Credibility – Why Writing It Wrong Ruins It For Everyone

When we write something, whatever it is, we want to draw the reader in. We want them to trust us. We want them to agree with us, to suspend disbelief, and get lost in the story. We write fiction. In other words, “lies.” Pretty, witty, wonderful lies, but lies nonetheless. What’s even better? We make people believe them, if only for the short time it takes them to read the story.

How do you make a lie most believable? By surrounding it with truth. A good writer knows this and uses it. We use truths to make our lies credible. We want the reader to get lost in the mix, unable to separate the truth from the lies. But the writer must know the difference. We must not forget where the line lies and we must resist the temptation to casually make up the truths amid which we will hide our lies. A simple little mistake can bring the reader crashing back to reality and start doubting. It can destroy all trust in the writer, and every time it happens, that reader’s trust will get harder and harder to win back.

But I don’t have the time to research every little detail! I’m a fiction writer, of course I’m going to make stuff up. That’s what I do!

Indeed! One cannot expect to get every detail right all the time. Therefore, we need to understand which sort of details are most critical to the story we are telling and the audience we want to tell it to.

For example, if you are writing the sort of story that depends and pivots around action and a few well-placed bullets, it might be a good idea to get your gun facts straight. On the other hand, if you missed a few bits about the intricacies of needlepoint in the same story, I doubt it would cause as much difficulty.

If you are writing a cozy mystery, about the yarn store owner who ends up investigating the strange murder that involved a knitting needle and a piece of rare silk yarn, you might reverse the factual priorities. Your target audience will probably be more in tune with yarn textures than grip styles. Luckily, the sock-knitting gun-nuts who just love those knitting mysteries probably aren’t expecting you to have read every issue of Guns & Ammo. (They’d love it if you did, but they’ll probably forgive you.)

Writers need the readers’ trust, and a great way to do that is by fulfilling the readers’ expectations. Consider the expertise of your audience and the expectations/focuses of your genre. Then use that information to decide which mistakes your readers will forgive you for and which ones will betray you.

A Leaky Transmission Makes For A Leaky Case

While watching an episode of “The Mentalist,” I saw something a little iffy. At the scene of the crime, they discovered a conspicuous pool of what smelled like transmission fluid. The immediately deduced that the killer likely drives a car with a leaky transmission. This seems reasonable. However, the next conclusion was a bit specific for my taste.
“The couldn’t have gone far before getting service.”
Hmm…while this possibility is not unlikely, it is far from definitive. A leaky transmission does not necessarily indicate a major problem. In my personal experience, some leaky transmissions have problems, but I also had a tranny that leaked for a short time immediately following a rebuild. So, they could have declared that “the killer must have just had his transmission rebuilt!”
But let’s assume that it is likely to indicate a problem. Not a bad conclusion, I admit. But here’s the big caveat: a leak does not always indicate a major problem (i.e. one that would require ‘service.’) A leak definitely increases the likelihood of a major failure, but a leak in of itself is not a major problem. It could be that the seal is just out. But all that it means is that you have to add oil often. Even for the mechanically inept, adding a quart of oil every day is not too hard and does not require stopping off for ‘service.’
While it was not a bad move to check the nearest garages and such, unequivocally deciding that a car ‘won’t get far’ without some sort of formal service was far from genius.

Not All Cattle Have Bags, But They All Have Tits

There are few things that are as blatantly false as those cartoon cattle who all display a prominent udder underneath. In case you were wondering, this is not at all the case in reality. Yes, all cattle have tits, but not bags (or boobs, if you need the analogy.)
Do they think we won’t know it’s a bovine if they don’t have a protruding udder? I guess it might be mistaken for a horse if it weren’t for the fact that they don’t look or act anything alike.
Here’s how it really is.
Only bred, female cattle, known as cows, have a large udder. It is, in fact, the only external attribute that can be observed to estimate if a cow is bred and how soon she will have her calf. A large, tight bag is indicative of a heavy bred cow, soon to calve.
When they are unbred, female cattle will still have more of a bag than males. But young and/or unbred females can have very small and compact bags.
Male cattle are known as either steers or bulls depending on whether they are castrated or not, respectively. Both have small, barely noticable tits, but they never have bags or protruding udders! Male cattle have certain other things hanging underneath.
I’ve said my piece. Goodnight.

Silencer, Thy Name Is Misleading

Silencers are now a well-known accessory for firearms. What amazes me is how wrong most portrayals are. I swear, every time they stick a tube on the end of a barrel and I hear (or read about hearing) a “soft phut,” or a “whisper,” or any other description that implies a near silent shot, I have to stop myself from screaming in protest. (Actually, I don’t always refrain. You should try watching a movie with me.)

Now before I go any further, let me make one thing clear. It is possible to silence a gunshot, and a silencer/suppressor is part of the equation. But not all! Several other things must happen as well.

The gas emerging from the barrel is not what makes a gunshot loud. It is loud, but you know what’s a heck of a lot louder? A sonic boom. Most bullets break the sound barrier. Screwing a baffled tube on the barrel doesn’t do anything for the sonic boom.

In order to fire a silent shot, you must also have sub-sonic ammo. Special rounds that go slower than the speed of sound are available. Used properly, with a silencer and other correct components, these rounds can be fired in near silence.

When you do fire a truly silenced shot, it still does not make a “soft phut” or whatever. What you will hear (when using a semi-automatic) is the sound of the bolt cycling. The sound might be described as a click or maybe a clang.

So, mind your “phuts” and “clicks.” Think before you silence!

(And please don’t try to silence a revolver…)