The plot thickens…

After my last post about Supreme Court nominee, Kevin James, astute readers pointed out that the picture was actually of Elena Kagan, and in fact, not of Mr. James. Apparently neither one of them has ever actually been a judge.

But look at this picture! Photographic evidence that Kevin James, is in fact, Mrs. Kagan!  I believe that this is all an elaborate stunt to promote a new family comedy called Here Comes The Judge. Monster Hunter Nation was able to get an early version of the script (mostly because I’m actively stalking the crew of Will Smith’s sadly misnamed “monster hunters” movie). In the script Mr. James plays an ice cream man, who through a series of hillarious coincidences, is accidentaly placed on the US Supreme Court.  Mr. James, because he is just such a nice guy, will teach all the other crusty old justices to love again and to have more compassion, through a series of adventures involving a cartoon moose trying to save a shelter for abandoned puppies. At the end of the movie, this will all be shown to be a big misunderstanding, and everyone will learn a heartwarming lesson for the whole family and Kevin James’ character will marry his high school sweetheart.

Ask Correia 3: Sci-Fi Weapons

Looks like we’ve started a tradition. In the last On Writing post I was asked this:

A New Writing Question:

Hi Larry. Here is a new writing question. What would be the best approach for writing about futuristic weapons (say 200-300 years in the future)? How does one figure out what those weapons would look like, act like, sound like, etc.? I look at authors like David Weber and can only shake my head at how they figure out weapon calibers, etc.

Are there certain limitations and factors to consider that would hold no matter when a weapon is designed?

Let’s limit it to “average” army weapons (e.g. pistols, assualt rifles, sniper rifles etc.).

Thanks,

Scott

That’s an awesome question, but I’m no expert. I’m not really a sci-fi writer (yet), but I do know a bunch about guns. And as the philosopher Ron Perlman warns us in Fallout, “and war never changes.”  (because war has always consisted of hitting giant radioactive scorpions with sledgehammers), regardless of tech, some small arm’s features are universal.

There were already some very smart responses in the comments.  From Tim P:

The last 200-300 years have seen major changes to firearms, it would be very hard to work out what the next 200-300 years will hold. It’s possible we’ll just have fancier versions of what’s used Today, or we might have entirely switched to something completely new. Probably the most important part is to make sure the ergonomics of the weapon make sense. Some of the Star Trek phasers (I think NG) are examples of doing this wrong. They where shaped in such a way that it would have been almost impossible to point them with any precision. Obviously more relevant to TV and movies that books though, but it still applies if you’re going to describe the usage of the weapon in detail.

I totally agree on the phasers.  Really, space marines will never go into combat with dust busters. I don’t care if your pistol can be set with power levels from tickle to disintegrate to hand grenade (as the plot requires), you still need to aim the damn things. And since I didn’t see any sort of targeting system built into their comfy looking space-jammies, I’m guessing they did a lot of point shooting instruction at Star Fleet Academy.

There are a few universals. You need to aim it somehow. Hitting stuff is helpful. Ergonomics are nice too. I love sci-fi where guns in the future will have no stocks but are really large.  If the show is really forward thinking, they’ll put lots of glowing lights on the weapon, because A. it looks cool. and B. you never have to wait for the enemy to spot you.

Another potential fault would be to make the limitations of your sci-fi super weapon such that modern weapons would be better. Sure your super-laser will vaporise people with a single shot, but it’s super fragile, only has one shot before it needs to sit for five minutes to recharge, and costs a fortune; why not just give your soldiers AK-47s? Obviously this is a hard mistake to make, but I have seen it occasionally

Once again, Tim nails it. I remember one series I read as a kid where they were using small arms (some sort of plasma weapon, if I recall correctly) but the barrels would get super hot and melt, and needed to be ejected and replaced every few shots… Okay, I don’t care if your pistol makes the other dude explode, if he’s got a couple of friends with rocks, you’re screwed. That is not a step up.  Realistically, if there was  a weapon system like that, and it was super powerful and line of sight capable of smoking a tank, then you would run one in a squad, with several other guys shooting guns that didn’t need significant parts replaced every few seconds.

