Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bang, Bang!

I may be preaching to the choir here since this is a blog called Castles & Guns, but today I want chat a little about firearms.

I’m a believer that if you write about guns, you need to shoot one at least once in your life. I’m not saying you need to pack heat 24/7 and have your Concealed Weapons Permit. I’m saying if you’re going to write about the weight and feel of a gun, the smell, and the recoil – you need to at least visit a gun range one time. Even if you write about fantastical or Sci-Fi guns, there should still be a touch of the basic truths of firearms so the reader isn’t thrown out of the story.

Everyone has their pet peeves in writing. One of mine is reading about some character firing a revolver and the spent shells spilling out everywhere as he/she unloads on a baddy about two dozen times.

NO! Don’t be that writer!

No revolver does that. That’s why Deputy Rick Grimes has to up end his Colt Python .357 and dump the shells after killing six zombies, before he reloads to kill six more.

On that same note, if your hero/heroine has a Glock or a Browning .380 or some super sci-fi awesome futuristic semi-automatic, make sure there’s a mess of shells all over the place from their shoot out.

If your heroine is shooting the equivalent of a .357 Dirty Harry Magnum, make sure she feels the recoil too (unless she’s got preternatural strength). Because trust me, that puppy packs a wallop and will recoil over your head. Two words: Hand. Canon.

If your hero has a fully automatic machine gun type weapon, he will not be able to walk around with the d*mn thing a la Rambo. Movie lie! A machine gun comes with a stand for a reason and you need your full body weight pressed against the butt with your foot leveraged against, oh I don’t know, the back of a fox hole, to keep it from bouncing you back into next week. Even Sly would need to lay down with that thing.

Some writers have no desire to learn all of this first hand and that’s okay. Guns are scary and very dangerous. If hands-on isn’t your thing, you can learn all you need to know by talking to a guns expert. You need never touch one if you don’t want. Go to your local gun range and ask the people there. If you tell them you’re writing about a space cowboy packing a collector’s Walther PPK and you want to get the details right, I promise they will tell you all you need to know and then some. You’ll be lucky to get out of there without half a day’s lesson on firearms and safety. They want you to get it right.

If that doesn’t appeal to you either, check out internet blogs from retired policeman and the like. They’re a well of information and there’s normally a contact email addy for specific questions. Whatever you do, for the love of all that’s metallic and loud, do your homework.

Finally, even if you’re writing about weapons of the year 2520 or a fantasy world of your creating, I suggest grounding the weapons in some reality. Your laser gun should still have some punch. I imagine a really powerful laser might require both hands to steady the weapon. Or maybe not … I don’t know so much about lasers. =) Maybe it fires smooth as silk but smells funny afterward? What does it sound like when you fire? What does the handler feel?

Details like this will draw your readers into the scene. Then, no matter how far away you take them, they’ll be “in” the story and follow you anywhere.

This is my last post as a fill in at Castles & Guns, but I’ve had an absolute blast! I hope you’ll have me back any time someone else goes on leave/sabbatical/vacation. Happy Writing!!!

Heather McGovern


  1. Excellent post, Heather. This is why I doubt you'll ever see someone use a gun in my books. lol. I don't know the first thing about firearms and sadly, don't particularly care to know. For example, we live near a military post and I told my kids there were armed guards there recently. I thought they'd be impressed. Nooo, they had to batter me with, "what kind of guns were they, Mom? Were they (insert name of gun) or (insert name of gun)? Me: "Uh, they were big and black." Yeah, I am that clueless. I do, however, love to read about those that do know guns and put them appropriately in their stories. Fabulous post!