By Piper Bayard
Of Bayard & Holmes
My writing partner, Jay Holmes, is a forty-five-year veteran of the military and intelligence communities, and we write espionage fiction and nonfiction. We are often asked what weapons we prefer for fights. We both advocate firearms training for the best self-defense in real life. However, in writing, we follow the advice of the great James Rollins, which is that authors should avoid killing people the same way twice in a book.
To help authors avoid such redundancy in fiction, we explored how common bedroom objects can be used as weapons in our last article, 10 Common Bedroom Objects As Weapons. This time, we take a look at common objects in the kitchen, a favorite setting of crime writers.
Knives are the obvious choice of weapon in the kitchen. People with experience using knives in close combat will have their favorite techniques and likely don’t need to read this article. For everyone else . . .
Have your character choose a decent, sturdy knife with a long blade—something large enough to do damage, but not anything too big to control.
So what to do with this blade?
Often, we see a character searching their home with a knife in their quivering hand, far in front of them, leading their way from one room to the next with the point. That is a great way to give their opponent a knife. Think about it. If the first thing coming through a door is a knife and a wrist, the adversary only needs to be waiting at that door to grab that wrist or smack it with any hard object and take control.
If the character prefers to live rather than offer a weapon to their adversary, they should lead with their empty hand and hide the knife. When they close for combat, strike first with the empty hand. The opponent will focus on that empty hand and block. That is the moment to drive the knife home.
But where is “home?”
A rule of all close combat is that the opponent determines the defense a character must use. Where the character aims with the knife is determined by what the opponent makes available in that instant. While groin, neck, and face are excellent targets, the character must take the shot they can get.
Don’t worry about perfection, such as a Roman gladiator plunge upward under the rib cage to the heart. Speed is most important in this moment. After your character quickly stabs the opponent a couple times, the opponent will be distracted by having been stabbed. At that point, your character has a little more breathing room to work on their technique with the subsequent stabs.
Wait. Subsequent stabs?
Yes. When your character (or anyone) is fighting for their life, they want to make sure the opponent is down and incapable of getting up again. Never stop with just one stab. If they fall to the ground, kick and stomp their head, and keep kicking and stomping until they are definitely not getting up to attack again. The most important thing in that moment is to survive by any means necessary.
Trash bags are a great tool in a fight. Have your character lay them in front of doors or on stairs as slip traps. Once the opponent slips and is off balance, the character can follow up with a knife thrust or a can of dog food or Pyrex measuring cup to the side of the head. They could even have another trash bag in their hands that’s been twisted into a rope to strangle the opponent. Trash bags are also great for clean up once the fight is over.
We’ve all seen kitchen fight scenes where a person’s face is shoved down on a hot stove, illustrating the great truth about a hot stove—it can be used on both attacker and defender. However, if there is something hot on that stove, such as hot oil or hot water, your character can throw that hot oil or water at the opponent.
This is a double win in that the opponent then can’t use it on your character, and the opponent gets burned. After all, if someone is going to get burned, the opponent getting burned is always better. Be sure to follow up with punches, kicks, stabs, etc., until the opponent is completely incapacitated.
Salt, pepper, and chili spice. Have your character uncap the salt and pepper shakers or the chili pepper jar and throw them into the opponent’s face. Chili powder is best. That one really gets them. This is both distracting and painful for the opponent and gives your character a chance for follow up with . . . You guessed it. Punches, kicks, stabs, etc.
A countertop tea kettle is a great asset in a fight. Throw the boiling water in the opponent’s face, and while they are agonizing over that, beat them on the head with the kettle.
A boiling cup of water from the microwave can accomplish the same goals. If your character thinks someone is trying to break in, have them heat a cup of water in the microwave or turn on the kettle. That way, your character has the weapons at hand should they be needed.
Hard to beat a good heavy skillet for beating someone. Have your character choose something heavy enough to do the job, but not too heavy to control. Since show is always better than tell, I’ll share an appropriate anecdote.
