This is the first in a series of guest posts by my colleague Steve Allen, a soldier-turned-editor who specializes in firearms and military-particulars editing.
Today we're looking at applying caution when loading up your hero with high-tech kit. Is he or she tactical, tacti-fool or tacti-cool?
Over to Steve ...
I’m a specialist freelance editor of firearm and military-related particulars. I see gun-related writer mistakes all too frequently. Many simple firearm mistakes can be avoided without problems.
Unfortunately, many of the firearm mistakes I see are not simple, nor are they so easily fixed. Insignificant firearms mistakes inflame the nitpickers and have them shitting on your reviews.
Savvy readers catch even the smallest of mistakes. After a mistake, readers question your writing, wondering what other mistakes you’ve made. Make too many and your story falls apart.
Basic firearm mistakes cause you to lose credibility. Even in fiction, you must maintain credibility.
What follows in this series are the frequent firearm mistakes that I see in fiction manuscripts and some advice on how to avoid them.
Tactical, tacti-cool and tacti-fool
Give your characters a good weapons load-out and good gear. Know the difference between tactical, tacti-cool and tacti-fool. Arming your characters reasonably takes some practice and restraint.
Unless writing satire, parody, comedy, etc., avoid giving your characters tacti-cool gear. Loading a character with tacti-cool gear, and having him learn the hard way the value of quality gear is a good use of tacti-cool stuff – just don’t overdo it.
This is what tacti-cool looks like:
I cringe every time an author tells me, ‘But it looks cool.’
Don’t give your characters ridiculous and worthless gear based on looks.
Movies are incredibly influential, which is why I mention them so often in this series. Looking cool is great in the movies; it can get you killed in the field. Avoid gear such as:
Low-cost, mass-produced tactical gear is designed to empty the tacti-fool’s wallet, not actually to be used in combat.
A simple rule of thumb to follow is: if the elite troops don’t carry it, avoid arming your character with it.
A caveat is: if the weapon fits the character’s back story, then it might be okay. For example, if your character studied Silat (Indonesian martial art) and carries a kerambit it fits the story. If your character learned Eskrima (also known as Doce Pares; Filipino martial art) while living in Cebu, then arming her with fighting sticks fits the story.
If you enjoyed this, there's a PDF summary of the key points here. Just click on the image to download.
Steve Allen is a retired soldier living north of Seattle, WA, with his lovely wife and daughters, a neurotic terrier and a goofy black Labrador.
When not editing, Steve wanders the Pacific Northwest on roads less travelled, searching for good books and very cold beer.
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with crime, mystery, suspense and thriller writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and co-hosts The Editing Podcast.
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