You all may know him as the opening quote guy from Monster Hunter International, but Dillis Freeman is also a smart gun guy and writer. He also gave some great advice:

Beyond physics and the tradeoffs inherent in any man portable system, there are two questions I’ve found helpful when “designing” weapons: 1) what is the purpose of the weapon and 2) what kind of society/character designed it? In some circumstances, they are related. Is the society one where function, cost and simplicity the main goal? In that case, you might end up with something like an AK: cheap, shoddy to some, yet very reliable. The weapon’s purpose is to be sufficiently cheap to arm mass numbers, yet effective enough that it will do its job. Is the society one where harming another “excessively” or “unnecessarily” frowned upon? You could have a 22nd Century Hague convention which limited the nature of ammuniton. Or perhaps all weapons will require safety interlocks to insure only certain people could use them. Such a society would also lean heavily towards less than lethal weapons (which shows how purpose and societal background are related).

You see that now in the modern world. Many nations are currently trying to develop alternative “less-lethal” methods of fighting. The main reason being societal, because you know, killing your enemies is messy and gets on the news. I’ve seen glue sprayers, all manner of OC, sound wave thingies, paralysis agents, or even really bad music at loud volumes. Meanwhile non-cuddly countries are trying to figure out how to modernize AKs or plastic AR-18s with air bursting grenades.

As with everything, research is key. The one thing you don’t want to do is to violate physics and common sense without very good reason. Anything projectile launcher will have recoil commensurate with the physics involved unless it’s a self-propelled round or has some handwavium going on (nothing like reading about recoilless rail guns or small arms throwing objects at relativistic speeds without ill effect on the shooter to reveal that the author either misunderstood what was happening or left out a step like “inertial dampening” when describing the scene. If the rest of the technology doesn’t reflect that such things exist, then the former answer is more likely than the latter).

Way over my little accountant brain. (but I learned my accounting on the street!).  Just remember, the mack-daddy of all sci-fi said There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Energy isn’t free, recoil sucks, and somebody has to carry the damn thing.

In all honesty, it’s important to remember that the more things change, the more they remain the same. As others have stated, we’ve reached a certain pinnacle of small arms. Most development now is evolutionary rather revolutionary, and the really revolutionary stuff (i.e. directed energy weapons) has some significant drawbacks. If Han Solo hadn’t had a very compact power source and highly effective energy projection and heat dispersal capabilities, along with some mechanism for handling considerable recoil (even energy weaons will display recoil), then he would have been carrying something a lot closer to a Glock than a blaster.

Star Wars is the ultimate example of Rule of Cool. None of the technology in Star Wars makes a lick of sense, but we love it anyway, because it is awesome. Hell, the ultimate force in the universe is a space monk with a lightning sword who fights dudes wearing bulky armor that doesn’t actually do anything, shooting guns from the hip that fire beams of energy at sixty miles an hour. That’s a neat trick, blocking blaster shots.  But if you were trying to write something realistic, let me introduce you to the FN M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, Mr. Jedi. BRRRRAAAAAPPPPP.

Ultimately, though, it’s your story. It can be interesting to start with what you want your character to have (a Smith & Glock 2.5mm coil gun firing lexan slugs with dial a yield anti-matter cores) and then say “why is this guy carrying that weapon and what kind of society and tech will support it”? By the way, here is an excellent site that goes into some of the issues surrounding sci fi weapons. http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/rocket3l.html

Dillis gives some excellent advice there. Remember when I talked about regular guns, the characters are still more important.  Though everyone knows the S&G 2.5mm is inferior to the 3mm CorreiaTech Combat Wombat.

Right now we’re using projectile weapons because they work and we haven’t found anything better. At different points in time, something new and exciting has come along,  like flechettes in the ‘70s, or caseless ammo in the ‘80s, but those inventions had drawbacks so they didn’t replace our regular projectiles.  Once something new comes along that works better, and is affordable, then we’ll switch. If you can figure out what that is and you’ve got the engineering degree to make it happen, you’ll make a lot more money selling the design to ATK than you will writing novels.

One thing that I’ve talked with length about with Nightcrawler (because he’s really way more of a sci-fi guy than I am) is the effects of armor. Armor tech for individual soldiers is advancing at a much faster pace than small arms. Really, if you were armed with WW2 small arms, you’re not lagging that far behind. (I’d even go so far to say that our modern primary advantage over a group of 1945 GIs would be Aimpoints). Heck, today we’re battling enemies using a gun from 1947 with our design from 1963, and they’re hanging in there okay. But look at the difference armor has made. Materials science has come a long way in recent years, and we’re now routinely surviving hits that would have killed our ancestors.

