Author Topic: Who shot the proof reader, and with what?  (Read 226 times)


  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12843
  • Kudos: 36
  • I've been writing ever since I realised I could.
    • View Profile
Who shot the proof reader, and with what?
« on: March 04, 2021, 11:19:04 AM »
I was thoroughly enjoying a book the other night, one of those police thrillers where the author makes much use of his protagonist's mental processes and internal conflicts.

But when the bad guy started a chapter poking someone in the back with a hunting rifle things took turn for the worse.  Not in the plot, which was nicely convoluted, and not in the handling of the situation, which was rather nicely constructed.

A couple of pages later it had become a two-barrelled hunting rifle.  (This is not a technical impossibility, but relatively unlikely.)  There should be a reason for giving your character such a piece of exotica, and in this case there wasn't.

What the policewoman took away from him at the end of the chapter was a shotgun.

I would love to own - or even just briefly handle - such an amazingly versatile thee-in-one weapon.  A veritable chameleon amongst firearms ;-)


Now...  You may think this doesn't matter, that 'the average reader' really doesn't give a damn about these things..  You may well be right, but if you believe this then just stick to labelling the weapon as a generic 'gun' in your own writing.

You want people to enjoy the story, not stumble over inexplicable changes.  It's nearly as bad as a character being mis-named, which creates the impression that  an extra player has just suddenly joined the cast.  It takes the reader away from the flow of storytelling.

A 'rusty but still menacing shotgun' is a fine description, which avoids any need for technical details.  An 'oily and deadly looking' handgun saves you from even having to mention whether its an automatic or revolver.  Note that  both of these are describing it from a character's viewpoint, specifically the character on the wrong end.

Unless the potential victim is a trained firearms user or collector the exact details are likely to escape them when under threat ;-)


Think about this when you write a scene involving firearms.  If you need technical details do your research.

Never be afraid to use the 'generic' weapons.  In cowboy novels, for example, there are three makes which every reader recognises almost without needing to think about it, Winchester (lever action rifle), Sharps (the big buffalo gun), and Colt revolvers.  When the author introduces anything else it's usually a relevant plot twist.  (Or a personal favourite they feel compelled to slip in.)



  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5103
  • Kudos: 9
  • Home is where the cat is
    • View Profile
    • Daan Katz
Re: Who shot the proof reader, and with what?
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2021, 12:51:50 PM »
It's a good thing I won't likely use guns in my stories. Ever. Other weapons, yes. Scimitars, throwing knives, daggers... Things that weren't designed as weapons but will certainly serve well enough. But guns? Nope. Not in my worlds.

Of course, there's plenty of other research for me to do.  ;)
Daan Katz, Author - Where the Magic Happens
The Elven Curse - Kings, priests, elves, and a woman in a wheelchair

Jo Bannister

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2386
  • Kudos: 12
  • If this was easy, anyone could do it
    • View Profile
Re: Who shot the proof reader, and with what?
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2021, 02:57:52 PM »
I couldn't agree more, Gyppo. 

Too many writers think that picking up errors is the job of the editor, and/or the proof reader.  It isn't.  First and foremost it's the job of the writer.  There shouldn't be any errors, at least no glaring ones, for the editor or proof reader to find.

Twenty years as a journalist taught me a valuable lesson: that if you can't be sure of being right, at least you can be sure of not being wrong.  Some facts prove impossible to verify, or too difficult to justify the time and expense.  So you fudge it.  You don't make a statement which may or may not be true, and hope for the best.  You write something which is unspecific enough that it cannot be deemed to be untrue.

If you do it well the average reader won't even notice what you've done.  And the nit-picker will be disappointed of his sport.  It may not be the perfect solution: it comes in the category of Plenty good enough for the purposes.