mallninja/tacticool guns in fiction?


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kayak-man
November 29, 2010, 08:59 AM
I've been trying to write a novel for a long time. I couldn't tell you how many different stories I have saved on my computer that I gave up on (Atleast 5). Well, I ended up with a lot of time on my hands this month (Thank you, shoulder surgery) and decided to give NaNoWriMo a try. If you've never heard of NaNoWriMo, its a writing project (for lack of a better word) with goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Being the gun-nut that I am, my book is very gun centric. Like most of you guys, when I watch a movie, I don't want to see people flicking off the safety on a GLOCK or firing 12 rounds from a sxs shotgun without reloading. I don't have that, but there is another pitfall that I've fallen into: my characters have more guns than they probably need.

I've tried to not throw in the stereotypical mall ninja gun, complete with a bayonet, overloaded picatiny rails, and a hello kitty buttstock. Mostly, its just good old FALs, Remington 870s, Glocks, and 1911s.


HERES THE QUESTION PART: There are some guns that most of us can agree are usually not the most tactically sound. PGO shotguns, Serbu Super Shorty, those wild and wacky specialty shotgun rounds. The kinds of guns that if I posted on another thread (Not THR, because you guys are awesome) saying that I carried them, what little respect anybody may have for me would be gone. How turned off are you when the character on TV or in a book has something like that? Would you stop reading if the main character desecrated a Remington Wingmaster?

If it is something that bothers you, would it be less of a big deal if a PGO SBS was carried more in the spirit of "I've got an AK and a 1911, but breaching rounds might come in handy?"

Thanks in advance!

Chris "the Kayak-Man" Johnson

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Hunterdad
November 29, 2010, 09:22 AM
IMHO, unless you are writing a comic book, I would keep as "real world" as possible. Good luck!

Sam1911
November 29, 2010, 09:33 AM
It will probably help to define your audience and/or the type of story you want to write.

If this is a fantasy tale like Larry's MHI works, or maybe like Max Brooks' Zombie stories, most die-hard gun guys will give you a bit of a pass on going over-the-top with gun gear. And the general reading population will eat it up. Giving the protagonists Tromix-rigged Saiga12s and Mateba auto-revolvers in .500 S&W isn't such a problem if you're story isn't trying to be rigidly believable.

(Remember, just like Hollywood figured out years ago, if you want to make money -- sell to the vast masses. Not to a relative handful of grumpy curmudgeons who take gun tech seriously.)

If you're trying to write more of a hard-bitten realistic style tale, the guns should probably reflect reality. Simple, basic, relatively stock. Things that work. Things that are easy to service. Things that are common.

Real life seems to indicate that pretty plan-jane guns can be run extremely effectively, and they do the job they're tasked with just fine. And "serious" users know this well and stick with simple things that work. You don't need a custom .50 GI 1911 to defend your home or yourself on the street, and more than just a smidgen of that kind of gear-geekiness in a seriously themed work tends to look out of place. The reader believes in a character that makes conservative, practical choices. The reader tends to lose investment in a character that runs to odd, one-off, problematic equipment.

Any time the reader is tempted to break concentration on the plot to ask himself, "now where would he get one of those?" or "how's he going to feed that thing after his first burst empties the mag?" or "meanwhile back at the mad scientist's weapon factory..." your page-turner is turning into a sofa-leveler. ;)

And yes, that goes for carrying an arsenal. The idea of encumbrance (as old D&D players will remember) comes into play. In real life, soldiers, refugees, hikers, etc. all throw away very expensive, very useful, and sometimes mission-critical items as the miles wear on. A handgun and a long gun, and a handful of mags (or boxes of ammo) for each are about all that it is believable for a real person to carry very far.

Edited to add ... it is very tempting to write a story that shows all kinds of good gear and guns in use. But equipment + arsenal =/= plot. ;) Even when writing for a bunch of gear-heads, you've got to have the skill of "spinning a yarn" as the old folks would say. The guns can't really be THE focus and should, metaphorically speaking, almost not be IN focus at all.

Having to spend four pages explaining why main-character Jimmy has this custom, tactical, precision, full-auto, magnum, double-ought, Weatherby-Improved concealed carry carbine, stashed behind the seat of his Camry, is taking away from 3-3/4 pages you should have spent on character development, plot, thoughts, feelings, causes, backstory, and all that fluffy crap that makes a story worth reading.