I expect this to continue. I think armor will get better, faster, than the small arms for the near future. There is some stuff out there right now that people are working on that will blow your minds.  So when we get to the point that it gets too difficult to drop somebody wearing head to toe, mechanically augmented, squishy, light weight, nearly magical armor, then we’re going to see some changes to small arms.  Nightcrawler’s personal feeling is that means bigger, deeper penetrating bullets, which would be an ironic reversal of firearm’s evolution over the last century.

So I suppose if I were writing sci-fi, and I wanted to invent a weapon to go along with my world, I’d just make sure it fit.  It needs to be manageable. Now if your characters are genetic mutants or wearing power armor, make it huge and stick a chainsaw on it. But if they’re still human, it needs to be manageable by a human. It isn’t going to be big, unwieldy, and stupid looking.

Shit, never mind.

I do know one thing. If you set a book a couple hundred years in the future, even if it takes place on another planet, and you gave somebody a Kalashnikov, I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Your humble scribe shooting stuff

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSXb809jVSs  From last weekend’s pistol class. For a 300 pounder, that’s as close as I’ll ever get to ballet. Only mine is a ballet of BULLETS.  Or Danger! Or something. I don’t know.  Okay, I’m not graceful, but most ballet dancers won’t shoot you 42 times either. (and out of 275 rounds, I only missed a handful of shots all day, so at least my accuracy was good).

Looking at that video though, I’ve really gotten rusty over the last year. Lack of practice has made me slow and clumsy.  And it is a mark of shame for an experienced shooter to have to look at his holster to put his gun away, but in my defense, all my good range equipment was accidently buried in storage for the move, so I was using a nylon POS Uncle Mike’s. Making it through the day with that floppy hunk of junk without shooting myself in the left = WIN.

Go forth and purchase the awsome that is CITIZENS!

http://www.amazon.com/Citizens-John-Ringo/dp/1439133476

Citizens is a new sci-fi anthology just out from Baen.  Do you ever read Mil SF and say to yourself, this author has obviously never been in the military? Yeah, bugs me too.  I’m a cake eating civillian but I’ve spent enough time in the world of guns & military contracting that somebody pontificating about a life that they obviously don’t understand gets really annoying. That won’t be an issue here. Each story is military SF, and every author is a veteran.

I’m plugging the heck out of this anthology because some of the authors are friends of mine, and they’re a talented bunch.  Here is the list of stories that I stole from a review on Amazon.

- Field Test (Analog, 1976) by Keith Laumer relates the first use of a Bolo Mark XX Model B.

- Allamagoosa (Astounding, 1955) by Eric Frank Russell tells of the trials of a navy ship returning after a long voyage to find that the Inspector General will soon be visiting them.

- Exploration Team (Astounding, 1956) Murray Leinster concerns an illegal colony on a planet that receives an unexpected visit from a Colonial Survey officer.

- Superiority (F&SF, 1951) by Arthur C. Clarke considers the risks of new technology. This seems to be a recurring theme in military and naval SF.

- The Horars of War (Nova 1, 1970) by Gene Wolfe illustrates the comradery of war.

- Fireproof (Astounding, 1949) by Hal Clement shows the strange effects of a weightless environment.

- Peace with Honor (Analog, 1971) by Jerry Pournelle relates an incident in the history of the CoDominium.

- Under the Hammer (Galaxy, 1974) by David Drake presents an untrained recruit with a situation.

- Time Piece (If, 1970) by Joe W. Haldeman talks of Heaven and Hells in the Forever War.

- Neither Sleet, Nor Snow, Nor Alien Invasion… (first publication) by Dave Freer reveals the power of Political Incorrectness.

- Light (first publication) by Kacey Grannis recounts a mysterious intervention within Iraq.

- The Question (first publication) by Patrick A. Vanner gives the response to an innocent question.

- The Price (first publication) by Michael Z. Williamson examines the thoughts of a small group of dedicated warriors.

- Earth’s First Improved Chimp Gets a Job as a Janitor (Cosmic Tales, 2004) by John Ringo introduces a genetically modified human to another — but older — genetic mod.

