1. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Sharing observations and a philosophy.

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by The Tourist, Apr 1, 2012.

    As many of you know by now, I am 61 years old. And just being an observer in time for that long gives me an odd perspective, and I'd like to share that.

    For one, the sense of 'ego' falls to almost zero. Your life's record is easy to trace, your actions and job history are commonly known, and you "were there" throughout many historical events. For example, I was with a girl on Spooner Street in Madison, Wisconsin when Sterling Hall was blown up. I walked to class past the bomb crater. You can never use the word 'debris' in a story ever again without thinking of that.

    Same thing with fights, heroism and weaponry. And that's the story I wish to tell you.

    My wife and I have coffee after going to the gym, and we know the baristas at the shop quite well. One afternoon I chatted with a young guy who works there, and the night before he had taken a female co-worker to "The Hunger Games." He enjoyed the movie.

    We discussed events, and he asked me what was new. I had just polished the edge of my ZT0550, and I handed it to him, folded, remarking that a lot of soldiers, EMTs and cops carried similar models. I added that the ZT0300 was a very popular model for deployed soldiers.

    He thought about that for a second, his face fell, and he handed the knife back still folded. It was one thing to cheer at a movie. It was another thing to hold a real tool.

    We talked about that, and I asked him to bring up the ESEE Knives homepage on his lap-top. They make a survival arrow tip, and you should google it. If Katniss was a real person using cruder survival tools, she would have chosen something like it.

    Now the conversation wasn't so funny. I rep for that brand, and since the young female co-worker did own a bow, I asked the boy if he's like the arrow tip as a potential gift.

    He said no thanks and closed the site.

    And this is my observation as an older man. Fantasy is good natured fun until you hold the weapon. If you have any empathy at all, you cannot overlook that someone, somewhere successfully took life with that tool or otherwise the weapon would not even exist.

    I sharpened at a local Gander Mountain several years ago. I polished lots of "personal knives" for boys leaving to be deployed. I sold a Darrel Ralph knife to a weeping mother who wanted it for her son, an airman just about to leave. These memories color the prose I write in stories.

    I use, refine and collect weapons. I reload ammunition, I enjoy customized 1911 pistols. But I'm never going to kid myself, and neither should you. The idea of "bread and circuses" is not a new thing, people enjoy the stories and the characters within. But I think as you type your book, you ought to have a tactical folder next to your computer, to fondle for perspective.
     
  2. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    Interesting I have my Schrade 1st response on me and a tactical flashlight personally. Out of the two only the flashlight is carried on and off duty.

    It’s interesting with weapons. I was dating a girl for a while and I invited her out to shoot one time. Her response “ I don’t want to shoot I’m a liberal”.
     
  3. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Yes, the idea is very interesting, seducing, in fact. For many years I went to either a target range or a gravel pit every week. When I first joined the church I found that our pastor liked to shoot, but couldn't afford commerical ammunition. As a reloader, I took him with me--and we discussed lots of spiritual things while plinking.

    I think my sadness derives from the myth, legend and romantic ideas of weapons. The most ardent gamer would be horrified to live inside the world of Halo. Some of the best fiction is crafted by writers who actually have to research generic firearms because they don't own the real thing.

    At some juncture we reach a tipping point. Here is where my hypocrisy comes into play, and I want to impart ideas because I no longer have that fragile ego. I carried a switchblade in high school, but the idea of metal detectors and firearms in schools is no longer the fluff of novels. Orwellian surveillance cameras are no longer fiction. I carry everyday, with the stern admonishment to my wife that when I tell her to "get behind me" in that tone, she's to comply no matter what. She's a 1960's suburban girl, a liberal teacher, and she has zero street smarts or situational awareness. That's our world.

    I try not to let world events color my happiness, but it does. When I hear younger people talk about hollowpoints, or how they marveled when a 12-gauge blew the head off a zombie on TV last night, or even how they covet a spent 7.62x39mm Kalashnikov case they found in a field, it troubles me.

