1. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Getting the hardware right.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The Tourist, Feb 16, 2013.

    One of the continuing problems I find in literature (and songs, TV shows and movies) is getting the nomenclature correct. And it's a big problem that doesn't seem to be getting any better. In fact it's chronic.

    For example, the creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming, was familiar with spying and knew some people actually involved in that trade. The irony is that he knew absolutely nothing about firearms. In his first stories, James Bond carried a Beretta .25 ACP, technically a pistol for a lady's purse. He upgraded Bond's firearm to the Walther, claiming it hit like a brick through a plate glass window. In truth, Bond would be better off with the brick. I carry pistols in the .32 and .380 family because they're easy to carry 24/7.

    So how do guys with a flare for writing pick good stuff? Trust me, video games are not a reliable source for information. I've never seen an AR-based rifle with a 203 attachment, and frankly, soldiers seldom do, either. In fact, it's old technology now.

    So, let me offer a solid example of making a good choice. Let's suppose you have a character in your book who must walk around in the seamier sides of life. No matter what his previous life (soldier, cop, unspoken) he has to carry often, he needs something that provides one-shot stops, he needs to purchase premium ammo or reliable handloads, and like most violent encounters, most happen after dark. Here's the firearm I picked for myself--the Smith & Wesson 360PD.

    (BTW, you'll laugh at how handloads are made. I start by going to an automotive shop that changes a lot of tires...)

    First off, this revolver is very light, sometimes too light with hard-kicking .357 magnum rounds. Yes, it's a magnum, but that caliber also fires .38 SPL rounds giving the owner great flexibility. The firearm is built from titanium and scandium, and while very strong it feels like a child's cap gun the first time you pick it up.

    It's built from Smith's tried and true J-frame, their smallest platform, but that's more than fifty years of yeoman service. Parts are everywhere and common. Speed loaders can be found at any hardware or sporting goods store.

    The 360PD has a neoprene boot grip to soften recoil. Since low light is often a problem in attacks, Smith has outfitted the revolver with their "Hi-Viz" front sight that gathers ambient light, and appears like a red dot to the shooter, but does not imprint a laser mark on the attacker.

    Over the last few months this revolver has been my constant companion when I wear a jacket. An Uncle Mike's #4 pocket holster/sleeve works in my biker pouch, or any deeper jacket pocket. And the smaller size allows me to carry 21 rounds of ammunition, two of those rounds are Speer 125 grain .357 Magnum Gold-Dot hollowpoints that I reserves for serious attacks--like those from a pit bull.

    (For size comparison, see the two longer cartridges in the lower picture. That rubber strip is called a 'speed strip,' and it allows the shooter to strip off one cartridge at a time to replace individual spent rounds without dumping out the entire cylinder. Insert the desired round, and yank off the strip.)

    I trust my life to this firearm. My point is that I assessed my defensive needs and chose a proper firearm. I think the characters in our stories should get the same privilege. Like any other important aspect of writing, this facet does require research. But even if you knew nothhing about revolvers, you could do a quick google of the 360PD.

    BTW, Smith & Wesson has a tremendous homepage. Lots of pictures, some with 360 views of their firearms. Use it as an asset.
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    because it doesn't matter to the average reader. What you're talking about is described as "rivet counting." Not trying to be a jerk but that's exactly what it is, and the ones who do it fail to enjoy any story because of it.

    Not every single detail matters.
     
  3. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I disagree, overall.

    If "Chekov's gun" is just a generic gun-gun-gun, then yes, you're right. But if your lead character is known for carrying this SW360PD, and he fires six shots, then you as a writer have made a glaring error.

    In England, even that might float unnoticed--they don't carry handguns. But 49 states in the USA have concealed carry provisions, and a SW J-frame is one of the most possible options.

    Now, the reverse holds true. If you are writing a novel for Americans, and the hero's vintage Jaguar accelerates "opening all four SU carburetors," no one will care. In England, they will know in an instant it's an error. An E-Type Jaguar only has three carbs.