- The Long Watch (American Legion, 1949) by Robert A. Heinlein presents a serviceman with a conflict of loyalties.

Here are some samples and the intro by John Ringo. http://www.webscription.net/chapters/1439133476/1439133476.htm

Thanks, Rainy Day Ninja – MHI TV tropes is up

After the Wikipedia hullabaloo, reader Rainy Day Ninja started an MHI TV Tropes page.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MonsterHunterInternational

He requested help from anybody else who wanted to link or fill it in. I’m all in favor of anything that gets me more readers. Yay!  Thanks, Rainy Day Ninja, and I apologize for killing so many of your ninja bretheren during the events of Hard Magic.

Amazing custom action figures – I want some

Dan Wells posted these to Facebook today. This guy makes custom action figures as a hobby.

http://www.sillof.com/C-CUSTOMS-Main.htm

I’m amazed. I want MHI custom action figures made. Then I need Grimnoir and Dead Six too.  Ryk Spoor, another Baen author, saw this, and right away started thinking of which characters of his he’d have done.  I don’t know if this guy realizes it, but he could probably make a really good living just off of authors. 

I wonder what he charges?  I grew up with GI Joe, having a complete Team Harbinger, would be like being eight years old again, only more awesome, and probably a whole lot more expensive.

News Flash – Obama Supreme Court Nominee

I didn’t know Kevin James was a judge!  I’m very excited for him. He was great in Hitch, and who could forget his performance as Paul Blart, Mall Cop? 

Note, I didn’t read the article. I just copied the picture.  Congrats, Kevin!

Crusader pistol class

I took another pistol class last Saturday. It was taught by a friend of mine, George Hill, the Ogre of www.madogre.com.  George has teamed up with Crusader Weaponry to teach carbine, shotgun, and pistol out at the Buckskin Hills range in Vernal.  This was his basic class, but I never turn down any opportunity to take any shooting class, ever. Even the worst class I’ve ever taken I’ve still managed to learn something, even if it was, “I will never do THAT!”  Luckily, since George is an awesome instructor, it was totally worth the refresher.

My buddy/D6 co-author Nightcrawler had just gotten back from EOD school, and hadn’t hardly shot for a year. I’m rusty as heck, and the last time I’ve actually managed to touch off a round was about six months ago. (Yes, I know, I suck—but in my defense, deadlines and moving!) Hopefully, we figured we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves too badly.  To help not look like a completely ineffectual dork, I decided to take my STI Cheater Heater, i.e. the gun that makes me look like I’m better than I actually am.  This was a surprisingly easy decision, since because of the move, I’ve only kept out three handguns, one is a teensy-tiny Kahr MK9, the other is a poly Kimber 1911 but somehow I managed to pack all my spare mags for it in the wrong box, that is buried somewhere in storage.

Then, I discovered that somebody who helped me move had very helpfully put the box that held most of my holsters and gear into the wrong truck, so all my good stuff for the STI was stashed somewhere in the storage unit. (yes, building a house is a pain).  Because the STI 4.15 Tactical is an odd gun, you can’t just pick up good kydex at Sportsman’s.  I tried to get a good range holster shipped in, and managed to get one on the way (thanks, Rabbit) but it didn’t arrive in time, so I ended up sticking my $1,500 gun into a floppy, crappy, $20 Uncle Mike’s Nylon POS pancake.   Bleh. Good holsters spoil you.

On Saturday, at the absurd hour of 4:30 in the AM, Nightcrawler and I set out on the four hour drive to Vernal.  The Uintah Basin is a pretty area, and would probably do just fine if society collapsed, provided they even noticed.  I made one last ditch stop at George’s store Basin Sports in Vernal to see if they had something better than the Uncle Mike’s for my STI, but no luck. Though it was pretty awesome for my ego when I opened my pistol case and the guy at the counter saw my MHI grips and said “Holy crap! Are you Larry Correia!?” Normally, when I get that reaction it is because A. I somehow owe them money. Or B. They want me to autograph a book.  Luckily this was B.

We hit the range and class started at 9:00. The Buckskin Hill’s range is nice and has a great view. I don’t think I’d seen George in person since 2008. We got rolling, and had a great time. It took me a few mags to get warmed up, but after I got switched on, I shot surprisingly well.

