Today, I’m pleased to introduce New York Times bestseller Larry Correia as a guest. Although he has a busy schedule, he accepted the invitation to share with us some of his knowledge on firearms in fiction.
Larry also has an interesting background in publishing. He started out as a successful, self-published author, and a few years later, he accepted a publishing offer from Baen Books. He is an author who knows how to be successful in both arenas of publishing.
Along with having been on the NYT bestseller list, Larry has also been on the Entertainment Weekly bestseller list, was a finalist in the John W. Campbell award, and was nominated for a Hugo award for best novel in 2014. He has been a full-time writer for several years.
His books are noted by many publications for his detailed accuracy of firearms usage, which makes sense considering that he has experience as a firearms instructor.
No matter what your views on guns are, you’re likely to eventually come across the subject in your writing, so I thought it would be prudent to bring on a guest to discuss how best to go about it.
I’m sure you’ve all seen wild west movies where someone gets shot and then flies backwards several feet. Or in modern movies someone shoots the bottom of a car, then it explodes easily on the first shot. With the dramatics that Hollywood adds to gun use, it’s not surprising that it eventually affects how authors write about them.
Ryan: What are the common pitfalls in fiction where it’s clear that the author has never held or fired a modern firearm?
Larry: It isn’t just guns, but any topic where the reader is an expert and the author is clueless. The problem is that when you write something that the reader knows is terribly wrong, it kicks them right out of the story and ruins the experience for them. Guns are especially hard because they are super common in fiction, and there are tons of readers who know about them.
Most of these really glaring errors can be taken care of with a little bit of cursory research. Technical things can be taken care of by a few minutes on the manufacturer’s webpage, which will keep your characters from dramatically flipping off the safety on a gun that doesn’t have one.
Beyond that, however, is the actual use of the gun. The character using it should have a realistic amount of knowledge based on their skill, knowledge, ability, and training. If you are gong to be writing about a character who is a professional gunslinger, then you need to do some research to make sure that person does what a professional gunslinger would do.
Ryan: If an author does not have access to a firearm or gun range, what are the best methods to brush up on them?
Larry: Actually shooting is best, but if you can’t, find friends who know guns and pick their brains. The problem here is like I mentioned, realistic amounts of knowledge for a particular character and your friends are going to vary just as much in real life. Just because somebody on the internet told you something doesn’t make it true.
Most online firearms forums are pretty cool about authors coming on and asking questions. Just don’t be a jerk about it.
Be careful because there are a lot of urban legends out there about guns. 5.56 doesn’t tumble through the air. A near miss of a .50 BMG won’t tear your limbs off. That is nonsense. So, the best thing to do is ask a group of people, and in short order you should be able to tell who actually has a clue and then disregard the crazy.