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On Writing: Gun Safety


Few things will tick me off faster than improper gun safety in fiction.  Unfortunately, many authors fail to properly research guns, gun usage, and gun safety.  Guns are so ubiquitous in our culture that many people think that they already know all they need in order to write gun usage into a story, but what one picks up from cultural osmosis is even less accurate than your average summer blockbuster.

Deaths and injuries from gun accidents are distressingly high, and most of them could be prevented by following the three basic rules that every gun user is taught (assuming they go to a professional class). 

1. A gun is always loaded.  Always.  Even if you personally took the magazine out and cleared the chamber, the gun is still loaded.  This means you should treat every gun as if it could kill you, all the time, regardless of what you think is in it.  It is very, very easy to mistake a loaded gun for an unloaded gun, and it only takes one mistake to get shot in the face.  This means: no treating guns like toys, no tossing guns around willy-nilly, and NEVER HAND A GUN TO SOMEONE BY POINTING IT AT THEM.  In fact, any weapon being handed from one person to another should be passed handle-first.  Guns should always be treated with respect and never with carelessness, because the key here is to built up good habits.  You want careful treatment to be your default, the way you act when you’re not thinking, because it only takes one careless moment at the wrong time to kill someone.

2. Never point at something you don’t intend to hit.  This ties back to the first rule.  If a gun is always loaded, then anything you point at, you should be fully prepared to put a hole in it.  This seems obvious for while you’re shooting a gun, but I mean always keep track of your muzzle.  When you’re carrying it, when you’re loading it, when you’re transporting it, when you’re walking around, always.  People will get careless all the time, standing around with their gun out, and end up pointing it at a neighbor’s foot or back, simply because they’re not watching where their gun is.  I’ve seen people put a weapon down on a table and it points at the person sitting across from them, or they’ll be firing at a range and turn to look at something without realizing that the gun they’re holding turns with them.  I’ve seen people put on holsters wrong so the gun points at their own foot.  And I’m sure we’ve all seen (at least in pictures) the idiots who stick a gun in front of their pants and have the barrel pointed straight at their junk.  (If you must stick something in your pants, stick it in the back; you have a better chance of surviving a shot to the butt.)

The part of this rule that most people forget (especially when writing) is that what you’re aiming at is not the only thing you’re pointing at.  We call it a backdrop; all the things around and behind your target.  Bullets travel through bodies, so if there’s a mom holding her baby right behind the bad guy, don’t shoot the bad guy because you’ve got a good chance of hitting her as well.  Also, don’t fire into a crowd.  Even the best crack shot in the world can’t count on hitting a bad guy in a crowd without hitting bystanders.

3. Don’t put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.  It takes very little, especially when you’re scared, to pull that trigger by accident.  A good startle, tripping over something, or even simply being too tense can make someone fire off an unintended round.  (Putting steady pressure on a trigger, as if getting ready to fire, can make you pull it back far enough to fire without realizing it.  It happens a lot.)  There are times when you’ll walk around with your finger on the trigger, but generally speaking those are times when you’re ready to hit any bad guy you come across.

Following those three rules, and treating weapons as things that require careful handling and not as things that simply make you cool, will go a long way toward not only making gun-using readers happy, but showing your character as competent.  But there’s also a few miscellaneous faux pas that I see all the time in books that drive me nuts:

DISABLING SHOTS ARE NOT A REAL THING.  No, stop whatever you were about to say, THEY’RE NOT.  Why?  Because guns only require one working arm.  If your opponent has a firearm and you shoot him anywhere — ANYWHERE — he can still return fire.  True, some people will faint or be incapacitated by injuries, but YOU CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT COUNT ON THAT.  Besides which, a person distracted by their bleeding leg might only be distracted for however long it takes to put a field tourniquet on it, and then they’re back to firing but you’ve stopped paying attention to them.