I can read catalogs and gun magazines for the other stuff. :cool:

Interesting question!

MrOldLude
November 29, 2010, 10:39 AM
The book might be guncentric, but don't make the mistake of making the book about guns with a few characters thrown in. Make it technically correct, but not overwhelmingly technical. Because to a normal audience, one who will have cursory knowledge of guns, at best, will be bored.

Or think of it this way. Imagine a romance novel which spends paragraphs, nay pages, describing a man. How beautiful and amazing he is, or how muscled he is. That's fluff. Sexy fluff or gun fluff makes for terrible writing. As also stated above, don't divert from the important points.

heron
November 29, 2010, 11:42 AM
Ah, another aspiring novelist . . . welcome to the World of Pain and/or Temporary Insanity.

As above, let your characters tell the story. Interesting stories are about people, not objects.

And, yes, stick to everyday items for the most part -- unless you're going for James Bond fan-fic.

You may even consider under-equipping your good guy, letting him run out of ammo, etc., and having to fill the gap with his instincts and quick thinking. For instance, he sneaks up on a bad guy from behind, sticks a beer bottle against his neck and says, "Breathe wrong, and I pull the trigger." A bit of a stretch (bad tactics, of course), but it's much better than having him pull an 870 out of his sock.

Dentite
November 29, 2010, 12:02 PM
Typically writers know how to spell "write" so work on that first! :) Just a friendly elbo for your typo there.

Keep it realistic IMO.

Sam1911
November 29, 2010, 12:15 PM
Just a friendly elbo for your typo there.
Elbow?

I'm going to have to go back and edit my post! I thought his book was upside down ... or maybe had been wronged! :neener:


[Yeah, yeah...we aren't the grammar police here at THR. But this is a thread on writing a book (or righting a book ... whichever), so I took some liberites. :D]

kayak-man
November 29, 2010, 12:47 PM
Great advice everybody, thanks!

IMHO, unless you are writing a comic book, I would keep as "real world" as possible. Good luck!
This is actually really good advise, and applicable to more than writing. Thanks!

meanwhile back at the mad scientist's weapon factory
That actually was going to be a scene. It just didn't work out that way :evil:

It started out as a dark, gritty cynical piece, and it still is in parts, but believability, well, thats a whole other issue. For the most part, I've tried to keep everything pretty spartan. A standard nothing special 1911, factory GLOCKs. For rifles, one guy has a FAL, but everyone else gets an 870 or an SKS. Everything is pretty much stock. No one is shooting any race guns.

better than having him pull an 870 out of his sock. Actually, its a shirt sleeve.

In the second draft, I'll probably scale things back a bit. My main mall ninja concern is a matter of the main character has a rifle and a 1911, and he is about to wage a one man war against a small army (conviently confined to an island). Would it be too over the top have him cut down a shotgun, and carry it in a scabard on his back? (reminicent of Micheal Douglas in Romancing The Stone, or Brendan Frasier in the mummy movies.) That, and although I don't consider these practical in the real world, the idea would be to use something like this http://www.firequest.com/G12-012.html and this http://www.firequest.com/G12-013.html

I've got the whole "Where on earth did he get those!" part covered, but I'm wondering if people in the gun culture would say "Why on earth didn't he just leave 'em and carry an extra magazine for the .45?"
(The main character has a history of being something of a pyro, and using fire as a weapon, if that makes any difference.)

Once again, thanks for all the help. As far as the links go, I'll save y'all some trouble: :rolleyes: :fire: :what: :scrutiny: :evil:

Thanks,
Chris "the Kayak-Man" Johnson

Skribs
November 29, 2010, 12:59 PM
Hmmm, my novel didn't have very realistic guns at all. Between laser blast weaponry, Gauss weapons, rail guns, and pulse rifles, I think I kind of missed the boat on realism. Of course, it's a sci-fi, so that's okay. IRL you wouldn't be shooting at humanoid reptilians.

Sam1911, I beg to differ. The audience loves stuff like James Bond and XXX, where they do crazy things. My car can't go invisible. If I went out and got a revolver, I doubt I could get all the darts that he had very easily. It depends on the type of character you have as to what they'll need. In an action spy-type story, the more modifications the better (well, to some extent). In a thriller spy story, you're looking more at something barely modified.