Nightcrawler did extremely well. He’s an odd duck, in that he’s a young guy who shoots a revolver, and to be even weirder, he does it left handed.  This was about a 250 round class, so as you can imagine, he really had to work those speed loaders.  With me shooting my half-a-box of 9mm per mag STI, he had to reload 3 or 4 times for every one of mine. But the scary thing is, that even with all that reloading, Mike keeps up.  The two of us were the most experienced shooters amongst the students,  so it was a good thing that we actually represented, because George really talked us up to the others before we got started.  Nightcrawler also surprised everyone at one point by running his .357 dry with two targets left on a drill, but smoothly drawing his .38 snubby backup from his pocket to give each a controlled pair. He also managed to do it on video, so Mike wins the internets. 

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1515183747#!/video/video.php?v=1260140233023&ref=mf

Dave Sohm and his father showed up to do some videotaping for George.  Dave was one of my old students, and it was really good to see that he’s still shooting really well.  Plus, I’m glad he brought his dad, because as they were being introduced, he stopped, and said, “Wow. You’re Larry Correia? THE Larry Correia?”  And I didn’t owe him money, either!  This novelist thing is pretty sweet.

I felt rusty, and my movements weren’t nearly as efficient as they should be. I’ve been neglecting my practice for too long, and have been too busy to shoot any 3gun, IPSC, or IDPA, and it showed, but I do have to admit that I’m pretty pleased with how I did overall.  I brought close to 300 rounds, fired all of them, but only missed about ten shots (and I remember Every. Single. One.)  My personal belief is that when I’m shooting a 9mm, I try to shoot twice as much as everybody else, that way they can’t give me any crap about shooting a wimpy cartridge. And I so love my STI. It really does shoot like a .22.  So my goal when I shoot a 9mm is to make that thing sound like a full auto.  For example, here Mike and I engage a target while retreating. I think I fired ten rounds on that one, all COM hits.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1515183747#!/video/video.php?v=1260166553681&ref=mf

George’s class was great.  The refresher was good, and it was even better to see the new folks soaking up information. He really is a personable teacher, and has a good set of instruction.  If you are looking for some firearms instruction in the Utah area, I totally recommend giving the Mad Ogre a call. Plus, he’s running for the Utah state legislature. This is the kind of guy who needs our support. I have no doubt George would kick ass in the legislature.

Random updates

I’m taking a pistol class tomorrow. I’ve not been shooting in like, forever. That’s what happens when you’re building a house and have deadlines.  Of course, I discovered that most of my gear is somewhere at the bottom of a giant pile of crap in a storage unit.  I bought a new pair of electronic ears and (fingers-crossed) I’ve got a BladeTech holster arriving today. (because Rabbit is the Man).  It is kind of ironic for the guy who used to own a gunstore to come to a class with cobbled together crap for equipment.

On that note, don’t worry. I still have my emergency zombie response kit. Nobody tried to pack it, but that’s probably because a 3X armored vest with ballistic plates and 300 rounds of 5.56 TAP in the pouches is too heavy for most people to get into a cardboard box.

I was watching the news at lunch. Apparently somebody left a cooler out in Times Square, so there was a bomb scare and every channel was tuned in for the breaking coverage… of a cooler. Sitting there.  It wasn’t even a very big cooler.  The news anchors (who are all from New York) were going on about just exactly where this cooler was in relation to the Marriot or the Best Western, or whatever the hell other useless geography factoid 99% of the country doesn’t care about. This is just further proof that the news thinks everything revolves around New York.  Meanwhile, Nashville is completely flooded, thousands of homes are destroyed, and people have died.  Zip. No coverage at all.  Ironic that.

Last week a moron made a really crappy bomb and left it in Times Square.  Luckily the bomb was a total piece of crap and failed to do anything interesting. I built better bombs than that when I was fourteen.  So once again, our Random Dutchmen defense pays off for Janet Napolitano.  As long as we are only attacked by really dumb terrorists, this strategy should continue to pay off.

Some media wizard was dissapointed when the idiot bomber turned out to be a Pakistani. Apparently they had really been hoping that it had been a “tea-bagger.”  That says a lot about the current state of affairs in our media.

