How to Fight Write

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Anonymous asked: So, in my novel, an Interpol agent is tracking a murderer who has killed in many different countries. Should they notify everyone or should they act secretly? And what is stealthier, a silenced pistol, a knife or a silenced sniper rifle?

Okay, so a lot of media screws this one up. Interpol is a just an advisory agency. Today it’s a part of the UN, though the organization actually dates back to the 1920s (as the International Criminal Police Commission).

They have no actual law enforcement powers of their own, and they have no direct involvement in criminal investigations. Interpol agents pass information to governments and function as administrative liaisons between national law enforcement agencies.

Today, Interpol is mostly just the curator of multinational databases, including things like: fugitive warrants, arrests, fingerprints, and general crime statistics. Interpol Agents are more likely to be tasked with assisting local police in actually having access to, and being able to use those databases, than being asked to consult on specific crimes.

If you’re doing sociological analysis of criminal trends, they’re actually a fantastic source, but, they don’t actually do anything.

They’re not spies, they don’t hunt down criminals across national borders, showing up at crime scenes unannounced. They push paper around. That isn’t to say their services aren’t useful, but they’re not some kind of transnational FBI agent.

Further, Interpol does adhere to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which pretty quickly takes out your “covert assassin” concept at the knees.

If your character is a spy, an Interpol Agent would actually be a pretty terrible cover, unless the intent is just to bug a police detective’s office, get out, and disappear. It’s not a cover they can take into the field, doesn’t provide much freedom of action, and Interpol won’t authenticate it.

On the question of stealthy weapons, one of those things doesn’t depend on an explosion to function. Which will make it much quieter. But ultimately this is a “right tool for the right job” kind of situation.

Remember, in Europe, tight gun control is the norm. If your character is caught by local law enforcement with a suppressed weapon, that’s probably going to be serious jail time. I’m not sure what the fallout from an Interpol Agent going off and operating as a vigilante would be, but the scandal would almost certainly massive.

If your character is going the spy route, The Bourne Identity might be worth reading. Even if you’ve seen the film, dig up a copy. It’s not a fantastic book, but there’s a lot of basic tradecraft in there.

If you’re willing to dig through RPG systems, AEG’s Spycraft core books can work as a basic primer for writing espionage themed fiction, including what you’re describing. The core books are somewhat agnostic on the martini/stale beer spectrum, but, they do specifically provide information for stories of both varieties.


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themagnificentpendragon asked: I have a question about the buzz words article. What if you're using them for a specific purpose to set the scene? For example, my MC works as a lab technician and uses a few terms that aren't exactly known to the general public. It's not hugely important what she's saying, but I thought it would help to illustrate that these kind of things are her "every day" to help set up a routine. Should I keep them or cut them altogether? Or maybe just restrict the usage so it's not overwhelming?

No, don’t cut them. Well, not all of them. Just try to make sure that every time you introduce one or a new one, you include a short blurb about what it is or connect it to the actions she’s taking. The problem with jargon happens when the author doesn’t explain anything. When full sentences of Spanish or Japanese are dropped into the narrative at random because both of the characters speak Spanish and the author wants to prove they do but doesn’t bother to explain what they’re saying because why would they?

Compare to say, a character who is visiting a foreign country like France or Italy but doesn’t speak the language, the author may choose to include untranslated Italian or French into the text in order to emphasize the character’s sense of isolation and loneliness. The character doesn’t know what they’re saying, so neither do we.


"Maddy!" Patrick yelled. "Pack it up!"

Rolling her eyes, Maddy put down the papers and stomped off to the break room.

Here we have no idea what the character Patrick means when he says: “pack it up”. Or really, why the character of Maddy would be annoyed about it.

Counter Example:

"Maddy!" Patrick yelled. "Pack it up!"

Maddy rolled her eyes. The boss’ obsession with keeping the break room tidy was legendary. Shuffling the papers on her desk, She kicked her chair back and grabbed her coffee cup. I’m not a maid!

Seriously, sometimes Patrick was the worst.

Here, it’s slightly more obvious that “pack it up” is Patrick’s version of “clean up”. Maddy translates the meaning for us, but also relays her personal feelings on the subject through her actions. She’s being asked to clean up and she doesn’t like it.