    Break the fourth wall and you've lost a portion of the readers. Personally, I think such errors, easily researched by modern search engines, shows the writer simply doesn't care.
     
  4. Lunatia
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    Lunatia Member

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    I agree that it doesn't matter to the average reader. But my father-in-law will belittle any movie he watches when they fail their weapons research. Anything from how they're holding it to how many times they should really be able to fire with it, that sort of thing. I think it's best to do the research, even if it's something your average reader won't even know about. That way they learn something, too. And those in the know won't be jerked out of the story by exclaiming, "But that's all wrong!" and miss the rest of the scene while ranting. :D

    EDIT: Sorry, Tourist, didn't see you posting there. I take forever typing and editing posts. :D
     
  5. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write the story and then pay you fifty pence to explain how guns work.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree that for every genre you have to get your facts right - because the shoot-em-up movie or book is
    probably going to be read/watched by average types who wouldn't know a .45 Whatchamacallum from a
    blunderbuss to the ones that would and you might as well look like you know what you're talking about
    when the facts can be easily found on the internet.
    But when writers step out into the land of fantasy one wonders why readers still harp
    about facts when the entire work is a fudge?
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Tourist. There are details that are easy to check and easy to get right, and the writer should do so.

    You could write, "Fred took a gun from the desk drawer and fired six shots at the intruder, killing him." If you don't specify the exact type of gun he used, the reader will assume the gun can fire at least six shots and you're in the clear.

    But if you write, "Fred took his SW360PD revolver from the desk drawer and fired six shots at the intruder, killing him," and that revolver only fires five shots, you've made a pretty elementary error, and readers who know guns will catch you at it. Your credibility is undermined.

    So, if you specify the gun used, make sure you research it to avoid making obvious mistakes. If you don't specify the gun used, you save yourself the research, but you pay the price in verisimilitude.
     
  8. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    You're entitled to your opinion but it's still the same, RIVET COUNTING. Have a good day, I'm not doing to argue this with you. It's asinine and wastes kb that can be used better.
     
  9. slamdunk
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    slamdunk Member

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    I have not read the books about Bond but I have seen most of the movies and they are usually packed with stories and action that is pretty hard to believe at times. The plot is great tho and I think the questionable stuff can actually work in its favor.

    Each time I see a bond movie with a friend there are always something to talk about "would that really work" is a common subject, and everyone seems to have a different idea. Even when people agree "that would not go down like that" people still enjoyed watching it, I don't think the facts must always be correct for a story to be interesting. If someone writes a book about a meteorite hitting somewhere and get the speed wrong. Sure it may annoy some astronomers, but if the story is good at catching something else: the damage done by the impact, the suffering or how people react (etc) then one fact wrong would not be a big deal. At least not for me.
     
  10. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    I fail to see whats the difference between this thread and the other one you made on the same topic? i get the feeling you just like to brag how much you know about weapons and show us pictures of stuff you own

    I agree with you on one point tho, that research is very important and considering the amount of information we have on the internet there shouldnt be an excuse...
     
  11. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Because the overall premise reflects accuracy.

    For example, if you were doing a research paper on the JFK assassination, how would you judge materials relating that it took place on November 22, 1962? Could you believe anything in the piece, that is, if you caught the error. And if you didn't make the catch, how would you feel about being downgraded--maybe on your dissertation.

    Hard-cover books cost money. When you plunk down +20 bucks to support an author, are you happy then reading something rife with errors and misstatements?

    Hardware might be my specialty, but automobiles might be yours, foreign languages for someone else here. Look at the first response I got. The member was dismissive because the very idea of accuracy was niggling.

    Hey, a 'period' is a minor puncuation error, but I'll bet that if you expected your employer to pay you $200.00 but your check was $20.00 you'd be in his office in a flash.

    My opinion holds. I don't think we research enough. We make excuses like, "It doesn't matter, it's just numbers," or "It interrupts the flow of the tale," or my favorite, "It's just the internet, everyone else does it."