    And I see way too much bravado in depicting violence in literature. When I am able to do so by the rules of this forum, I want to post a few paragraphs of one of my scenes--and I wrote with the idea that you would feel like you were actually there. While I cannot fully relay the fear of a situation coming unwrapped, I can use my own experience to set the tone. I was afraid, every time.

    BTW, during my freshman year in college I met a lot of goofy, decent young men who unfortunately flunked out. During my junior year I would meet them again, as Vietnam vets going back to school. They were not the same young boys. I don't see anything romantic about the feel of the titanium frame lock on my folder here, right now, next to my cup of latte' and my story outline.

    We need to view that perspective more often.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I agree. I'm a couple of years your junior, and I never went into the service. However, I lost friends in Nam, and some friends who came back were - damaged. Some physically, but those weren't the worst.

    I've been in potentially lethal confrontations, though. Obviously, I survived them, and a couple of them by physically besting an attacker. I view weapons with a healthy respect, and I have tried to teach my children a similar respect. I respect life.

    Today's world contains a great deal of casual violence. Gangs, better armed than the local authorities, roam urban streets with impunity. A couple of weeks ago, a local mother was murdered by a neighbor who lured her away from her home with a phone call asking for roadside help; he beat her to death and strangled her, in view of her two or three year old son. His motive appears to have been purely impulsive.

    The attitudes toward violence seem very confused. Many seem inured against shock when confronted with stories of violence, but their reactions when confronted with the real things are often quite different.

    It's almost as if an abstraction of violance has become a thing of worship, divorced from any recognition of its consequences. When people are shown the true face of violence, they have a harder time reconciling it.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not so sure it has 'become' a thing of worship - maybe that worship has just become more obvious or blatant. My father was a WWII combat veteran - Phillippines. He never wanted to talk about the war itself, occasionally about some of the funny things that happened, but never the battles, or the friends he saw killed. (He told my mother a few things, but not much.) Not even about his Bronze Star (we didn't know until after his death how he got that). But when he'd hear people talk about going to war, demanding we go to war, he would just shake his head. "They don't know what they're asking for," he'd say. He's been dead for almost 20 years now, so I'd have to say that worship of violence, that divorce from the consequences, has been around for quite some time.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can't romanticize violence. I loathe it. I haven't been in a fight since fifth grade, and I'm not looking for one. I don't own any weapons. (I carry a Swiss Army knife with me, and have since I was nine years old (not the same one, obviously), but it's hardly a weapon.)

    I grew up in Canada, where not many people own guns, at least not compared to the USA. In the USA, I've seen guys carrying machine guns at political rallies. "I'm just exercising my second-amendment rights," they say. Seems pretty dangerous to me. But people in this country love guns, and I don't mean just hunting rifles. They love military weapons. I still haven't figured out why.
     
  7. Kaymindless
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    I find the scary thing that a lot of my gamer friends that I play Call of Duty with are or have been in the service. But that's a small number, and I tend to prefer them to others because they're more chill. I can guarantee you, while I have fun shooting people in the video game, I have never shot an actual gun and have no desire to do so. Of course, I've held a hand gun, very gingerly and after making sure it was unloaded and no bullet was in the chamber (TV knowledge, hell if I know anything about guns) but I'm southern born and have lived in the small towns where everyone owns a gun. There is no doubt in my mind, you put me in a situation which requires guns (zombies, aliens etc) I'm going to be screwed. Then again, I'd rather pick up bows and what not again because I enjoyed them when they taught it in school.

    I was raised with a high respect and fear of weapons though, which is lacking in today's society, in my opinion. It's not our literature and film and games responsibility to draw this line. There is no question that the amount and content of violence has increased an insane amount, but there's no parent sitting there telling the children growing up around this that these are dangerous weapons, that there is a distinct line between what we watch and read and what is real life. There's this idea that they're cool. Weapons are not cool. They are weapons, they are deadly and have their uses but are not cool.

