Some of his movies are not exactly top tier. The other actor (Steven Mumble & Whisper) mentioned, makes movies so silly as to be embarrassing. You see the same tired old tricks that are just stupid and unrealistic, like running from an explosion that has already been ignited! The fireball is right behind them, and they are outrunning it! My God, how stupid! The shock wave from a high explosive device travels at about 350 MPH. There is no way to outrun it in a car, much less on foot. The same goes for some Eastwood movies. He uses the same silly trick of bad guys busting into a room and emptying their guns, even though everyone (but them it seems) can see the good guy is not there. Then the good guy emerges from nowhere and kills all ten of them in two seconds. He has used that nonsense in a lot of his movies, over and over again.
For some reason, people expect more realism in novels than in movies, unless it is total fantasy. One other thing I hate in both movies and novels is when some sixty-something, maybe even seventy-something guy has twenty-something women falling all over him and wanting to sleep with him. Eastwood was bad about that, but got so much flack he seems to have finally learned he is TOO OLD for that silliness.
Great, I'm thoroughly intimidated now. I'm having trouble focusing on my Ya contemporary romance because I've become infatuated with an idea for a paranormal with a heroine that can kick butt and slay a dragon... in present day. I was planning to have fight scenes with guns/martial arts/ ect.... but now I'm afraid of my ignorance. True I've been researching, but I'm an overweight mother of three - there's not much chance I'll be able to collect real life experience with any of this. Still, I have a brain and I can figure this out. Plus, I doubt any of you would read it anyway!
I do own a .410 though. I've even shot it a few times. hehehe I was surprisingly destructive one day when we were shooting clay targets. I have shot my husband's .22 and a couple of handguns too. I didn't accomplish much besides developing a healthy respect for those who can hit something with the dern things.
I've only recently begun to dabble in fiction, but I've been doing feature journalism for over 25 years now, and one thing I have learned from it is the power of the interview. If you need to know how to use Kung Fu on a palace guard, a lengthy interview with right Kung Fu master (or better yet, three different Kunf Fu masters), will bring you surprisingly close to an expert level of understanding. Don't rely on books or (god forbid) the Internet, because interviewing a truly experienced live human in any field will result in your getting the little details that no one bothers to put in books. (And the Internet entries may have been written by imaginative 12-year-olds.) You have to slow down the conversation and say things like, "take me through it again, one step at a time."
An editor and writer from National Geographic gave me some good advice when I was starting out. For an article about the Great Dismal Swamp, he spent a month or two interviewing/hanging out with various swamp experts and researchers. "At the end of it all, for a brief moment, I knew more about swamps than any person on the planet," he told me. "The reason is that even though these guys were at the top of their field, most of them didn't talk to each other much, and they never had someone so interested in their work before. They told me things they hadn't told their peers, and they used plain language, because they thought I was too dumb to understand the jargon."
Time and again, I have had the same experience myself, where through research and interviews, I become a brief expert with insider knowledge. I have used this approach when researching everything from potential microbial life on Mars to finding new cancer drugs to how sunken submarines are salvaged. Experts are out there, if you are willing to find them and talk to them on their turf and their terms. In my experience, the more accomplished the expert, the more willing he or she is to spend time with you, if you are willing to wait for a good time for the person, and bring the right attitude to the meeting. And try to make it more than one interview meeting--try to get permission to hang out with the expert for a day, especially if the expert is doing the things you need for your story (wouldn't advise this if the expert is a bank robber or meth cooker, though ).
About 10 years ago, I went with a horror movie director and an actor (you'd know him from playing the bad guy in dozens of action films) to spend an afternoon with a national quick draw champion, unconnected to any certain promise of job for the shooter--the director was researching an old west script, and the actor was just his friend. I was there to consult on another script entirely (which became the truly awful movie "Cave"--none of my doing, honest), but instead we spent an afternoon blasting at iron targets at an LAPD outdoor range, using authentic guns of the 1870s. By the end of it, I had not only learned a heck of a lot about quick-draw shooting, but through keeping my ears open, I learned anecdotes from the sets of recent Westerns and horror films, and I started to learn a little bit about how genre films come together in Hollywood. Oh, and it was incredibly fun.
Bottom line: when you don't have specific knowledge, get it from someone who does, and your story will take off in directions you never imagined. It will be more believable and gripping to boot. A seasoned combat vet recently return from Afghanistan can probably help you stage a better laser gun shoot-out on a moon of Saturn, especially if you talk to a planetary scientist the next day. Read the expert thank-yous at the back of a Michael Connolly or Lisa Gardner novel, consider the time the author had to spend with each person thanked, and you'll get a sense of how they always produce bestsellers.
Crane was a young journalist who hung out in NYC bars, listening to grizzled vets describe their war experiences in great detail, and this led him to write his novel. I think it may have been because he felt guilty that he wrote such a successful realistic book without having been to war that he was quick to volunteer as a war correspondent a few years later--where he wound up producing battlefield coverage of the Spanish-American war that is still taught in journalism classes, including mine. And to bring this thread full circle, Crane's approach to the realistic depiction of war became enormously influential on another writer, Hemingway.