Of course, I'm assuming you're saying just have the protagonist using a basic shotgun with nothing on it. I'm thinking something like a tactical light or an aftermarket sight being attached as not being over-the-top. If you're saying that you should stay away from the shotgun with the extended magazine, 3x side-saddles, full rail with lights, laser, tactical grip, high power scope, bayonette, attached pistol, etc. etc. then I agree with you.

Art Eatman
November 29, 2010, 01:32 PM
A successful book is successful because of the interesting story it tells. I don't know about the rest of the world, but a bunch of verbiage which comes across as an ad from Joe Doofus' Custom Weaponry makes my eyes glaze over.

First, tell a good story.

We don't need more Mack Bolan garbage. "He drew his Keltoid-Technical .45 ACP Magnum, especially built for him by Pete's Pistol Palace in Bug Tussle, Oklahoma. It was throated and polished, with double-Nitex as protection against rust. He knew that the Bomerkel night sights would let him hit the Bad Guy in a vital spot. The special handloads of mercury-filled Black Talons, ahead of way-too-many grains of Magico 12345, the special formulation from the Magico Powder Parlor in Resume Speed, Montana, would do the job."

(Unfortunately, another bad guy had sneaked up behind, and stabbed our hero at the base of the skull with an ice pick.) And so the story resumes, "Shrugging off this little sting..."

We're talking Maalox moments, here.

First, tell a good story...

King Solomon Hill
November 29, 2010, 01:33 PM
My rule is that if you can't spell "write", you can't "right" a novel.

Dentite
November 29, 2010, 01:35 PM
Sam: "elbow" as in a friendly elbow to the ribs...a ribbing so to speak.

To the OP Kayak: I still say keep it realistic...at least as close to. As far as James Bond goes I personally rolled my eyes when the car was able to go "invisible". I like the comedy of the gadgets in the old ones but I really like the more realistic approach taken with the last two Bond films. But books like film are a matter of taste. I just happen to prefer more realistic stuff. You won't catch me watching Sci-Fi original movies haha.

kayak-man
November 29, 2010, 03:15 PM
My rule is that if you can't spell "write", you can't "right" a novel.
Typically writers know how to spell "write" so work on that first!
That could explain why I'm having such a hard time of it.... :D

I agree with everybody that says that the guns should not be the point of the story. I'm a firm believer in character driven stories, and having a half decent plot. I just wanted to make sure that I was using the right tool for the job.

jiphillips
November 29, 2010, 04:38 PM
Look up Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons (Howdunit Series) by Michael Newton. It was designed for people that don't know guns at all, but should have some interesting advice of what to avoid.

Also, my favourite author is Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) he's not a gun guy (one criminal in a book called a 9mm a hand cannon) but even with gun mistakes I'll still buy any book of his I can find. His writing is that good.

MikeNice
November 29, 2010, 04:44 PM
I've never been a fan of the hero pulling out his super duper modified shotgun and blasting out exploding shells. I am more of a fan of the Stephen Hunter style.

I have only read three of his books. However, he keeps it real, but the guns are almost characters in their own right. They also help define the character that owns them.

I can think of the Italian hitman in the book Havana. Every time he showed up with a gun it was something he didn't really get how to use. It let us know that he was always in over his head.

Does that help any? lol

MikeNice
November 29, 2010, 04:47 PM
Ji, I agree with you. Writing as Richard Stark he seemed to put a .25 or a .32 in every character's hand. Then act like it was a small nuclear weapon. His writing however was great if you liked minimalist noir with a cold cold heart.

In one of the last books (Nobody Runs Forever?) he did equip Parker with rockets and fully auto weapons.

kayak-man
November 29, 2010, 06:12 PM
Mike that actually does help quite a bit. In the second draft, I'm probably going to make the characters a bit more minimalistic.

one criminal in a book called a 9mm a hand cannon I find that interesting because I remember writing my final paper for English a couple years ago, and I tried to figure out why the Spanish soldiers referred to a 9mm as "The big gun" and the "Hand cannon." I thought that of all the writers out there, Hemingway would be the last to call a 9mm a hand cannon.

Sam1911
November 29, 2010, 06:36 PM
Sam: "elbow" as in a friendly elbow to the ribs...a ribbing so to speak.
Dentite: Yes, but you misspelled elbow as elbo.

Never mind.

Sam1911
November 29, 2010, 06:39 PM
Sam1911, I beg to differ. The audience loves stuff like James Bond and XXX, where they do crazy things.