This happens a lot with writers having character’s practice martial arts or dropping a martial art like Aikido into a story without ever explaining what it is. The character uses Japanese specific terminology without either showing or telling us what their using technique is. It can be jarring and confusing, and even skirts into appropriation when the martial art is being presented in a way that is incongruous with it’s real world philosophy (and no attention is ever paid to that real world philosophy).

Really, it’s not that daunting. All you need are a few unobtrusive sentences for clarity and you’re off to the races. When you’re done, get a beta reader who isn’t afraid to be honest and knows nothing about the subject matter to give it a read over. These could be people in your writing group, a kind writing instructor, a family member, or a friend. Have them tell you if there were any points where they became confused by the technical terminology, pinpoint those moments, and adjust them so they make sense.

Balancing staying true to the character and relaying the necessary information to the reader can be difficult, but it gets easier with practice. Save all the worries for your revisions.


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A lot of my advice about entering publishing mentions the word “networking”. For those of you with little to no experience networking, it is NOT a photo meme in which you dress in a trench coat and yell:


Rather, networking is a vital skill one must develop when entering,…

OMG. Flawless.

That part about interaction on Twitter is so important. The days I close my browser and go sit outside to contemplate the sun swallowing the universe = because people on Twitter want to win influence by correcting my grammar or making humorless jokes about advice given when I’m genuinely trying to help people.

(via yahighway)

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On Buzz Words

Jargon, fast terms, slang, we are all aware of what they are. We use them in our everyday life. Think about the words you’ve learned just from using Tumblr, which are unique to Tumblr’s fan community. Use these words outside of the internet and you may make no sense to anyone who does not engage with this particular internet community. Every industry uses buzz words, jargon is part of the lifestyle. Everyone who works within the industry uses some variation. The martial arts community at large has several which come up often. “Speed” and “power” are right up there with George Lucas’ famous direction “faster! More intense!”. Worse, they can be just as confusing to the uninitiated.

What does that even mean!

I know I’ve had that thought about George Lucas’ stage direction a few times. This is the problem with slang: it’s unclear.

When you’re writing, buzz words will get you in trouble. Much like using a foreign language to add in detail to make a character sound more convincing, such as abuela or the romanized sensei, too many will mean your story quickly becomes confusing. We have all probably read a great many Naruto or Bleach fanfics where the author went overboard with the Japanese and explained none of it. Worse, they’re often used wrong!

The short of it is: whether it’s a real world or made up language, you’re not doing yourself any favors relying on these fast terms—even the ones you turn up in martial arts manuals—if you cannot explain what they mean and how they relate to what’s happening in the story. Remember, potentially, all the work you did to learn those definitions. You can’t assume your reader has put in the same amount of time. Drop any word into the story and I expect it to earn it’s place, if it only serves to confuse your reader further then, no matter how accurate it is, cut it.


Sa bum-nim George stared at me, arms crossed over his chest. A slight smile tucked in the corner of his mouth, one black eyebrow raised. “Do it again,” he said.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and settled back into my stance. How many times was he going to make me do this?

Hands settled inches above my thighs, the beginning position. I drew in a deep breath, sucking air up through my nostrils to fill my chest. My stomach sucked tight against my ribs. My palms rose, pointed inward at my chest up along the length of my body. Reaching my face, I flipped them up. A quick, fast motion. I began my slow exhalation. A harsh soft hiss, breath keeping time with my arms as my hands pressed forward. Control. Slow and steady, like pushing against a wall. This form was all about control.

I shouted, “Koryo, sir!”

Now, let’s talk about speed and power.

"Focus on speed and power!" says the martial arts master.

But, what does that really mean? Well, it’s complicated. The concepts behind these two terms change depending on the martial art in question. So, the definitions I’m giving you aren’t going to be accurate to every single one of them. Some martial arts may use different descriptors for these concepts. I’m pulling mine from my own background.

Speed and power are secondary instructions given after a student has learned a technique. The goal is to start them slow, so they can get a feel for how it is done and then crank up the pace.