SHOOTING EXTREMITIES IS NOT SAFE.  I’ll grant you that it’s safer than shooting someone in the head, but it’s entirely possible for someone to bleed out or die from shock after being shot in the arm, shoulder, or leg.  Major complications can also arise which cause the person to die later.  If they survive, they have a good chance of suffering from nerve damage or other life-long disabling injuries.  Now, if your (character’s) only aim is to try not to kill someone, if they want the guy to have the best possible chance of surviving, then fine, shoot at a leg.  But it should be treated as ‘best possible chance,’ not a certainty.

SHOOTING THE TORSO IS NOT IMMEDIATELY FATAL.  It’ll take several minutes to die, if they die at all.  Back when dueling was common, it was often the case that both parties would get shot for just this reason.  The first guy to get hit would still be on his feet and going, only now he’s pissed off from being hit so he fires back.  This happens in combat a lot, too, especially with combatants hyped up on adrenaline.  This is why military and police types are taught to empty their gun into people, not fire once and wait to see what happens.  Also, people have survived being shot multiple times in the torso.  It’s not as uncommon as you think.

In short, while it may be more common to survive being shot in the leg and die from being shot in the chest, you should never count on a bullet to do any given thing in a body.  Bodies + bullets have too many variables, and just about anything can happen.  That, really, is the key: don’t have a character expect a specific outcome, because anyone with experience would know better.  (Those without experience could still expect movie science, but you don’t have to give it to them.)

STOP TRYING TO GET HEAD SHOTS.  Lots of people seem to think that headshots make a character more ‘badass,’ but they’re not what a serious shooter would try and take.  Heads present a smaller target, and if you miss them then you miss completely.  Military and police types are trained to aim for the center mass, because not only does a torso provide a bigger target, but if you’re slightly off you’ll still at least hit something.  Also, a dead target is a dead target, whether you put your bullets in the chest or the head.  Don’t try and tell me that your character is just such a good shooter that they never miss; that only works in comic book physics.  In the real world, with movie targets and no superpowers, even the best shooters miss.  A lot.

DON’T CROSS LANES.  If there are multiple shooters on each side (i.e., your character and her buddies), then it is extremely important for the shooters to keep track of each other.  If they have trained together, they should know what each other person is going to do so that they don’t run in front of each other.  Crossing into another person’s lane is a great way to wind up with friendly fire.  If your shooters haven’t trained together, this should be a concern for them, which means they should be talking a lot to keep track of each other.  (This is also why emergency responders don’t want bystanders to help, even if they have training.  Being trained doesn’t mean you’ve trained with them, and odds are you’ll all just trip over each other.)

Now, obviously, you might have an inexperienced character that doesn’t know all of these rules.  They might have no more knowledge than your average movie-watcher.  That’s fine.  But you, the author, should know all the rules of gun usage so that you can display the consequences of misusing guns.

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Imagine person B of your OTP is a touchy-feely / horny drunk. And while they’re at it, person A casually deflects their attempt at seducing (verbally or physically) like a pro and just babies them until they can be tucked in bed. Bonus if person A lies in bed all morning whispering all the embarrassing things person B said into their ears while person B tries to cover them with a pillow and constantly swats at person A to make them stop.

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                                              a masterlist of habits for you characters                           because chewing on nails and lip biting are way too overused 
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                                              a masterlist of habits for you characters 
                          because chewing on nails and lip biting are way too overused 

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- a traditional Afro-Haitian religion that encompasses philosophy, justice, and medicine. 

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- a traditional Afro-Haitian religion that encompasses philosophy, justice, and medicine. 

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There’s more to Hogwarts than the Quidditch pitch, the library and the common rooms.


 Here’s some more locations for your characters to be at:

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plots inspired by songs, ft. ed sheeran and taylor swift

1. tell her that i need her, tell her that she’s more than a one-night stand.

[muse a] is far from successful, travelling from show to show with a few dozen people for a crowd, and [muse b] is well on their own. Living in the same town, they know each other — not too well, yet they’re strangely comfortable around the other. One day, when [muse a] is in town again, they meet up, and the night turns into something much more fun than either of them had planned prior to the meeting. [muse b], however, doesn’t seem to see it as anything more because they don’t really have anyone who’d care for them, and [muse a] is quite determined to show them otherwise.