On that note, tea-bagger has become a really popular term, even being used by Obama himself, which just shows what a classy guy he is.  Whatever, keep on using the term.  We don’t really mind. In fact, since you guys can’t actually win any arguments or point out where the Tea Partiers are wrong, just run with the name calling… And don’t forget to always add that we’re racist. Racism is like the cherry on top.

My wife found a new type of candy at a store the other day. Apparently they are religious themed chocolate mints called, and I’m not making this up, “TestaMints”.  This immediately caused us to start coming up with some advertising slogans. My favorites were “Baptize your mouth with Flavor! TestaMints!”  and “Call bad breath to repentance! With TestaMints!”  And despite this blog comment, I bet not a single fundamentalist baptist will threaten to saw my head off.  They’re cool like that.  

The house is coming along. We’ve now got basement walls, main line plumbing, and they’ve backfilled and put in the window wells. No floor yet. I think the county needs to approve the plumbing before they cover it up.  I’m dying to have a house again.

In writing news, with Nightcrawler back from EOD school, we can now put the finishing touches on Dead Six. I think you guys are going to really like this one.

Ask Correia 2– Writing gun stuff

This was posted to the comments last time.

Here is a new writing question for you. What is the best way for a writer to include guns in his/her novel convincingly if he/she has little experience with them? I have ideas for novels involving a lot of firepower, but having lived in mostly gun-unfriendly states (NJ, MA) I don’t have enough experience (ok virtually none) to be able to write about them in a realistic manner. Thanks. – Scott

That’s a great question, and one that I am actually qualified to help with.  For those of you just joining us,  before I was a professional writer, I was a merchant of death (sometimes called a gun dealer in areas outside of Jersey) and a crazy-militia-extremist-terrorist training camp leader (usually known as a Firearms Instructor in places other than Massachusetts).

Guns are great in fiction. If you write anything even vaguely contemporary, and there is an element of danger in it, then there will probably be guns.  Thrillers need guns. Horror is much better with guns. I’m a huge fan of guns in fantasy. Sensitive Oprah book club selections… they definitely need more guns.  

So how do you write good gun stuff?

Guns & Character

You thought I was going to start with technical esoteric factoids, didn’t you?  (pistols have magazines, not clips, there).  Nope. Well written characters are the basis for having good gun stuff in your fiction.

Keep in mind the background of your PoV character. Guns are an everyday part of life for a giant chunk of America.  To us, they are not some weird, scary, mystical item, they’re another cool tool, like a cordless drill, or the George Foreman Grill.  I hate Hate HATE when I read a thriller, where the hero (usually a former Navy SEAL/Ranger/Commando/CIA Ninja) will have some bizarre disdain for firearms, usually from the author’s own personal bias creeping in.  That does not fit the character at all. People who make their living with guns won’t have a psychological dislike for their guns anymore than a NASCAR driver will have a pathological distaste for driving.  Remember the idiotic Lethal Weapon (3? 4?) movie where the director suddenly got on an anti-gun kick, and all of a sudden Mel Gibson’s vet/ninja/assassin/super-cop character, who’s shot 4,000 people with a Beretta in the previous movies, got all sorts of snooty and disdainful about the evil scourge of guns on the street?   Hell, Lethal Weapon 1 was the reason most of us bought Berettas to begin with back then.

If your PoV character falls into the “gun culture” then he will respect his weapons and probably enjoy them.  Now, not all characters with guns need to be a member of the gun culture though.  If the person is an excellent shot under stress (like all thriller heroes) then odds are they are in the gun culture. Cops carry guns, but most of them are relatively clueless about them, and only carry one because it is a job requirement.  If your PoV character falls into that category, then don’t expect them to have buckets of knowledge (and also don’t expect them to shoot very well either). 

Shooting is a skill. Any moron can pick up a gun and shoot it, but it actually takes practice to become good with one.  The insane level of skill demonstrated by most fictional protagonists would only come from somebody who actually enjoys shooting enough to go out and do it on their own time.  Keep that in mind for your characters. Combative shooting is a martial art.  For the love of St. Browning, don’t do that horrible Kung Fu Panda crap where you can defeat somebody who’s trained their entire life because you “believe in yourself”. 