Speed: can mean how fast you perform the technique, but packed into the term is how precisely you perform the technique. Quickness, accuracy, and control. Celerity. It’s more than just your momentum. “I want you to go faster, but to also be in control of how fast you’re going.” In the beginning stages of training, students often interpret speed as just going faster. However, speeding up without a strong base in the technique leads to a sloppy performance. It feels good, just like hitting the pad hard feels good, but it’s pointless to hit the ground running without an understanding the technical basics.

Power: is a bit of a misnomer. Even thinking about it, it’s difficult to put into words. The basic concept of “hit harder” you probably already grasp. Power is release, both mental and physical. Your body acts as a compressed spring and the power comes from the pop, the force in the release. Power can come from focused aggression, from breathing and in the strong exhalation from the diaphragm as the technique connects, the force created by all the body’s parts (footwork, hips, shoulders, arms, legs) working in tandem. Suddenly, the basic concept of “hit harder” becomes much more complicated in execution. To have power, you need speed. In this sense, speed refers to the momentum created by how fast the body is moving aka basic physics.

Unpacking jargon is difficult, even those who are experienced practitioners may not be able to tell you what the words really mean. They may not be able to put it all into words.

So, be careful. The point of using jargon is to add flavor. Too much with no explanation and it’s no longer understandable.


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One thing I’ve said in terms of the word likable, and Netflix got mad at me for saying it: Fuck likability. I don’t give two shits if someone likes my characters. I do care whether they’re attracted to them. And there’s a big difference. I don’t mean sexually attracted. I mean attracted so that you can’t keep your eyes off them, you’re invested in them. He’s not likable, but you have to know where he ends up, you have to follow his path. I’m interested in the tension where one moment you might like them and the next you abhor them, or maybe simultaneously.

Beau Willimon, screenwriter for House of Cards, in a panel discussion covered by The Atlantic.

This is what I mean when I say characters don’t have to be “likable”, but they do have to be “sympathetic” (the word sympathisch in German has a slightly different meaning from our “sympathetic”, so I think that’s why I choose that term over another one, such as “attractive”). How else would a character like Humbert Humbert be a protagonist?

(via yeahwriters)

(via clevergirlhelps)

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Anonymous asked: Would a shotgun firing shot have less identifying ballistic evidence than a rifled gun such as a pistol? (In terms of matching fired rounds to a specific gun)

If it’s loaded with buckshot? Yes and no.

When you’re trying to match a bullet to a gun, usually you’re looking at the pattern of striations (scratches) on the bullet itself. This is caused by the bullet moving through the barrel and scraping across the rifling. This is what gets the bullet spinning, and keeps it from tumbling in the air, but it also leaves a distinctive pattern on the bullet itself.

Keep in mind, lead is a very soft metal, so firing into a concrete wall, or even just pulling it out of the victim with surgical tools will destroy some of those markings.

With a shotgun, the shot itself won’t have striations that you can tie back to a specific weapon, but the spent shells can still be forensically useful in identifying a weapon.

Spend shell casings pick up scraping and indentations from the firearm that they’re fed through. The firing pin will leave an indentation in the back of the shell casing. The breach block (which seals the battery/chamber when firing) will impress on the shell when it’s fired. And, finally, the feeding system, the extractor and ejector, will leave markings on the spent shell. And, all of these things will apply to a shotgun.

Spent shells can be useful for identifying the make and model of a weapon, and in some cases actually identifying a specific weapon (the same way bullets are). Though, my limited understanding is, that it is less useful for identifying a specific weapon, unless there is some anomaly or defect in the components that handle the shell.

However, if the shotgun isn’t cycled after being fired (with a lever or pump action) or reloaded (with a breach loaded shotgun), then there wouldn’t be any casings left at the scene.

Also, breach loading shotguns and revolvers won’t leave extractor markings, and some don’t even have ejectors. The extractor is the mechanism that removes a round from the magazine and cycles it into the chamber. The ejector removes a round from the chamber and kicks it out of the weapon, so the extractor can load the next round.

If the shotgun is loaded with slugs, and the barrel is rifled, then it should leave striations, though I’m not completely certain this is the case. A smooth-bore shotgun probably wouldn’t, though, again, I’m not sure.

Although it’s not generally an issue with shotguns, suppressors will further scrape the bullet, meaning they can make matching striations much harder or impossible.


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