2. maybe you were needed up there, but we're still unaware as why.

(trigger warning: miscarriage) [muse a] and [muse b] weren’t close in the slightest. Not in high school, and certainly not in college. They did, however, sleep together come graduation after getting their degrees and, much too early, [muse a] got pregnant after the night. Neither of them was particularly joyed with the fact, but they agreed to wait it out. I was months later, and it all brought them close enough to get into a romantic relationship, agreeing that they’d keep the baby no matter what. Five months, and it was all gone. After a sudden fall, [muse a] suffered a miscarriage and now… Well, now they needed to deal with the aftermath, and neither of them wanted to let go while at the same time pushing the other away.

3. and i don't get waves of missing you anymore, they're more like tsunami tides in my eyes.

Neither [muse a] nor [muse b] want to give up what they have. It’s not been long since they’ve started dating, but they grew attached to each other faster than to anyone before. Yeah, maybe it scares them a little, even, but their paths are too different. There’s no place for them to continue their relationship when [muse a] wants to go to college and [muse b] can’t just up and leave everything behind for them. It’s just not possible and it kills them because they want nothing more than to stay together. [muse a], though, is the first to say that long distance is something they can’t really do and it wouldn’t work. There’s a thousand reasons why they can’t be together anymore, and neither wants to let go. So they part on somewhat bad terms and they’re miserable at best. Day to day life becomes insufferable when they await the other’s call every hour, and finally, [muse b] is the one to muster up the courage to call [muse a] and just… talk,.

4. i could take the back road, but your eyes will lead me straight back home.

They’re fooling themselves, thats what they’re doing with this. Saying they’re just friends and hopping into bed with each other the second the door is closed and no one can see them. It’s not another case of friends with benefits, really, because that would mean they have no feelings for each other. But they do. They really always have, but they never admitted it to each other. For the sake of keeping a friendship going or whatever, that was [muse a]’s excuse. [muse b], on the other hand, is just too shy and scared to ask if they can be something more because it’s kind of exclusive, a thing that they don’t do with anyone else. Just each other. And it feels intimate every time, more so when [muse a] mutters a gentle comment of how beautiful [muse b] is or [muse b] runs their fingers up [muse a]’s spine thoughtfully. They can’t be more, though. Why? That’d mean having to take a step forward, and with them both being just college students, neither wants to settle down.

5. 'cause all i know is we said hello, and your eyes look like coming home.

They meet through their kids. Both single parents, [muse a] and [muse b] have been acquaintances ever since [muse a] moved to the town and enrolled her kid at the same kindergarten as [muse b]. Nothing happens for a long while, though. They talk only a year later, getting by on mere greetings until the day when they both come a little too early and start up casual small talk. Except really, the small talk turns deeper than any of them intended and they learn things about each other — similar interests, their back stories. And from that day forward, they both make sure to come a little early every time.

6. please don't be in love with someone else, please don't have somebody waiting on you.

[muse a] and [muse b] meet at a boring event, one at which they’re both the youngest and the least involved. It’s supposed to be a party, a fundraiser, but they’re just there for support of their parents. Their eyes meet in the middle of the night and the attraction is obvious from the moment they do. The night ends with them talking for hours before [muse a] has to go and they exchange numbers. At home, [muse b] has to wonder if [muse a] is single or not, because they can’t deny the chemistry between them. No one is mentioned as they exchange texts back and forth for weeks, and yet [muse a] is definitely tied down, with an engagement ring of all things.

7. and right before your eyes i'm aching, no past, nowhere to hide, just you and me.

Their relationship is dysfunctional at best; they argue and break up all the time, they see other people, sometimes very obviously so. But they’re also at the point in their lives when there’s no more time for playing games — they need to settle down. And really, they both want to. It’s too bad, then, that [muse a] finds it hard to keep a promise to [muse b]. They go over it time and time again, each time swearing they won’t hurt each other, hoping that it’s the last time they ever fight. The day never comes, though, but they’re stuck in love and a desire to fight for what they have.