S I guess I should never write a story about space battles since I have never been trained. And for that matter since I was never trained in Earth bound combat as well should I avoid writing about shoot outs as well.
With that logic I couldn't write my auto biography. I watched my best friend get shot in the face. I have been shot at myself, seen more than one shoot out live and spent some time in crack houses where a few people were armed to the teeth.
When I was a junior in high school, we had to read Red Badge of Courage. Our English teacher made us bring crayons to class - and we had to draw scenes depicted in the book - and color them in.
At the time I thought it was pretty lame, yet in looking back, I understand what he was trying to accomplish, yet not sure he did.
I don't recall reading much about Crane in the journalism classes I took in college - yet it is possible, but that was a very long time ago.
Of course, I was reading the book during the height of the Vietnam war, and most of my friends opposed the war. At the time my brother-in-law (he was still dating my sister) was in Nam, and my ex-boyfriend lost his best friend in Nam. Not the best time to read Crane's book with an objective perspective.
If your opponent is down, you control his head. Plunge your thumbs into a jar of peanut butter. (That is what it feels like to use an eye strike.) If you are in a knife fight, much better to go for the neck. (The heart is protected by rib cage and the knife needs to slide in between the ribs.) .22 slugs have been known to bounce off skulls, thus you point the barrel directly at base of skull for a hit. (takes out brain stem but the target can survive long enough to have organs harvested.)
I've always thought Crane's book was more anti-war at heart. I can see many parallels between his Civil War characters and soldiers in Vietnam that Michael Herr and Tim O'Brien write about in their respective nonfiction and fiction. For good examples of Crane's war reporting, there's a little pb collection that sells for about a dollar called "The Open Boat and Other Stories." Even the title short story, collected in dozens of freshman lit anthologies, is more nonfiction than fiction: Crane had each of the other survivors of the event read it for accuracy before he published, and made changes based on their recollections. In its detail, it is much richer and more realistic than the "article" he published on the same shipwreck less than 48 hours after it was over. "The Open Boat" took him about 10 months to finish.
I'm not saying you can't imagine fictional worlds and write about them--but those fictional worlds will always be more entertaining when based on facts that you gather in this one. Just read any of the interviews in which George R.R. Martin describes his research process for the Thrones series, and you'll see that he is part journalist, despite never having trained a dragon or endured a 10-year winter. The whole series started when he toured Hadrian's Wall and, in his mind, made it ten times higher and built of ice. The imagination had to be there, but so did the physical details of Hadrian's Wall.
While I agree with the OP that such experience is always best, I think there is also a downside that many aren't willing to recognize. Military, law enforcement, and even civilian firearms enthusiasts, often have their own language, and there's nothing wrong with that, not at all. However, unless one is writing military fiction or men's action/adventure, such jargon can be jarring to the average reader. Your average horror reader, for example, doesn't really need or necessarily want to know the differences between a revolver and a pistol unless such elements are somehow important to the story. To them, a handgun is a handgun ... often a gun is a gun is a gun.
No, I'm not being dismissive or belittling of the original point being made, because I agree with it. Even if the reader doesn't know, the writer should. The same goes for writing about swords, even in a fantasy setting. There's a vast difference between a rapier and a bastard sword, for instance, and writers utilizing such weapons in their fiction should not only be aware of those differences, but should logically be able to back up the use of such in their fiction (why does a knight in a fantasy story carry a long sword, for example, instead of a different weapon?).
If anything, I merely wish to point out that sometimes being too accurate can actually harm a story. In other instances, it's necessary. Yeah, I expect Clancy and Coonts to strut their stuff, but not necessarily King and Koontz. Different types of stories need different levels of accuracy and/or jargon.
Regardless, whether being technical or not, the writer needs to get his or her facts correct.
The subject of this thread is dear to my heart! Very few fiction writers grasp anything about guns and reading it makes me wince. The guy with the gun always racks a round into the chamber just before shooting - who would go into a gunfight with an "unloaded" gun? Or, people get shot with a handgun and instantly fall dead. That doesn't happen very often! People shot with handguns generally either run away or keep fighting. A standard handgun doesn't have the power to drop somebody on the spot unless a lucky shot hits the brain or spine.
Not only guns, but anyone who has ever been in a real fistfight will know that the participants generally walk away (if they can) with more than a few bruises. It ends with broken hands, broken ribs, dislocated jaws, etc. I still suffer from a compression fracture of my tibia received in a bar fight 25 years ago. My opponent kicked me in the knee... He went to the hospital with a ruptured spleen after I kicked him when he went down.
I think you can make the generalization that an author should avoid any mechanical details about anything unless he has either firsthand knowledge or credible research.
That said I don't think many of us read fiction in order to learn how to shoot a gun, perform surgery or calculate the angle of repose. We do read, however, in order to experience the events, lives and thoughts of other people even when they are imagined characters. Tolstoy does a pretty good job of describing the anticipation of a 14 year old girl before her first formal ball but as far as I know he never tried on the dress.