    However, I'm not alone on the issue. My guess is that we work months or years on a story. Imagine your feeling if you saw me pitch your book into the bargain bin because you didn't have enough respect for my patronage by fact checking.
     
  12. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I could go both ways on this issue, because I believe there is a line that is drawn in different places for different people.

    For example, The Tourist knows his weaponry and will scoff at an author that makes a mistake in caliber or capacity, but 97% of readers won't notice. Now if I saw someone wrote that a character was bit by a Brown Recluse spider in Seattle, I would cry foul. Also, if I see another writer refer to spiders as 'poisonous' instead of 'venomous', I'm gonna throw the book out the window. But this is just me, 98% of readers won't have a second thought.

    So yeah, while it's nice to be accurate, it's not essential to your readership as a whole.

    ~ J. J.
     
  13. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I know in my heart you're right, JJ_Maxx, but it sure blanches me to know that dumbing down everything is now "the new normal." And BTW, us old bikers used to sleep underneath picnic tables when on the road, and we would always shake out our boots in the morning. That's because we all knew what a Brown Recluse could do!

    I'll even give the issue a break for artistic merit. Ever since I was a little boy I've seen movie villains get tossed across the room when hit by a 12-gauge shotgun. For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction, so technically the hero should have been tossed against the opposing wall. But it sure looks cool.

    But if you're going to write about guns, and you're a newb, do research. I've never lived on a farm, but if my lead character was raised that way I'd brush up on combines vs. tractors, crop rotation, winter wheat and irrigation.

    My lead character wears distinctive footwear. I have never been a cobbler. Guess what I did?
     
  14. Caeben
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    IMO, this should only hold true for works that actually claim to be set in the "real world." If a writer uses real locations, with real hardware, and with fictional characters, hell yes the author should get as many details right as possible, and I carry this expectation in when reading the work. On the other hand, if the writer is not trying to claim his or her work in the "real world," then I don't get bent out of shape about missing little details.

    This is just one of those YMMV issues.
     
  15. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    And I'm sensitive to that. The problem is that 'fiction' makes the line look murky, and that's an issue. Let me explain.

    Let's suppose you need a turbine powered car for a fiction story you're writing. The idea of "reality" isn't important to you, so you make the car a Ford. A car guy might raise an eyebrow because it was Chrysler that actually made a commercial version of a turbine. The slightest research would have uncovered that.

    But as you pointed out, we write fiction. In a sci-fi story a 2024 Ford Turbine would make perfect sense. You place your story in the future, and Ford builds one. In might even be a plot point.

    I know about firearms. But even I created a mythical rifle for a scene in my story. But 'real' guns I made accurate. But once the parameters of a story are set, then stick to them. Don't put a real automobile into the theme and then butcher the data.

    And numbers change. Smith & Wesson offered the 686 in both six and seven shot revolvers. Then they built a 627 in eight shots. Their more modern 327 also holds eight rounds. All of them in .357 magnum. Confusing, but all info is on the 'net.

    If you want to bend your noodle, Smith also made a .40SW (usually a round used in automatic pistols) in a revolver, the six shot 646. Limited to be sure, but it exists. It was their 610 that was a limited success. But unfortunately, the "Ford turbine" was a failure, just a protype in tractors and trucks--and I'm a Ford guy...
     
  16. John Eff
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    Sorry, but there does seem to be some willy waving going on in the OP, but there's also a valid point regarding accuracy and the need for it (or otherwise) in fiction.

    For every person who cares what sort of technology will do what there are thousands who couldn't care less, and any inaccuracies won't even register, much less spoil the story or cause them to froth at the mouth and consign the book to the bin and its writer to the Fires of Hell. It's the story that matters. Having said that, I'd say it's sloppy not to try to get such things as accurate as possible, though without describing every nut and bolt.