Is your character somebody who is new to guns, but got one because of the events of your plot?  Maybe they will be awkward. They won’t know the details. They will use the wrong terminology. They will probably be clumsy and slow.  Maybe they grew up on a farm and have to think back to the marksmanship lessons their grandfather gave them.  Maybe they are a clueless lefty suburbanite who has to get out of their comfort zone and associate with an evil right-wing death monger instructor (hey, I know that guy) in order to actually learn to defend themselves from the zombies.  They may have psychological hang ups.  How should I know, it’s your character. Make them interesting.

Now as a gun nut, who has had success writing about the adventures of a gun nut, my character will be the kind of person who will spout off all sorts of interesting factoids and jargon. (don’t overdue it, Yes, I am guilty, but I’ll get to that).  If your character is not a gun nut, then they probably won’t pontificate on muzzle velocity and bullet drop of their rifle.  It’ll more likely be “This thing is heavy” or “Oww! My ears!” Stay faithful to your character.

Riot Nerd Weapon Speak

One of my first proof readers, John Shirley (also a gun nut), used the term “Riot Nerd Weapon Speak” to describe my needless info dumps that would cause most reader’s eyes to glaze over.  (believe it or not, the version of MHI you read was actually cleaned up quite a bit) So don’t make it boring.  That’s a fine line for some of us, because trust me, I could easily write six paragraphs describing how awesome a particular weapon is, but 92% of my readers will skim it.  Elmore Leonard (I think it was him, but I paid no attention in English) once said “don’t write the parts people are going to skip.”

Now, if you are posting fiction on the excellent creative writing section over on www.wethearmed.com or you got started like me posting an online serial at www.thehighroad.org then you can write for your audience, and put in every juicy gun detail you feel like. Just be aware that outside of the gun culture, some people are going to fall asleep.  This makes actually getting published kind of difficult.

Avoid info dumps whenever possible, unless you are Tom Clancy, and that’s what you’re getting paid for.  You don’t need to do a complete inventory of a character’s equipment before they enter the fight scene. This is not a role playing game.  And yes, I’ve violated this one, too. So if you’re going to do it, at least try to make it interesting.  Give the equipment information in little bits, interspaced with the rest of the story.  Don’t just hammer the reader over the head with a giant equipment list…

…Unless it is really awesome.  I’m not one of those people who gets hung up on “rules of writing”. That is crap for college professors and people on the internet who’ve never actually written anything.  If it is awesome, and your readers like it, write it.  I info-dumped the hell out of one gun in MHI, but Abomination is borderline a character. (and strangely enough, a really popular one). 

Details

Now this is the part that may require a bit of research. Some writers love research, some of us hate it.  I fall into the love it camp.  I read a four foot stack of history books before I wrote Grimnoir, and I probably still screwed stuff up. If guns are going to be an integral part of your story, then you may have to do some research.  The two webpages I linked to above are filled with great discussion and is mostly technically correct. (remember, advice on the internet is worth what you paid for it). 

Terminology needs to be as correct as possible, but keep in mind the character.  If the character is a hard core shooter, then they will never refer to a pistol’s magazine as a clip. They are magazines.  If they’re Sally Soccermom who just picked up a gun off a partially devoured cop and is fighting off hordes of suddenly (and mysteriously) ravenous squirrels, then she may very well need another “clip” . 

But that’s perception. Now let’s get to reality, and the things that regardless of character, fiction usually manages to get wrong.  Bullet impacts do not lift people up and throw them.  Any weapon that had enough energy to hurl the target backwards, would have so much recoil that it would launch the shooter in the opposite direction. When you shoot somebody with a pistol, you poke a hole in them. That’s it. They will not fly backwards through the air, through a window, do a flip, and catch on fire. (despite how awesome Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis was…)

Rifles and shotguns do more damage than handguns.  Anybody who has a clue, if given the option in a gun fight, will take a long gun or a handgun.  Anything with a stock is easier to aim than something without.  Cop shows where the cop shows he means serious business by opening up a case and strapping on ten different handguns… Crap.  Realistically, the case would open and there would be a rifle inside of it.

Most of the things people hide behind in movies will not stop a properly motivated bullet. Car door. Nope. Sheet rock. Nope.  That said, every little bit helps, but bullets penetrate. That’s what they’re supposed to do.

There are more than one kind of “bulletproof” vests.  The kinds that can be hidden under a shirt will only stop pistol rounds.  The kind capable of stopping rifle bullets have big ceramic plates in them and are very bulky.  Despite what you see on TV, there is no such thing as a cop-killer bullet.  Spraying your bullets with Teflon will not suddenly make them go through vests, but Teflon will make it so that your scrambled eggs do not stick to the pan as much.

