Pool cue – A billiard room is rife with weaponry. The pool cue, the balls. Even the racks and the table can be used… imagine using the triangle to strangle a victim or smashing a head off the slate of the table. Yank down the pendant light and wield it like a club, or use the exposed wires to electrocute someone.
  17. Quiver – Sure, arrows are weapons. Everyone knows that. But the quiver? Pah-ha, you say. Get creative. The arrows are gone, the bow is broken. How to improvise? Strangle the victim with the strap of the quiver.
  18. Ricin – Ricin is one of many poisons that grows in the wild. Learn or look up deadly poisons. A crafty villain can learn about wild poisons and figure out how to use them.
  19. Scarf – Scarves, neckties, belts, hosiery… any lengthy clothing or clothing accessories can be used to strangle someone in a pinch.
  20. Telephone – Land lines have cords. House phone or cell phone can be treated with poison that’s transmitted through touch. Sound can be transmitted through the phone to burst an ear drum, rendering a person helpless (or at least quite miserable and disoriented) until the killer can arrive to finish the job.
  21. Umbrella – Ah, pointy objects. An umbrella is so innocuous that anyone can carry it, but with a filed point, it’s an effective weapon. Also, it can conceal other weapons. Quite an effective little gadget.
  22. Vehicles – It’s inelegant, but running someone over gets the job done.
  23. Window – Push someone out a window. Drop a window down on someone’s head, guillotine-style. Put a head through a window and use the broken glass as a blade to sever arteries. You have a window of opportunity there… use it. (Even I groaned at that one.)
  24. Xiphos – Bet you didn’t think I had one for X. Bet you don’t know what “xiphos” is. Well, if your bad guy is into history or happens to be in a museum, you’re in luck. Xiphos is an ancient Greek sword with a double-edged blade. If you’re into stabbing or decapitation, think xiphos. More to the point, if your bad guy is into artifacts, look into all the old weaponry.
  25. Yule log – Ah, family holidays can get a bit sticky, can’t they? We’ve all heard about the frozen leg of lamb as a weapon. Surely there are other options at a holiday dinner? The knife-sharpening steel. The electric knife. The marble rolling pin. The Yule log – flaming or not. Strands of garland. A wishbone. Get creative. Sadists would.
  26. Zebu horn – Bet you didn’t think I’d have a Z entry either. But how could I leave off the zebu horn? Everyone has those sitting around, right? Oh, you don’t know what a zebu is? That’s okay. I didn’t either until I looked it up. (I needed a Z.) It’s a type of cattle with a curved horn. But any animal horn or antler will do. Yak, ram, elk… An outdoorsman could have a good time with this one.

So maybe I spent a little too much time thinking this through. Maybe computer banks at Langley are spinning and spitting my name through databanks and search filters. But maybe something here will get you thinking and spark your creative juices enough so that the next time your villain is going to kill someone, he grabs Hemingway’s prize zebu horn instead of a pet rock or a paperweight that says “Someone went to Carlsbad Caverns and all they brought me was this paperweight.” Now, if that paperweight looks like a rock…

Oh, and don’t forget, your good guy can use these weapons, too! People probably love him more than to give him a pet rock paperweight, though.

photo courtesy of Piotrus, Creative Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pole_weapons_in_Szczyrzyc_monastery_museum_02.JPG

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20 Responses to The ABCs of Murder Weapons in Fiction

  1. Hurrah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a data! existing here at this blog, thanks admin of this site.

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  2. Great entry. It’s funny how many ways there are to . . . write a great mystery. :) Thanks for sharing.

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  3. P. C. Zick says:

    I was just going to suggest the leg of lamb ala Roald Dahl in “Lamb to the Slaughter.” One of the best short stories filled with irony. My favorite line (paraphrased here): “The weapon could be right under our noses,” one of the detectives said as he brought a forkful of roast lamb to his mouth.

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  4. Joy Keeney says:

    Yes…but you shared those 26 ideas with us all….now I have 26 ideas…plus those we thought of sitting around your kitchen table this morning. :)

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  5. Staci Troilo says:

    Can you see me twiddling my fingers in sadistic anticipation of someone’s demise?

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  6. I think this is my favorite blog. Does this make me as twisted as you? Kidding! Thanks for the info, now step away from that stove…

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  7. Joy Keeney says:

    I will certainly remember never to get on your bad side!! Going to bookmark this post for future reference…never know when I’ll need a way to off a character in an upcoming story.

    Keep writing

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  8. Staci Troilo says:

    That was definitely my intent. Hope it helps you out!

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  9. janna hill says:

    Interesting Staci. Though I do not necessarily write mystery/murder mystery I do like to kill off a character. Thanks for fueling the fires of imagination.

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  10. Matt Knox says:

    I love your post. Lots of great facts :)

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