When Holmes was a boy many decades ago, his grandmother lived on the third floor of a big city apartment building. A burglar had been hitting her building regularly. One night, she came in and interrupted him, and he fled out the living room window with a bit of her jewelry.
The next night, she opened the window, turned out the lights, took hold of her cast iron skillet, and waited. Sure enough, he came back. She had always told Holmes, “Wait for them to get their shoulders through the window. Don’t give them the chance to back out.”
Once the burglar’s shoulders were in, she smacked him on the head with the skillet. Hard. He fell back out the window and down into the street. Holmes still remembers hearing her on the phone to his dad. “Don’t bother the police. They’re busy. The garbage man will pick him up in the morning.”
Moral of the story? Let them get their shoulders in before your character swings, and there will be no need to bother the police. Even if the opponent is not coming through the window, a good smack to the head with a heavy skillet should get them down or distracted to follow up with kicks, stabs, etc.
Cleaning chemicals are terrific weapons, and ammonia is the best. If the character is squeamish about firearms or they are not at hand, ammonia in a water gun can be very effective when squirted into an opponent’s eyes. Your character can also throw it in the opponent’s face from a glass or a bottle.
Another option is to have your character flick powdered Comet or other powdered cleaners into the opponent’s face. For a longer range, your character can spray Lysol, bug killers, furniture cleaner, or any other aerosol into their eyes.
As always, punches, kicks, stabs, etc., or your audience will declare your character too dumb to live.
Ice cubes in front of the door with a bit of water make a great slip trap. Just keep in mind that it can also be a slip trap for your character.
Frozen meat can make a fantastic club, such as in Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl. In that story, the killer murdered her husband by beating him with a leg of lamb and then cooking it to feed to the detectives. A nice frozen pork tenderloin is easy to hold in the hand and could break rocks.
Liquids from the fridge can be great for throwing into the opponent’s eyes. Careful of throwing jars, though. If they don’t break, the opponent can throw them back, and if they do break, that glass will be there for your character to deal with, as well.
If it is convenient for your character, they might also use an open refrigerator door as a shield against projectiles.
In this age of Covid, many of us have bottles of alcohol all around the house. Your character could throw alcohol in the opponent’s eyes. Your character could also throw the alcohol on the character and light them on fire by pushing them into the flame of a gas stove. Just be sure your character also has a . . .
If your character pulls off the “light the opponent on fire” trick from #9, they will want a fire extinguisher to keep from burning down their house. Your character can also use a fire extinguisher to smack an opponent on the head and/or to spray the contents into the opponent’s eyes.
Remember, in close combat, speed is more crucial than perfection, anything your character throws, their opponent can throw back, and, as always, the best weapon your character has is their determination to survive no matter what.
What kitchen objects would your characters choose to incorporate into a fight? What questions do you have for us?
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Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes of Bayard & Holmes are the authors of espionage fiction and nonfiction. Please visit Piper and Jay at their site, BayardandHolmes.com. For notices of their upcoming releases, subscribe to the Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing. You can also contact Bayard & Holmes at their Contact page, on Twitter at @piperbayard, or at their email, BayardandHolmes(at)protonmail.com.
SPYCRAFT: Essentials takes the fiction out of spy fiction, covering the functions and jurisdictions of the main US intelligence organizations, the espionage personality and character, recruitment, tradecraft techniques, surveillance, firearms, the most common foibles of spy fiction, and much more. Available in digital format and print. See Bayard & Holmes Nonfiction for links to your preferred bookseller.
Top Image by Solomon Rodgers from Pixabay.
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Well, I've just written two fight scenes. One was in a supermarket after hours and involved a lot thrown cans. The followup a few nights late in the dark of a parking garage involved a small crowbar.
Sounds like quite the [canned] food fight! And crowbars are always useful. Thanks for sharing your weapons ideas, Julia. 🙂
Great information and ideas. I need to brainstorm weapons one would find in a medical research laboratory to attack a bad guy from behind who has the drop on a good guy. Hmmmm?
