People who read stories in which violence is an intricate part, be it a murder mystery, serial killer tome or action/adventure normally don’t do so with a demand for realism, anymore than the average reader of news does so with a demand for honesty. They want to be entertained, or they want their viewpoint to be reinforced. Still, since the profession of writing relies a great deal on “word of mouth” to sell our products, people who are in a position to detect lack of realism – or honesty – can potentially do us great harm.
The most important point I’d like to stress is, “REAL” realism stands out from overly dramatized and “formula” violence if it’s described in a way that helps the reader witness violence as it is experienced or viewed in reality, vs how it has been inaccurately portrayed for nearly a hundred years in print and film.
I’d love to suggest a film “Under Fire”, starring Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman to illustrate this point. The film is actually incredibly well done, well acted and dramatic. The violence is “understated” in its implementation, but graphically illustrated in its aftermath! The special effects are remarkably authentic and suitably effective. Of course, it’s film and not the written word, but someone had to envision the scene and direct the shooting and “writers” should be able to transpose their visions into sentences that portray the vision accurately and effectively.
In the film, Gene Hackman dies. Gosh, I am so sorry that I’ve had to spoil a small part of the film, but the point I’m driving at is the manner in which he dies. Being shot, close up, with a military rifle, I was stunned to see that Hollywood had eschewed the use of their usual pick’em-up-and-toss’em effect for the most realistic death scene I’d observed to that point, and in fact since.
One who knows, gets the feeling the scene was “recreated” from actual footage the director had seen somewhere else, and it was important to “get it right.” They got it right.
There are plenty of actual shooting videos on the internet which will help an author who has never witnessed violence (or perpetrated their own) visualize violence and recreate it. It’s difficult to look at, and it should be, but I believe those who engage in the craft of writing, should have some visceral connection to what they are attempting to foist on the reading public.
Now, for guns. How’s that for a fragmentary sentence? I’m a life-long shooter, competitor, collector and have numerous feature articles in nationally circulated gun magazines. A poorly written, or inaccurately portrayed firearms scene will ruin an otherwise finely written book. If the protagonist is taking up arms in defense or offense, then the protagonist had better understand the difference between a “revolver” or a “semi-automatic”, which have safeties and which do not, how actions are cycled, how the weapons are loaded and made ready and how the forces of recoil effect the use of such weapons.
There are many internet forums where such knowledge is readily available by experts. I would suggest only one and I belong to many. The only one I’d recommend is the Guns and Ammo Magazine forums. Why are they they only one? Because they are well moderated and the members make sure that newcomers who are looking for information are treated with respect, and the information imparted is accurate and not misleading.
Check them out. Tell’em Dan sent you.
More to follow