Writing about guns?

At Kill Zone Blog, a post by John Gilstrap about some of the mistakes writers make when they include guns in their fiction.

As a side note, I’ve heard that the two things that will get you the most little notes from readers are mistakes about guns and mistakes about swords. I don’t doubt it. Thinks that bother me: mistakes about horses or other animals. Do I write to authors about it when they call an animal a “mink” when they absolutely mean “least weasel?” No, because I am not a gun- or sword-nut, and thus apparently by definition less likely to point mistakes out to the author.

Notice that I may make snide comments about your zoological illiteracy for DECADES, though.

Anyway, Gilstrap says:

I watch those scenes and wonder what kind of moron searches for a bad guy without a round in the chamber, ready to fire?  Why walk into a gunfight with your gun unloaded?

Good question! It reminds me of someone saying, “Maybe next time we shouldn’t shout as we go through the door.” Something like that. Where is that from? Was that from a Vorkosigan book, maybe?

Gilstrap adds:

“But John!” someone shouts.  “Everybody knows there’s no safety on a Glock!”

Not so, I reply.  There are actually three safeties on a Glock.  They’re internal.  There’s a trigger safety, a firing pin safety and a drop safety.  You can throw a chambered Glock against a concrete floor as hard as you want, and it won’t go off accidentally.  Yet, if you pull the trigger intentionally, it will fire every time.  And that’s the point.  When someone is about to kill you, you don’t want a lot of intermediate manipulations to get in the way of returning the favor.

Interesting! I didn’t know that, because even if I have read about Glocks before, that kind of trivia does not stick with me, unlike trivia about, say, nine-banded armadillos always having identical quadruplets and things like that.

If you are interested, here is a post about guns from Terrible Minds.  

This is the kind of post I would look for if I was putting enough gun details into a story that I was worried about getting those details right.

Here’s a post about swords and other fantasy weapons.

And, you know, if you ever want to include the right kind of dog in your fantasy novel, with the right characteristics for the breed, drop me a line. I will be happy to tell you about the characteristics of the Tibetan mastiff or the Finnish spitz.

One (two) writers who get their dogs right: Ilona Andrews. Nice job, guys, keep it up!

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4 thoughts on “Writing about guns?”

  1. Speaking of Ilona Andrews, did you read Magic Triumphs yet? It just came out, and it’s definitely good that you read the Hugh book first.

  2. The thing about stuff is that all sorts of readers have their strong points, and they have you outnumbered.

    We once tore apart a book at a family gathering: my father objected to the way the military operations never ran out of ammo or even worried about; my older sister, to the way that the local women took to the blue jeans like ducks to water, instead of thinking them too shockingly immodest for prostitutes; my younger sister and I, to the ease of converting everyone to religious tolerance and democracy in a setting where absolute monarchs are conducting religious wars.

  3. Thanks, Lise, I thought that was from somewhere in the Vorkosigan books!

    SarahZ, damn it, I do not want to stop my current writing, which is going great, to read Magic Triumphs. But I really want to read it! Aargh, dilemma!

    Mary, yes, I concluded long ago that if you get the right group of friends together, you can make it clear that every single detail in a movie (or a book) is problematic. Get a geologist to chime in and you would surely hear complaints like, “There would never be a lake there!” as well as being able to point out problems with horses, other animals, guns, ammo, military tactics, sociological details . . . everything. That particular book does sound like it might have been especially easy to tear apart.

    I read one of Anne McCaffery’s Ship books once, in which this sequence took place:

    Good guys arrive on planet and find that bad guys have enslaved the entire population –> The means the bad guys are using to enforce their power is going to destroy the planet (or have some sort of dire bad effects, I don’t remember for sure) –> The good guys explain this to the most powerful bad guy –> he says, Oh, gosh, I guess we must reform our evil system and give up our power. Poof, everything is now heading for a nice ending.

    I believe that bad-guy response was the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen in fiction. You reminded me of it with your “converting everyone to religious tolerance and democracy” comment.

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