Did you miss my second and third lines?

And the general reading population will eat it up. Giving the protagonists Tromix-rigged Saiga12s and Mateba auto-revolvers in .500 S&W isn't such a problem if you're story isn't trying to be rigidly believable.

(Remember, just like Hollywood figured out years ago, if you want to make money -- sell to the vast masses. Not to a relative handful of grumpy curmudgeons who take gun tech seriously.)

I'm sort of cautioning him against caring too much whether we like it or not. If he wants it to sell big, it'd better have BIG explosions, BIG guns, BIG cars, BIG bad guys, and lots of BIG other stuff. Junk food isn't only for the stomach, you know!

Skribs
November 29, 2010, 10:03 PM
Dentite, I actually think the reason most spy-type movies now don't have all the cool futuristic gadgets is because most of them we've already invented. Look at Get Smart with the shoe phone...well now we all have cell phones so it would just be silly, rather than a cool spy gadget (okay, the shoe phone was silly back then, but it would be even more crazy now). I think some movies go for one of two approaches: 1) "This guy is awesome" (either by amazing stunts, e.g. XXX, or by going solo against a bunch of people, e.g. Commando or Rambo - also usually using an M-60 one handed), 2) The action is merely in addition to something else (such as comedy with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or it's a more serious movie like Black Hawk Down). In the comedy, realism isn't as needed (look at Family Guy) but with the more serious movies I think is where they try and get more realistic.

So what are you looking for? Are you looking for stunts that would entertain but may not be feasible? That's what my book had, but then again it wasn't humans doing the stunts. Are you looking for the Schwarzenegger or Rambo type to go in one-on-a-thousand and come out last man standing? Are you looking for the action to play a supporting role, or to be realistic? That's where the difference lies, I think.

Of course, you could have a comic relief in a character that does have the "Swiss Army Gun" and ends up getting defeated by something trivial, e.g. it can't fit through a door.

SundownRider
November 29, 2010, 11:21 PM
As an author myself, if you're looking to get published, 50,000 words won't be enough. Typically, publishers are looking from 85,000 - 110,000 words to be considered a novel. Edit the hell out of it, and then do it again.
My books started out as 200,000+ word novels, about 360-415 pages each. My publisher took them apart to form four books. I still owe them two more.

Good luck.

Dentite
November 30, 2010, 12:44 AM
Sam...nice catch...how's that for hypocrisy. I guess the brain was moving faster than the fingers.

rozziboy18
November 30, 2010, 03:26 AM
ok ma turn,

as someone whom loves guns, and likes to read i personaly like detail about guns.

however the average joe will get board of hearing about the wilson combat beavertail

safety on the nickel plated caspian arms frame.so as the above mentioned,KISS is your

friend here. just make sure a glock gets distroyed in one way or another :). good luck!

Skribs
November 30, 2010, 05:33 AM
On a side note, I was watching Chuck today, and the bad guy pulled the hammer back on a semi-auto pistol. He commented "I didn't have to do that, but I love the sound."

Sam1911
November 30, 2010, 03:07 PM
I had another thought on writing to appeal to gun geeks:

When I was younger, guns and hardware fascinated me. I devoured Guns & Ammo magazines and the big Gun Digest yearly Bibles. The bits and pieces were fascinating to me -- almost magical in the capability they represented. To a degree, they still are.

However, as I've gotten older and experienced a pretty decent amount of shooting, numbers, stats, measurements, capacities, and so forth have paled in importance. Now I find myself more fascinated by operator skill, coordination, efficiency, precision. When differences between firearms are weighed, I find that a few oz. or a few tenths of an inch, or a few more rounds in the magazine (or even the presence or absence of a full-auto switch) are only minimally interesting because I understand that in practical use by a trained and experienced operator, the differences in speed, accuracy, and terminal effect are going to be very small indeed.

The skill of that operator can make a mediocre gun perform the task at hand -- or a lack of that skill could make a great gun fail to get the job done. So the skills and techniques of the operator are MORE interesting, more gripping, than the technical details of the gun he/she is using.

Further, as I've played with developing proficiency with different weapons, and I've met shooters with utterly superhuman abilities far beyond what even a dedicated practitioner can aspire to achieve, I've found that strategy, and perception, and decision-making skills, and situational awareness, understanding, and comprehension are even MORE interesting and compelling than sheer technical prowess with the weapon itself.