    Frederick Forsyth is renowned for his research and, while laudable, in my opinion he goes so far over the top that I skip paragraphs or sometimes entire sections because, quite frankly, it bores me to tears. Such sections seem to be saying, "look how clever I've been in getting the info on all this." It's a pity that he's gone to so much trouble only for people like me not to read it, but that's the way it is, and I'm not alone.
     
  17. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Everyone is an expert on something, and everyone is ignorant about a myriad of other things – and one problem is that often if you don’t know about something, you don’t actually know that you don’t know!

    I work on the legal side of the property industry, and when I see on TV and in films and books people signing over their property by signing some poxy bit of paper in a scruffy café, it drives me batty! Where is the conveyancing?!

    I appreciate though that people writing such storylines (or ones where people are chucked out of their premises at a moment’s notice, or have their rent increased dramatically…) fairly reasonably assume that the world works like that, and so it doesn’t occur to them to check. Googling is easy, knowing what and when to google sometimes isn’t.

    On the matter of excessive detail that John Eff mentioned, a very well-researched series that I read actually has footnotes (the premise being that the real-life author just found this book and has edited it, putting in extra information as necessary) with references to things like weaponry, accounts of soldiers in that particular war, other details like that. It meant that the story was never interrupted by any dry facts, but if your interest was piqued you could flip to the back of the book and find out more - which to my surprise I often did!
     
  18. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Fine with me, it allows me to completely disregard anyone who knows how to play Halo, use a smartphone, is a member of FaceBook or can even re-set a digital alarm clock. From now on, these people will only be described in my stories as "geeks doing something with buttons."

    Laugh if you want, but most 'boomers say that anyway, and it will save me hours of research and typing. You list thousands in your rebuttal, I list millions. And that's a conservative guess, it's probably tens of millions.

    And my postulate stands. When a writer uses buzz words, nomenclature from video games, mismatched equipment, woefully impossible scenarios (like a .25 ACP slug that penetrates three soldiers in DragonSkin, killing them all) it isn't a well crafted story, it's a comedy. You might be irritated that I know more on this subject than you clearly do, but that's a thin excuse to not do research.

    And if your book gets shipped back to you by a publisher for something like this...

    Edit: I'll share a secret with you, it's a reason why I think sci-fi is very appealing to some writers. If you write about events in the past or the present, then the facts have to be accurate. If you write about things in the future there are no rules. Cars can fly, no need to research firearms, just make everything a particle diplacement weapon. Heck, one-up Schwarzenegger and make your fantasy rifle in "the 42 watt range."

    The one area where this doesn't seem to apply is with ninjas and Samurai. You make a mistake there and every kid who watches the cartoon network will be down your throat. I'm amazed at how much they know about feudal Japan and hammered and folded steel.
     
  19. erebh
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    some serious willy waving going on here; sometimes laughable. In a movie where the viewer can see The Sundance Kid taking a biro from his pocket and blowing up Japan we know it couldn't happen or when he shoots 300 rounds from a hand gun it's kinda silly but when reading the assailant using a WP360 STD with go faster stripes, 99% would take it as a real gun and it DID happen. There's a whole difference between movies and books as in we see the weapon as oppsoed to seeing a serial number so Tourist, to sum it up - we know you know about guns - fair play, if I ever need gun advice I'll google it!
     
  20. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    erebh, there's more than that at stake--my specialty is guns, but look at the bigger picture.

    I was telling my wife about this thread on the way to the gym and she pointed out a very important consideration. We go to the B&N coffee shop daily, and she always takes her Nook. When she enters the store she is updated on books--many times she gets a free sneak peek at the newest arrivals.

    So while the poorly written gun novel languishes on the display rack, my wife and I peruse the opening, reject it, and never buy it.

    But that also goes for YA, travel books, stories with automobiles, thrillers, mysteries, etc.

    I no longer have to spend money to know if an author has any talent. Now, I guess I could do the same by thumbing through a hardcopy, but with a Nook I can reject about a dozen books per hour, and never spill my coffee.

    Consider this. There must be free-climbers here, and guys who have toured Africa, and Vietnam Vets, and working doctors. You won't be able to fog a fastball by them either in their specialty. And they buy books, too.
     
