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Discussion Starter #1
I had intended to have a kidnapper use chloroform to subdue a victim and render her unconscious. I guess I've seen too many movies where this works, but my research shows that this is a trite fictional device. My novel is romantic suspense, not a police procedural, so can I use chloroform without readers shouting "cliche" before they throw the book down in disgust?

The victim is taken by surprise, so drugging a drink wouldn't work. I also don't want her to be injured, so bashing her on the head is out. Any suggestions or am I okay with the chloroform?

Thanks!
 

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Hmmm. You get some interesting results when searching for "chloroform substitutes"
The link is to a cached page so I'm not sure it will work:
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://tribes.tribe.net/bdsmtipstechniques/thread/8cd9d057-e54d-4b03-8899-edada3dc33e6

Basically what these very experienced individuals (its a BDSM forum) say is that 1) Chloroform is an old drug that may not even be available anymore, 2) it's not safe, has all kinds of horrible consequences like liver damage, kindney damage, sores on your skin if it touches exposed skin 3) There isn't really a safe way to know somebody out without repercussions, although there are other drugs you can use like GHB, rohypnol, rufanol, valium, ( I think these are date rape drugs, some of them are illegal?)

Somebody suggested the only safe way to knock somebody out is with hypnosis. :)

The internet really is a fascinating place.
 

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The problem with chloroform is that the dosage is very difficult to get right. Too little and your victim is not rendered unconscious. Too much and your victim may never wake up again or suffer serious damage. Plus, there are better and safer anaesthetics around these days, so chloroform is rarely used. It's not all that easy to come by anymore either, since many of the legitimate uses (solvents, dry-cleaners, highschool chemistry labs) have evaporated. I have used chloroform in a story once, but that one was set in the 1930s, where there weren't all that many available alternatives to chloroform and ether. Plus, it was the sort of pulpy story where chloroform would have been expected.

As for what to use instead, I'd probably go with an injection with an undefined but quick acting anaesthetic. This seems to have replaced chloroform as the go-to drug for movie kidnappers these days. And if the substance is undefined, you don't run the risk of a reader letting you now that substance X doesn't work that way.  
 

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Ether is, ahem, somewhat more readily available, because it still has other, non-anesthetic uses. Though you can still buy chloroform, if you try.

Most of the "popular", sigh, date-rape drugs aren't as fast-acting, AFAIK.

Edited to add: Availability is, of course, relative. Turns out you can get both chloroform and ether on eBay...
 

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There is a common (and surprisingly uncontrolled) drug carried by EMTs that is used primarily when they have to intubate (assist the breathing of) or otherwise perform a delicate procedure on an injured person.  It is an injection that almost instantly paralyzes them, so the procedure can be carried out without injuring them if they're thrashing.  Unfortunately, I don't remember what it's called.  Also, it paralyzes the diaphragm, so they HAVE to be on a respirator of some kind, like the little squeeze-balloons you see on medical shows.
 

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Just finished THE CHALK GIRL, the latest Mallory novel by Carol O'Connell -- there was a mention of cholorform as a possibility for the way the killer had kept victims quiet (it was not a major plot point) and it was mentioned that choloform could be purchased online or even made at home. Don't know how true those things are, but it seemed reasonable enought that I didn't give it a second thought.
 

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You know, you could integrate this into your story.

Most people do believe chloroform is a magical one-hit KO chemical. Maybe have your killer think the same, and be surprised when it doesn't work at all. Give the soon-to-be hostage a moment of panic and glimpse at survival before the kidnapper clocks 'em with a toaster or something.
 

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I'd only use chloroform if the killer was a very elderly lady who was a fan of older mystery books and you could have some fun with that.

Otherwise, you can get vet tranqs easily, like roofie, (Ruhipnoll? sp )Maybe she has a pet? And she had some left over pills from when her dog had surgery. I think you can really have some fun with her deliberating what to use based on books she has read. Agatha Christie, Cornwell etc.
 