8. i am not the kind of girl who should be rudely barging in on a white veil occasion.

[muse a] is not one to typically even think of ruining a wedding by standing up. Which is why, when the preacher says to speak now, there’s no thinking involved when they stand up. At a loss for other words, [muse a] just simply says, “Don’t”. Everything happens too fast, and they’re off together, driving towards who knows where with excitement and guilt mixing inside them. It all dies down too soon, when they’re reminded of countless reasons of why they broke up in the first place and why [muse b] was with another person in that church.

9. i'm feeling like i don't know you, you tell me that you want me then cut me down 

[muse a] is, to put it lightly, arrogant. They’re not afraid of putting other people down in order to assert their own status at the school. [muse b], on the other hand, is always trying to be nice to everyone and succeeding in that. Their paths, however unlikely, meet come summer after sophomore year and it goes well at first. Until, that is, school starts up again and they’re back to their roles once more. It’s not that they have to break up, but [muse a] is still the same towards everyone, including [muse b], and it’s bound to take a toll on their relationship.

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this is fun

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as your roleplay partner, i vow to:

  • always send you memes
  • be patient with you and your replies
  • never get angry with you if you want to drop the rp
  • be up for plotting 24/7 (even if im asleep you should spam me)
  • understand when real life gets in the way
  • pester you with a lot of headcannons
  • take twenty years to reply 
  • love you forever

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A guide for researching historical fashion and costume


Anonymous asked you:

Heyy! I kinda desperately need some descritiption on cowboy clothing… All (or at least most of) the types, and maybe the time ranges? I don’t know where to start searching… I’m not American, so Im kinda lost…

Looking up historical costume references when you have little knowledge of said history can be a daunting task, but being true to the history is critical in getting the setting right. I knew a writer who didn’t do much research in her specific era, mixing clichéd elements of medieval costume that she had probably seen on TV. Let me tell you, not all movies get it right (in fact, many don’t).

So, I’m going to help with giving you some researching guidelines. These will expand and maximize your internet tool and help you find all the specific resources that you need for your story.

Find the time period. Essentially, try to locate your basic timeframe. If you’re writing a story about the Wild West and old frontier times, for example, then you should be doing a ton of historical research anyway, including how and why this specific culture came about. Once you’ve settled on about the right time period for your story, this is a good start.

Western fashion is suuuper easy to look up. All I did was google “fashion time periods” and Wikipedia gave me History of Western Fashion. I didn’t have to go much farther before I found Wikipedia’s page on Western wear.

Because the American cowboy is a subculture, a culmination of environment and other native cultures, fashion icons developed like a branch from that of the Industrial Revolution trends. Cowboy hats and dusters became iconic of the cowboy era—but you’ll discover this as you research more.

Find the styles. Once you have your time period, look up that time period’s specific fashion. Like I mentioned before, Wiki does this real nicely as well (for fashions of the western world). Find the name of the specific parts of the each garment or accessory that you need and look that up where you need to. For example, if I want to look up “duster”, I can plug that into Wiki and, tah-dah, I get the duster.

Assume everything has a name, from the specific type of coat (Norfolk, morning coat, frock coat, etc.), to every layer of a woman’s gown (and the type of gown). Do you have to go into minute detail in your writing? Maybe not, but you always have it for reference, and just having that knowledge alone can subtly affect how you write the clothing in question.

If you’re doing non-western fashion, this step may take you much longer, especially if you’re starting with 0 knowledge. It doesn’t help that pages like Wiki are very scarce. But, keep in mind that some places (like China) evolved fashion much more slowly, or at a more subtle rate, and for different reasons. Traditional garb is important for a multitude of reasons.

However, don’t rely entirely on Wikipedia to do your research for you. That’s a good starting point so you can get basic elements, but take your search to Google. If I look up “Chinese traditional fashion”, I get a whole page on UCLA about it.

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