Shotguns do not throw a boulder of death so big that you don’t need to aim. A shotgun still needs to be aimed.  Pattern size varies depending on a lot of factors, but across the largest room of your house, a buckshot pattern is probably only the size of a softball, unless you have a really big house, then it might be the size of a basketball. 

Despite all the cop shows that indicate otherwise, most states do not have any sort of gun registration.  This week on Crime Scene Undercover Special Prosecutors Unit. “The victim was shot with this bullet.” “Don’t worry, our giant super computer says that bullet was registered to Drake Del Fuego.” Dum DUM DUH!!!!!   Also, that whole thing with matching the fired bullets up to some giant database… It doesn’t work the vast majority of the time either.  But all the stuff that CSI gets wrong would fill a really big book, like frozen meat bullets… That’s just idiotic. Don’t get me started.

Most professionals keep a round in the chamber of their weapon while they are carrying it. Only in the movies does the hero pause to dramatically rack the slide of his pistol before heading into to the climactic battle scene.  “Wow! He means business now!” 

Some guns have manual safeties. Some do not. The vast majority of revolvers don’t. 

 Techniques for the Advanced Writer

Shoot guns.  I know that is kind of crazy, but if you’re going to write about them, you may want to actually try them. You might actually find that they are fun.  Plus, no matter how much somebody tells you about doing something, nothing will hit home like doing it yourself.  I promise that your scenes will be more realistic and visceral once you’ve actually done it yourself.

Techniques for the Super Advanced Best Selling Writer with a closet full of awards

Once you become an actual gun nut, you’ll find that you’ll be able to just look at a gun, and that gun will just want to tell you the story of the fascinating character that used it.  Rusty Winchester 30-30 with the stock held on by black electrical tape… The old man that used that gun has seen some things.   I see an old .38 Super Colt, and I think of a tough P.I.  chasing down leads in a seedy back alley. I see a beat up Inglis High-Power, and there’s an African mercenary who crossed a diamond exchange.  This only works with guns that have character of course.  Sorry, but when I see an HK Mk.23, I see some guy who drives a Hummer, who spends too much time on the internet, and has more money than sense.  And when I see a Desert Eagle, I see somebody who has played way too many videogames (probably calls it a Deagle), and if it is gold plated, I can’t see anything through the tears of sadness.   See?  The gun culture people got that, everybody else skimmed it.

Picking a particular gun for a character

In Hard Magic, (I’ll stick with the free sample chapters, because most of you have read those I’m guessing) I’ve got one character who buys her first gun.  She isn’t an expert. She knows zip about terminology. Her experience is using her Grandpa’s shotgun on crows around the farm. She buys a crappy little Iver Johnson .32 revolver because it will fit in her pocket, and it and a box of 50 cartridges is only ten whole dollars!  Her experience is limited, but she’s a very practical country girl, so she goes behind the store and shoots two cylinders worth of ammo at a stump to make sure it works. Faye is proud that she hit the stump. Mostly.

Then I’ve got another character who is a veteran and gunman. This guy is tough, practical, no BS, and has made his living by his ability to kick ass.  He’s not flashy, but he does appreciate, care for, and respect his hardware. Sullivan would be dangerous with any gun you put in his hands.  At one point his Colt 1911 is broken. He is bothered because the 1911 was expensive, and he is inherently cheap, but he immediately starts carrying a .38 Smith because it was available.  He’s not the emotional type.  The man loses a Lewis gun and doesn’t freak out. I’d still be depressed.

The kind of gun a character shows up with can tell you about them. From Dirty Harry’s  .44 Mag model 29, to James Bond’s PPK,  a signature weapon can say a lot about a character’s nature.

When I was last on tour with John Brown, he had just finished a thriller where the main character was an assassin who carried a Glock. John is not a gunnie, and he asked if that was appropriate, since the Glock is kind of the plain vanilla of the gun world.  In this case, you’ve got a guy who is all business, who is going to whack somebody, and then maybe have to ditch the weapon, and then go with another one that is exactly the same later. That actually sounds like a perfect character match to me.

The proper gun can flesh out a character.

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