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Having used ether recreationally in the past,  I'd vote for that. Easy to handle. Its not really as fast acting as chloroform, but if a baddie manages to force someone to get about three or four good lungfuls of the stuff, boom, they're unconscious. I'd say more but... :)
 

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Harriet Schultz said:
I had intended to have a kidnapper use chloroform to subdue a victim and render her unconscious. I guess I've seen too many movies where this works, but my research shows that this is a trite fictional device. My novel is romantic suspense, not a police procedural, so can I use chloroform without readers shouting "cliche" before they throw the book down in disgust?

The victim is taken by surprise, so drugging a drink wouldn't work. I also don't want her to be injured, so bashing her on the head is out. Any suggestions or am I okay with the chloroform?

Thanks!
Chloroform and ether have been made popular in novels and movies, but the reality is that they are NOT fast acting. The same with the old "Mickey Finn" from the thirties and forties movies - chloral hydrate - it is slow acting and it stinks. It would be impossible to "slip" someone a Mickey without them being aware.

In your case, a stun gun would be ideal. Instantaneous paralysis, can be bought online or easily home made.
 

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This reminded me of a scene from the TV show "Leverage" in which chloroform was used.  The girl approached her victim from behind and held out the cloth.  "Does this smell like chloroform to you?"  And then--wham!--over the mouth and nose it goes.

Sorry, that doesn't help you with your question, but I thought it was funny.    :D
 

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How about this scene from 'The Simpsons'?:

Apu: She's waking up.
Homer: Don't worry. I brought some chloroform.
Apu: You idiot - those are Colorforms!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Rob Smith said:
How about this scene from 'The Simpsons'?:

Apu: She's waking up.
Homer: Don't worry. I brought some chloroform.
Apu: You idiot - those are Colorforms!
If this were a contest, your answer would win, hands down!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Writers are the best. Thanks for the advice and info. I think I'll go with either a stun gun -- if I can get "don't tase me bro" out of my head -- or an injectable barbiturate cocktail of some sort. The chloroform rag over the nose would have been so easy, but who said writers had it easy?
 

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I had the same problem with one of my stories and as a newbie I just had to get it right. I had done my
research on Chloroform and had the same reservations. Then I came across Dean Wesley Smith's blog and read this;

[I hope he doesn't sue me for quoting this here. :eek:]

"But this chapter, and all the chapters in this book, talk about fiction writing, and that's where research jumps into the problem area. In fact, I was teaching a workshop with young professionals just this last week and this topic came up as a pretty solid roadblock for one of the writers. Of course, that writer was a full-time nonfiction writer and was carrying over the belief system into the fiction.

So let me repeat here clearly what I told that writer. If you have this myth issue, print this out as a big sign and put it over your computer.

IT'S FICTION!!

Yup, I shouted that. Fiction, by its very definition is made up. Duh.

So now comes the really ugly word that I had to look up to spell right: Verisimilitude: An appearance of being true.

That's the exact definition from my dear old Oxford American Dictionary.

So, in fiction, we writers make stuff up. I give my job description as a person who sits alone in a room and makes stuff up. But what I make up needs to have the appearance of being true, if not in detail, in character action and emotions. There is where the myth is true and not true.

In every story we need enough detail to make it feel right. That does not mean it has to be right, it just has to feel right."

I followed this advice and was able to move on in several points in my stories rather than overthinking it. Think of all the stories in books, movies and television that would have never seen the light of day if the story teller has to be too literal or perfect with everything.
 

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Mr. Milan (ER doc) says the drug the EMTs use isVersed (generic: midazolam). It is a sedative that can be administered intramuscularly. It probably takes a minute to a minute and a half to go.

But he says that Ketamine is better. It is his favorite drug. It's also intramuscular, and will put you down in 30 seconds to a minute.

 
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ShayneHellerman said:
I'd second this. When I was studying kempo we practiced chokes. If applied correctly, a blood choke can render a person unconscious within seconds. You don't get much more fast-acting than that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chokehold
Amen. Using a chokehold also has the side effect of making the kidnapper seem more formidable, hardcore, badass, etc.

Not sure if that's what the TS wants though...
 
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