As I've been writing and researching for The Paladin, I've acquired a vast array of knowledge in so many random topics that I never thought I'd learn about. My personal interests, apparently, don't stretch out too far, and thus I'm left with only one option. I have to research.
I know, it's terrible. Some of you out there may genuinely hate research, but I'm a nerd. The topic doesn't have to be incredibly in line with my usual interests for me to lose myself in it. So, since I've been learning a lot about topics so that I can accurately represent them, I'd like to share some of my research. Today my subject is firearms.
I think one of the biggest mistakes we as writers can make is to assume that because we've seen things demonstrated in movies and television, that we understand how to write about them. Well, I hate to break it to you, but just like movies don't like to play well with physics, they don't play well the realities of firearms either.
Now, before you get riled up about Second Amendment politics, know this has NOTHING to do with that. This is about how they literally work. Regardless of your support or condemnation of firearms, they exist in our world and if you want to write about them, you need to represent them accurately or anyone with even a cursory knowledge of guns is going to know you faked it. So, here's some of the cool things I learned about writing about guns, most recently taken from Jane Friedman's Website.
To encourage you to go to Jane's website, I'm only sharing the top three things that I learned, but she has a list of 9 great things that you should know about when writing about firearms. So, let's get to it!
1. Clips Do Not Equal Magazines
I am as guilty of this as anyone. In fact, in one of my most recent editing sessions, I had to go through to correct this fact, specifically. We hear a lot of talk about clips. You fire the last of your ammo, you call out for a fresh clip, right? You're takin' down some scrub in COD and, uh oh, gotta reload with a fresh clip. Well, that's a quick way to tell your readers you've never touched a gun before.
What you probably think is a clip is actually a magazine. That's the thing that cops in police procedurals load into the bottom of the gun. Inside the magazine is a clip, and that holds the bullets together. It's a subtle, but important difference.
2. Bullet does not equal Shell...
...Or round, or cartridge. That little tip, the actual metal part that goes into the squishy target? That's the bullet. The cartridge, shell, or round is the entire firing device that's loaded into the gun. The bullet is attached to the cartridge or round. Another subtle, but important difference.
3. Pumping a shotgun or cocking the hammer of a pistol is purely dramatic
That's not to say that these actions aren't to be taken at all. But if your character is, let's say, interrogating a suspect they tackled in a dirty alley and want to know where the bomb is, pumping the shotgun or cocking the hammer just means they weren't ready to fire during whatever intense action sequence you just wrote.
Furthermore, your character may have just wasted a perfectly good round if they have been shooting! Pumping a shotgun ejects the cartridge that's inside, presumably after it's been fired and is now empty.
There are times to cock hammers and pump shotguns, but if you're not familiar with firearms, don't bother. Like me, you'll probably get it wrong.
Well, I hope those were informative to anyone writing action scenes. If there's anyone out that thinks I got something wrong, please correct me. Hit me up in the comments or on social media, because trust me, my pride is not worth me spewing fallacies. I want to write the truth!
And if you enjoyed this little Knowledge Bomb, let me know. I'm considering making this a weekly piece like Paladin Playlist. Tell me what issues you have problems writing and what you'd like to see in the future.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.