    Minstrel, I haven't been able to figure out why they want military grade weapons either. Then again, there's a point where I just have to stop trying to understand people or I'll lose my mind. It's like people who collect actual sharp swords, I sit there and ask "do you know how to use it?" No, they know how to swing it around like a buffoon but otherwise it's a pretty thing to show off, and that's what these collections of military weapons are to most of them, a pretty thing to show off.

    My Grandfather was the same way. I'd hear everything about life in Scotland before the war and after the war, but never anything during it. All we got was that it was necessary but calls for war are from those who've never been.
     
  8. The Tourist
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    I'm glad you guys answered, and you weren't afraid to share your thoughts. I must admit, I think there is a 'worship' of violence, which I find baffling. I guess writers just lull themselves into the idea that if they write it here, it's only "cartoon violence."

    Before I started to seriously write my current story, my wife and I overheard a young college student and his TA when we were seated closely at the coffee bar.

    Every single idea the student pitched was either a derivative of a current movie or a zombie/elf/magic story. My wife found it hard to keep from laughing out loud. What spoke to me however, was the cavalier attitude this young unbloodied student had accepted on the idea of violent bloodletting. He wasn't a soldier, a townie bar brawler, a MMA participant or a gang banger. He looked like the kind of kid who played video games in his mom's basement.

    Where did he get this attitude?

    Now the 64 thousand dollar question. I'm a new member here. I want to write good fiction, and be a good addition here. I will have to depict action scenes in some stories, and I will present a more realistic mirror to the subject. How should I, or anyone else, act like a good mentor and fair writing critic when a kill-em-all vampire hunt takes place just to buttress up a poor story?
     
  9. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    There are people who do enjoy violence until it's directed at them. At 63 I lost my ego years ago. Age does have its advantages but I'll take 21 anytime. As for critiquing something not to my taste, I look at the storyline and writing. The main issues for me are usually do they stay on pace with the story or get distracted by details not pertinent to the story itself. Are they telling a good story or trying to sound like a writer with a lot of adverbs and adjectives. Doesn't matter if it's blood and guts as long as they make it a good story and not just blood and guts to no purpose.
     
  10. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I agree. Sometimes you just like a good shoot 'em up western. However, I'm still concerned about the genre in general. And we are contemporaries so our experiences are probably similar.

    When I meet the criteria for posting a section of my story, I will post "graduation day at the religious academy." My lead character watches all of the attributes of society we are debating here. Then the boys 'graduate.'

    I don't think I'll be tipping my hand much when you learn I believe our society is mired in liars, both political and religious. Everyone has a soundbyte, an agenda, and an ox to be gored. We are far too prickly in our discourse, and we like to watch pawns take the field when guided by chickenhawks.

    The milieu of a fight is as important as the struggle itself. I like to discuss that as well as describe the gunfire in my stories. Remember, Dr. Richard J. Gatling wanted to reduce the suffering of war by shortening it as well as exposing the practice. See how good that turned out?
     
  11. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    The trouble with stories with a message is the message often over rides the story. Nothing should take away from the story. Any message should be inherent and add to the story. That can be hard to do.
     
  12. jazzabel
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    Having left the wartorn country many years ago, I've always been opposed to violence (not to mention political lies) but in this novel, I wanted to honour what happened to my people as a metaphor, so whilst it is not a book about them, it is symbolically exploring the issues. And yes, there's violence, and military characters, and political intrigue and weapons and whatnot. I never before thought I'd be writing this, but I am, and I can't stop it.
    If the story needs to be told, and the story contains violence, then it should be written about. But it should never be gratuitous, or there to attract a certain kind of audience.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just like any good mentor or fair writing critic would - point it out. It doesn't have to be done in a nasty WTF manner, but if there's anything in a story that seems gratuitous, unnecessary, or like it's pandering, it should be questioned, and it doesn't matter if it's violence, romance, sex, swearing, yada yada yada...
     