GUN < SKILL < MIND

(Heck, we should make that some kind of slogan. Maybe, "Mindset, skillset, toolset -- in that order!" :D)

So, all that to say, you can write a story that will greatly appeal to "gun geeks" and defense-minded types that doesn't have a single exotic or unusual weapon in it. In the end, there's only so much you can say about a physical object. It's the human side that makes the story.

kayak-man
November 30, 2010, 03:09 PM
As an author myself, if you're looking to get published, 50,000 words won't be enough. Typically, publishers are looking from 85,000 - 110,000 words to be considered a novel. Edit the hell out of it, and then do it again.

I know 50,000 isn't enough for the publisher; my goal is just to get about 50,000 words of manuscript done before the end of the month, then spend winter break editing and rewriting it until its in at least the 150k range.

Of course, you could have a comic relief in a character that does have the "Swiss Army Gun" and ends up getting defeated by something trivial, e.g. it can't fit through a door.
Actually threw that in a while ago, I guess great minds think alike.

Skribbs, that is a great question. Its kind of a little of both. I have a few Chuck Norris style characters, but the main character is more like Jon Mclane than Jon Matrix. He's just a guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and has to do the best he can with what he has.

I'm surprised by both the quantity and quality of advise. Thanks guys. So far, most of what y'all have said fits with the direction I was going, and that should motivate me a bit :evil:

And to all the writers on THR that chimed in, thanks, it makes writing a little easier when you know that theres a few other people in your social group that do it too.

Chris "the Kayak-Man" Johnson

kayak-man
November 30, 2010, 03:18 PM
Sam, thats very similar to the direction I was going. Most all of the characters only have a handgun or rifle, and usually nothing terribly fancy.

Further, as I've played with developing proficiency with different weapons, and I've met shooters with utterly superhuman abilities far beyond what even a dedicated practitioner can aspire to achieve, I've found that strategy, and perception, and decision-making skills, and situational awareness, understanding, and comprehension are even MORE interesting and compelling than sheer technical prowess with the weapon itself. Thank you, that's what I was trying to say in my last post, but I was having a hard time articulating it!

Chris "the Kayak-Man" Johnson

Sam1911
November 30, 2010, 03:45 PM
I've met shooters with utterly superhuman abilities far beyond what even a dedicated practitioner can aspire to achieve, I've found that strategy, and perception, and decision-making skills, and situational awareness, understanding, and comprehension are even MORE interesting and compelling than sheer technical prowess with the weapon itself.

I'm exposed to some pretty interesting, though unassuming folks.

I've met guys like Jerry Miculek, Dave Sevigny, etc. They're pretty darned cool. WAAAY beyond what a normal human can do with a whole lot of practice.

But I also know some fellows who've been studying personal defensive techniques for several decades (not just skills, and not just shooting, but theory and strategy and psychology) and who have had a certain amount to do with the direction modern defensive training seems to be heading. Now, these guys are good shots. They've been shooting for longer than I've been alive -- they'd better be! But, with obsessiveness and relative youth, I've managed to push my own technical skills slightly beyond some of their current abilities. I can probably beat most of them in a shooting match.

What I can't do, at all, is maneuver through a street "encounter" with the, for lack of a better word, precognition they've developed. The pre-decision paths and cues, and pickup of "tells," etc., etc. just isn't there for me yet.

They don't need superhuman skills with a gun because they're operating on a different level. Not, "how do I shoot my way out of trouble," but "how will I not be there when trouble happens?" Or not, "Woah, that guy just pulled a knife!" but "that guy has been eying us for two minutes and it appears he's carrying a weapon on his strong side under his jacket -- and he just nodded a signal to the guy in the hat by that trash can -- I need to move away NOW and maybe have my gun ready just in case..." And so forth.

Sort of transcendent, you know?

"This is a cool gun."

"I know how to shoot this cool gun really well."

"I don't even need this gun."

:)

kayak-man
December 8, 2010, 05:48 PM
Thanks to everyone who chimed in!

Thought you guys had a write to know, I just finished the rough draft, and found a balance between plain Jane GI 1911's and FAL's that a mall ninja would kill for.

Most of the advise was going in the same direction that the book was heading, and it was great to have that bit of assurance that at least one small group of people will have a reason to read it someday, and just maybe, not use it to level off their piano.

Thanks,
Chris "the Kayak-Man" Johnson

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