Tag Archives: Starke answers

How does one write a convincing (seventeen-year-old female) bodyguard character?

By waiting until she’s an adult. A bodyguard that looks like a seventeen year old girl is perfectly plausible. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to stick a protection detail on someone that doesn’t look like a swarm of shaved gorillas in suits. But, the skillset, and the general maturity you need for a good bodyguard just aren’t things a teenager will have had the time to acquire. Sorry.

If they’re not actually a bodyguard, and it’s an ad-hoc, “I can keep you safe”, kind of situation, then that’s not an issue at all. They may even think of themselves as a bodyguard. That’s perfectly reasonable, and you have a lot of latitude on what is, or isn’t, a convincing outlook, because your character is setting the range for their own behavior.

But, keep in mind, they wouldn’t actually be a bodyguard, so, if their protectee is someone who would need a real security detail, then they’d be shut out.

If the protectee is someone who’d fall under the protection of the Secret Service or the DSS, then your character wouldn’t even be allowed inside the security envelope, unless there was some specific reason. Such as a close, longstanding personal friendship, or if they’re an immediate family member. Even then, there’s no way they’d be part of the security detail. In fact, if they were an immediate relation to someone under either Secret Service or DSS protection, they’d be protected by members of the same agency.

Again, the FAQ on FBI.gov will give you a good idea of the requirements for a Federal Agent. Since 2007 or 2008, former Presidents can opt out of permanent Secret Service protection, though, if they do, they’re required to maintain their own security detail.

I’m bringing up the Secret Service and DSS because they’re the most likely to employ people who look like teenagers. But, the people they’re hiring are going to have Bachelor’s degrees, and (usually) a history in law enforcement or the military.

Most major metropolitan police departments will have a VIP protection squad, though, the name will vary. A lot of times these aren’t dedicated units. I’m aware of one case where the anti-gang taskforce, the VIP protection team, and the vice squad were actually the same set of officers.

Corporations that hire bodyguards for their executives, draw from PMCs or security companies that provide bodyguard services. Lower ranking corporate officers might hire bodyguards of their own. This is somewhat more common in developing countries. But, in these cases, the  shaved gorillas in suits, are more likely to appeal. Depending on the PMC or security firm, their personnel will also skew for ex-cops and ex-military, with some mercenaries, and depending on how rigorous a company is, some “ex-special forces” wannabies.

As a general rule, ex-cops make for really good bodyguards, the rest less so. The police skillset transitions into bodyguard work very well. Ex-military bodyguards can usually get the job done, and in rougher countries, they can be preferable, but they’re just not trained for the specific kind of threat assessment bodyguards need.

I’d recommend the 2004 version of Man on Fire with Denzel Washington, and any episode of the West Wing involving the Secret Service Agents (there’s a lot of them.) Particularly the episodes with Jorja Fox as Agent Gina Toscano.

I’ve trashed it before, but Taken does show a good martial form for a bodyguard, even if it’s egregiously out of place for Liam Neeson’s character.


regarding spring-loaded weapons… I was really blown away (haha!) by the spring-launched… derringer that king schultz carried in django unchained. i know you say spring-loaded weapons are laughable but is such a device as used by that character feasible in any way shape or form, barring unrealistic things like magic or ‘sci-fi’ stuff coming into play?

Yeah, those spring loaded wrist holsters were actually real things. They just never worked right. Deploying the pistol had a bad habit of causing it to go off. Because they had to fit up a coat sleeve, they were restricted to very small caliber revolvers and Derringers. Additionally, I think I remember that the mechanism was prone to jamming, catching on clothes, or something else.

The British revived it as a spy tool during World War II, and used custom 9mm and .32 Silenced pistols. I suspect those were related to glove guns, but, my book on spy gear is still missing from the move, so I’m having to run on memory.


I have a character who works as a hitman, and he keeps a knife of the “stomp and it pops out” variety in the toe of his shoe for emergencies. I’ve seen this used by a lot of inventive, wildcard characters (the Joker, mostly) but I wanted to ask how useful it would really be. It seems like it’d be handy for surprising a combatant but a potential hazard if deployed incorrectly.

If you’re trying to do a serious setting, the Joker is not your friend. He tends to warp the DCU’s already flexible concept of “realistic” into Loony Toons territory.

If you’re going for a comic book style setting, or a cheesy gadget filled superspy setting, knock yourself out. But, if you’re wanting to go for a more serious setting, then the laser watches, and knife boots are out.

There have been some attempts to make spring loaded surprise weapons, but none of them ever really worked. I’d take Assassin’s Creed’s hidden wrist blade over mounting one in your boot, that’s just goofy. Those aren’t particularly realistic either, but they’re just this side of plausible, and fans have rigged up a few working ones.


here’s a scenario for you a fifteen year old girl around 5″4 is being attacked from behind by a grown man do you think she can shift the grown man’s center of gravity and lift him over her shoulders and throw him against the floor?

Yes. I’ve actually been thrown by a girl, about that size, in training. When it comes to throws: momentum, inertia, and leverage are a lot more important than size. Also, her strength isn’t even a factor; when properly executed most throws require surprisingly little force.