  14. The Tourist
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    And I will try and make that an overall goal. However, on this one topic I think it's best to sit it out.

    One big factor was my mentors. They were of the "swift kick" variety, and frankly had to be. We weren't folding doilies for an ice cream social. I have come to believe that the events of your life aren't compartmentalized like beads on a necklace, but a row of dominoes.

    I think I could be very helpful for things like character development. But if you're going to use violence in a story, then I'd rather see people craft something like "The House of Flying Daggers" than "The Hunt of Flying Vampires." No matter how polite I might try to be (and I'm not very good at being polite when it's truly appropriate) dispassionately jamming a blade into something is a crappy plot twist.

    I think you can dispassionately eat a bowl of macaroni, or fold laundry or do your taxes. But ending a life is never dispassionate. To do it signifies that the author is clueless. It underscores that violence for entertainment is a valid enterprise, and the next thing we see on 'Survivor' is Thracian helmets and Probst telling you to text a vote for 'thumbs up.'

    And of all the human experiences we can either enjoy or work to change, why is smacking vampires, hunting zombies or doing recon in a bombed out city the only themes we can craft? Have our attention spans become so warped that a blast of C-4 is the only remedy for writers' block?

    It's not even realistic. I'll bet that more than a few of the Special Forces operatives that killed Bin Laden and his wife--although justified in every manner I can name--have seen psychiatrists and are doing some regimen for the cessation of PTSD. Heck, Audie Murphy said he didn't have a single decent night's sleep since the end of the war.

    I'm not even sorry for my prejudice on this topic.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I understand what you're saying. I used to read Romance but I can't any more. Maybe too jaded or 'world weary' perhaps. At the same time, I beta for a writer of Romance. I divorce myself from the 'genre influences', I suppose one could call it; she has someone else who deals with that aspect. I look only at the writing, the crafting, of the story. If something doesn't make sense, if a character acts strangely, if a phrase is awkward - those sorts of things I can look at and comment on. The overall story doesn't have to be realistic to me - she's not writing a story I would pick up in a bookstore. And people do write and read books to escape, to pretend, to take out frustrations, to live a fantasy... I prefer to write and read stories that stick to realism as much as possible. Others don't. When you critique someone's story, you should be looking at the crafting of it. But if if the subject is too aggravating for you, then I agree - there's no point in trying to critique it because your distaste will come through every time.
     
  16. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Thank you for looking at my point of view and giving it a fair shake.

    While I admit there are times for schlock, like in cartoons, campy satires, and comic books, I believe that many story writers are serious when using kill-em-all tactics. I have contempt for that style.

    BTW, guys who have been deployed routinely say that if a fellow soldier really does think that way, they rotate them out and get them some medical help. Recently a soldier went on a spree and killed 17 civilians. My generation had the Mai Lai Massacre. The Korea War gave us the No Gun Ri incident.

    Call it what you will, I call it insane in life and simply puerile in writing.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think, in real life, there are discussions and attitudes that we have to engage in with all seriousness. I do because the issues mean something powerful to me. In writing, well, there are stories/genres we just don't care for, and no matter how we feel about them (or the subjects written about), it won't change the fact that people will read them voraciously. So the only thing to do is walk away.

    As my mother used to say (she said a lot of things :p), "To each his own, said the man as he kissed the cow.".
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Stories hold a mirror to our experiences. If we read about something completely outside our experience, the words don't touch us the way they should. If there is no suitable analogy within our experience, the words are just words.

    Personal violence is one of those extreme experiences. If it is totally beyond your experience, you apply illusion and fantasy.

    I think "worship" was the wrong word. "Fascination" is probably more accurate. You can be fascinated by a car wreck seen at a distance, and feel like you understand the tragedy that is associated with it. Then you see the remnants of a wreck in which someone you knew died, and everything changes.
     
  19. The Tourist
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    Well, if 'worship' is the wrong word, possibly 'self-delusion' covers all of the bases.