Glad you found the article helpful.
A medical research lab could have so many things! Not only do you have many stabby tools, but you also have lab animals to turn loose. Grab the neck of a conical beaker, break off the bottom, and slash the neck. And what about chemicals to throw in their eyes or a pipette to shove into an ear or up a nostril? A laboratory can provide countless opportunities. May your muse be generous!
Very cool post, I never would have thought about cleaning products as a weapon, but it makes sense. I have a lot of cast iron, but while I wonder if I could swing one of my frying pans as a weapon, it's a good reminder that a character has to be able to realistically defend themselves, too. I'm rminded that a broom or mop could also be a useful weapon. Alternatively, the bad guy...girl? could grab it away from the MC, thereby making the stakes that much higher.
So glad you liked it. Thank you!
You make a great point about a broom or a mop handle. While there is always the possibility of the opponent grabbing it, it is still a handy weapon to jab or swing. If your character has any training in the use of a staff, they could be proficient enough to minimize the chance of having it taken from them, or they could take it back.
One jab to the genitals, no matter which gender is attacking, and they aren't going to be worried about grabbing me! While they're rolling and grabbing themselves, I'm outta there!
These creative weapons get me all inspired. Trash bags! Pork loin! You know I could do a lot with those, and stage a really funny fight.
I will look forward to reading that! 🙂
I like the spicy scene with throwing chili in faces.
One sneaky weapon could be a twist on poisoning their victim, but with an allegen. Try slipping fish sauce into a meal to induce anaphylaxis. Especially in a remote area with limited phone reception!
Thank you for this fun post for crime (and mystery/suspense) writers.
You're so welcome!
Great idea about the fish sauce. 🙂
Great post. Besides, number 8 made me remember an old short story by Roald Dahl. It was "Lamb to the Slaughter." Time to reread it.
So glad you enjoyed it. "Lamb to the Slaughter" is a classic!
As always, you guys are awesome.
Thank you! It's always a pleasure to be here.
Kitchen knives really are a go-to item, but don't forget the cutting board. They make a great shield and weapon. I'd also go for a meat fork and the sharpening steel or other long metal utensils. Not only can they be used to stab and beat someone, but when crossed in front of you, they can deflect a blow from an opponent leaving them off balance long enough to drive a well placed kick to a tender region...if you know what I mean.
Excellent observations! Thanks so much for the contribution. . . . And, indeed. I do know what you mean. 😉
For a good fake out if you have an intruder outside, or outside an interior door and you have an older self wringing mop made of wood and metal. Cocking it quickly sounds similar to that of a pump shotgun. I have heard of this working to scare off someone.
Oh my gosh. I am still laughing so hard, I don't know what to comment on first. But I guess Grandma gets the nod for being the GOAT of Grandma's. My entire kitchen is now my best weapon. Thank you for this entertaining AND enlightening post.
Sorry. My original reply ended up being a comment. 🙂
So glad you enjoyed it and found it useful. . . . She was quite a character, indeed!
I would think a full bottle of wine could knock someone out with a blow to the head, if not worse.
I remember a kid, in the neighborhood where I grew up, chasing a burglar out with a kitchen knife. He may have been a young teenager at the time, probably 13-14. It wasn't common for us to have burglaries in our neighborhood, but no one was surprised Michael could defend himself.
An excellent observation! I accidentally had a bottle of wine fall on my head once (long story), and I can confirm that it would certainly have knocked me out if someone swung it with intent.
Go, Michael! I know what you mean about no one being surprised. I grew up in the Wild West. A friend shot himself in the leg while practicing his quick draw. Everyone in the town of 62 people nodded and said, "Yep. Knew that was coming. Just glad he learned his lesson without doing worse." He was definitely old enough to know better than to practice with his revolver loaded. He had a great deal more common sense after that mishap. He was fine, by the way.