She’s slightly more likely to throw him over her hip than her shoulder, but, yes. If she’s been trained in throws, she can throw him.

For someone who hasn’t received training: throws are difficult, and can be pretty dangerous for both combatants. There are a lot of ways you can mess up your back if you botch an attempt.


Hey, hey! I’m not sure how well you can answer this though in your experience have any punches you’ve been dealt, left cuts? I’m assuming they have, I just am not sure where/how punches can possibly leave cuts. They’re not like nails, so I’m guessing they don’t scratch you open. Any advice would be awesome!

Yes. I’ve actually got a small scar from getting nailed in the face when I was training. Usually, abrasions occur in hand to hand in places where the bones are close to the skin. The head is a prime example. This isn’t incredibly common in training, you need to be hit with a substantial amount of force, but in actual fights, it’s a lot more common.

There’s actually an abstract level where bruising is, effectively, the same thing. Bruises are just sub-dermal hemorrhaging, so, somewhere down there, your tissue tore, and now it’s bleeding.

As far as I know, it’s extremely rare for the blood loss to be significant, but it’s still small cuts and scrapes.

On top of that, there are a lot of ways the skin can be torn in a fight. Forensics splits this between lacerations, abrasions and contusions. Contusions are your normal bruises, though, there can be tearing of the skin at a surface level. Abrasions are where the skin’s been torn at a surface level, either by a direct impact, or by being scrapped across something, this can result in bleeding, but it doesn’t always, if you’ve ever scratched yourself raw, that’s a, mild, abrasion. Finally, lacerations, are where the skin is sheared against something, tearing it. Lacerations always result in bleeding.

(If you’re wondering why I know this, it’s because I keep a forensics primer next to me, whenever I’m working.)


Awesome blog! I have a couple of questions considering a fantasy story I’m writing. a) What is the best weapon, when fighting a humanoid opponent that is much bigger than you (about three meters tall)? b) When fighting with a bow, what is the best place to aim for if you want the hit to be non-lethal?

Three meters isn’t a large enough size difference to really invalidate full sized weapons, like swords, axes, or polearms, though it will alter the tempo of a fight. As it gets larger, you’ll lose options though, by four or five meters, you’ll probably be restricted to polearms.

What’s the most non-lethal bow shot? One that doesn’t connect with your target. Arrow hits to the limbs can easily sever arteries, shots to the torso can rupture internal organs. Both of those are quick ways to bleed to death. If you could actually hit the hand or foot, that’s safe-ish. But, that kind of accuracy takes a kind of mastery that just doesn’t happen on the battlefield. Maybe if your character is a six-hundred year old elf/immortal/vampire/whatever, who’s been training for multiple human lifetimes… but not for a human character. In a non-combat situation, archers do exist who can make shots like that, even today. But, a bow is an incredibly lethal weapon, and as with guns, “shoot to wound” just isn’t a real thing.


What kinds of wounds would a spear/metal rod (the weapon my character has is a bit interchangeable between the two) realistically be able to inflict on opponents? What would it most likely inflict? It’s easy to find references for sword-fighting, but as it turns out, spears aren’t too common in literature…

Spears can be used to inflict fairly deep cuts, but the primary, and lethal, injury is going to be deep penetrating strikes. If you want more detail, your best bet would be looking into industrial accidents involving impalement. Though, as we mentioned earlier; penetration is very lethal on a battlefield.

Beyond that, there were a lot of other polearms. Bladed ones like the halberd, voulge, bardiche, or glaive could carve up someone pretty badly, while keeping them at range.


Hello! I’m writing a story where some of the characters have had training with weapons such as swords, spears and so on. The problem is, is that I don’t know how long it would take to go from being a novice to an expert. How many months or years would it take?

Traditional, European, knight training would last fourteen years. Starting when the prospective knight turned seven, and lasting until they were twenty-one. They’d spend seven years serving as a page before becoming a squire at fourteen. Obviously, that encompassed a bit more than just training on a sword, but it’s a good starting point. In a modern context, you can probably train to an expert level with a sword in five or six years.

For a spear, I’m inclined to say six months for combat proficiency. From what I know, polearms are a lot easier to train on. To actually become an expert? You’re probably still looking at years of training, but, and I could be wrong, in conventional combat, spears have a much lower skill ceiling than swords. So, I’m inclined to say the extra time and effort would be wasted.


I think the knives anon was trying to ask if a soldier who was not worried about being laden down would benefit from carrying multiple knives specialised for use in different grip positions.

Yeah, you might be right about that, the whole “icepick grip” thing threw me off.

If they’re asking about a curved grip and a straight one, then it’s possible a soldier would carry both, but not especially likely. The curved grip is a specialized design, though off hand I can’t remember what it’s used for.

Also, Argetnyx is right about trench warfare. That’s one of those times where anything at hand can be turned into a weapon. There’s a couple reasons for that; but most of it comes back to the whole “not enough time to switch to your weapon” area.

Not sure about the sawback bayonet, but I know the entrenching tool was considered a weapon for a few decades.