    My concern is that anybody who can make it through Halo without blowing his own foot off thinks he's a Navy SEAL. You have no idea how many 'hard use' knives I sell that never see the light of day. The guy wants to be able to brag he has a "tactical combat knife."

    In fact, if you you really want to laugh yourself into a coma, go peruse a copy of 'Tactical Knives Magazine.'

    My comments don't criticize just writers. The problem is that this concept thrives in our present culture, and sometimes it creeps into our hobby of writing stories. Since they have no experience, vested interest, or ultimately the problem of actually be shot at by a real enemy, it's easy to spin a crazy yarn.

    For example, there's a term called "popping a melon." it means that a sniper has hit his target square in the head. It makes kids laugh. Taking a real varmint rifle and bursting a real cantaloupe at a few hundred yards for the kids to see in person usually solves the stupid grin. And it's the reason I ultimately sold all of my varmint rifles and stopped going to The National Grasslands in South Dakota. I could no longer justify thrill killing.

    If you're going to craft a story I have no problem with hyperbole or snappy dialogue. I use it. But I also try and tell the complete story--not just as the bullet is in the air, but before and after.

    BTW, Cognito, tell me when I can post a few paragraphs to demonstrate the example.
     
  20. Jetshroom
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    I think with writing, as Cog said, violence is often outside the range of experience. Thus, it gets fantasised. The people who have experienced it, are aware that what's written isn't how things turn out, but the violence isn't written for them. It's written for the reader who's living vicariously through the hero in the story. And, in that situation, even an accurate description of what would happen, is mentally glorified.

    To put forward a view that is not related to firearms, I train nightly in mixed martial arts, and I've trained in various martial arts since I was in year 7, so when I read about combatants who've had no training in this sort of stuff performing heroic feats of fiction, I know that that's not how it goes. But these combat situations aren't written for me. I'm in the minority of people with extensive martial arts experience.

    In a similar way that you can't really describe what one goes through when they have to shoot a person, you can't really describe what happens to you when someone bigger, heavier and stronger than you is trying to choke you. I think the best thing you can do, is try to make sure that some people actually get the real message.
     
  21. The Tourist
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    I believe lots of us will provide the proper message. What is equally disturbing is the fact that most of these guys don't want "the real message." They're happier in their mom's basement collecting knives they will never use and studying about firearms they will never actually shoot in anger.

    I think ShadowWalker was right about being 'world weary.' I'm beginning to see some issues and say, 'Why bother?'

    Two zombies walk into a suburban neighborhood, and peering into a basement window see several momma's boys playing video games and eating pizza roles.

    The first zombie asked the other, "Brains?"

    The second zombie says, "Naw, I'm cutting down on junk food..."
     
  22. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    Yeah, it's the same thing as what's going on at my gym at the moment. Some smart-arse kid has had a few lessons and is going around to parties on the weekends saying he's an MMA fighter and elbowing people in the face. Fortunately, we've heard about it and can take diciplinary action. But there's plenty we don't hear about I'm sure. It's why my children aren't going to learn martial arts until they're in high school.

    Also, point of interest, in Australia, you need a licence to own swords now. A sword is defined as any blade being longer than 6 inches I believe. It's an attempt to stop kids from buying and hoarding knives and swords.
     
  23. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    Even if I ever felt the urge to own a gun, I would never shoot it in anger. Self defense, yes, practice, yes, hunting, yes, anger, no. Mind you, I don't think I'd shoot it hunting wise either unless it really was the end of the world. Animal lover here.
     
  24. The Tourist
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    I hope for the same thing, but that's not what I'm driving at. There seems to be a real fascination with/about combat weapons and the darker side of death, like vampires. It kind of like the Eqyptian death culture. These kids don't see target pistols, they see hollowpoints.

    And it reflects in their writing. The prose is soulless, you don't see the deaths of victims, you get a litany of body counts.

    There's a big difference between carrying a licensed handgun for protection, and stalking the city for prey.
     

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