  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tourist,

    If James Bond can flourish without having the facts right, why can't other stories?

    You do know that at the end of the day, stories are not real, right? The only books that need to be 100% accurate are non fiction.

    I hope the purpose of this thread is to achieve more than attacking "geeks doing something with buttons."

    Good Will Hunting, a movie about a construction worker who turns out to be brilliant at math, solves an "unsolvable problem", that any real present day mathematician would not be impressed by. Did that bother me. Yes, but only because I felt like being snobby. At the end of the day, it didn't really change much. It's a detail that doesn't really change the story at all, because they could have easily rectified it, and in this fictional reality, they had already presented the problem as unsolvable, so who cares. It's not like any of the other stuff happened, either.
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    James Bond had sex, and the guys that didn't know beans about guns didn't know beans about women, either.
     
  23. Yoshiko
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    The gun talk has me baffled (I've only handled one once - but there are much tighter gun laws where I live than in the US), but I agree with The Tourist's general train of thought. I've read numerous books, and seen plenty of films, where a small mistake has been enough to take me completely out of the story.

    When I write about a subject I'm not entirely certain of I try to do primary research in addition to comparing numerous online/written sources so that I can get it as accurate as possible.
     
  24. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Whaaa ... ?

    Are you saying that only guys who know about guns know about women? I hope not, because that's ridiculous.

    Are you saying that the reason those viewers didn't care about the specs of Bond's gun was that they didn't care about his women, either? I hope not, because that's also ridiculous.

    Are you saying that those viewers didn't care about Bond's gun because they were too busy ogling the women they know nothing about? I hope not, because that, too, is ridiculous.

    Are you saying that guys who do know about guns don't watch James Bond movies because he has sex, and they already know about women? I hope not, because (all together now!) that's ridiculous.

    I don't get this at all.
     
  25. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    I don't know much about guns. So, I'll take something I do know about. Computers.
    Recently, I watched the latest James Bond movie. What I'm talking about here deals with spoilers so be careful.
    In it, the villain is a genius computer hacker with a ridiculously convoluted plan where he intends to get caught, placed in a special cell, and then use a computer virus to escape.
    This computer virus unlocks his cell door. (unlikely, but possible if your jail is incredibly stupid.)
    The computer virus can turn on and off gas lines. (even more unlikely, unless your gas lines are computer operated.)
    There are also numerous other systems in place that essentially, allow a computer virus to directly lead to the escape of the villain.
    Now, in a realistic situation, the cell door would probably not be controlled by a computer. It would be controlled by a guard with a key.
    The gas lines would probably also not be controlled by a computer.
    These things can certainly be monitored by fancy customised computer systems, but they remain manual. Why? SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE WHEN YOU AUTOMATE THINGS THAT MUCH, STUFF CAN GO WRONG.
    To me, this was extremely stupid network design, but, for the general audience, it didn't matter at all because, the audience doesn't know these things. The audience doesn't care about these things. What's important is that this villain knows about computers. That makes him a force to be reckoned with.

    Similarly, the guy with the gun is a force to be reckoned with and we know this because he's not just holding a gun, he's holding a <insert specific gun code here.> Sure, a couple of readers are going to be thrown by it shooting ten shots instead of 6, (or whatever number you're going to be pedantic about) but for the most part, it just doesn't matter.
    Accuracy is nice, but you have to weigh up research time to financial reward.
    Is the cost of spending weeks researching the magazine capacity and kickback of a Magnum Revolver equal to the payback of the 6 or 7 people around the world who will refuse to buy the book due to inaccuracy? Probably not. Especially when it has absolutely no bearing on the story.

    Of course, the converse of all that is, if you're writing for a specific audience, such as with military fiction, then you'd better get everything right because that stuff is important to them. Just be aware that specifically noting the caliber and firing rate is going to alienate large numbers of people who don't want to wade through the facts and figures to get to the action.
     

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