Shot Through the Heart…or the shoulder, or something.
This is an issue pertaining more to movies and television than novels but it still has relevance. I’ve written before about the need to pay attention to certain details. Like a lot of CSIs and authors I pick up on certain editorial errors I see on film. The other night I was watching the ending of a show entitled The Walking Dead on AMC. If you’re unfamiliar with the show its basically about a small band of humans trying to survive after most of the world’s population is turned to zombies. As you can imagine the surviving humans have to kill the zombies as they encounter them. So in this one particular scene the humans are gathered outside a barn filled with zombies. As the walking dead come out of the barn the humans shoot them. Sitting there watching one zombie drop after another I found myself asking “why do they keep shooting them in the left side of the chest?”
I don’t mean to pick on these writers as you can find this gunshot injury in a lot of films. It seems like even the most elite soldiers and law enforcement officers aim for the left shoulder. The reason is silly, but understandable. In the United States children are taught to place their hands over their hearts while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. If you watch children and adults at sporting event they will place their right hand over the left side of their chest. This is exactly how I was taught. Apparently, sometime in our history we were taught that our hearts were on the left side of our chest.
In reality, our hearts are in the center of our chest. Apparently, no one has bothered to tell many directors. I have yet to read a novel making this mistake but, in truth, I haven’t read as many novels as I have textbooks. If you look at a typical human sized target silhouette found on a shooting range you’ll notice that the center of scoring ring is actually in the center of the chest where the heart is located. Police officers and competitive shooters don’t get a lot of points for shooting the left shoulder.
When writing a scene you could have a shooting victim survive because they were shot on the left side of the chest. Your characters could dialog about how lucky they are and discuss some of the reasons mentioned above. But if you want to maintain accuracy (pun intended) in your writing remember that when police or military aim for the heart, they should be aiming for the center of the chest.
Posted on December 13, 2011, in General, The Autopsy and tagged autopsy, crime, Crime Scene, csi, firearms, forensics, medical examiner, murder, mystery, police, thriller, tom adair. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.