Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Only if you mean to

It's no real secret, but I'm working on another major web serial that will launch within the next month.  This one, unlike Mind the Thorns, will not be reader directed, will update weekly (where I was forced to move MtT to every other week), and will feature a mix of prose, and multimedia or other updates.  My plan for it is to first have a at least a month's worth of writing done before it goes live so I have some wiggle room to ease up or work ahead as I need.

Because the story involves members of the military, I've been in close contact with several friends with military experience and they have been kind and patient enough with me to let me bounce ideas off of them, and proof read my work for factual inaccuracies and procedural oopses.

I've got a longer blog post coming soon that addresses one of those conversations but I wanted to hit on another theme that has come out here.  Specifically this:

Soldiers are trained not to fire warning shots.

Over at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen they're having a symposium on gun control, gun violence and "guns in America".  This has put the issue of guns also on  my mind as a citizen and as a writer.  So this is not just a note about the scene where I had a Marine fire a warning shot in the first draft and then had to remove the warning shot for later drafts.

I won't spoil the scene but I needed tension.  I needed to escalate that tension and a gun shot is pretty tense. I've fired a gun a few times now, different guns at that, and the sound, and shock wave are significant.  They will, undeniably, get your undivided attention.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email back from a beta reader with the comment, and I quote:  "NO NO NO and NO!"

That lead me to thinking.

Guns have a single purpose:  to kill things.  We may use them for target shooting, but those are just games to practice what the gun is ~for~.  Being able to hit a small mark on a target simply means that you are practiced to nail a major organ and kill someone.  No more, no less.

And that's fine.  It's not intended to be a commentary on guns good or bad.  I see the above as no more controversial as saying "a car is to carry you from point A to point B."  Sure cars have other implications.  They represent power, freedom, status.  But at the end of the day the purpose of the car as a machine is transportation.

Or to provide another analogy, the telephone is to communicate ideas, verbally, to another person.  You call them, you share your idea, you hang up.  When I was in High School, on the other hand, I used the phone as a life line to the cool kids.  There was no social risk in spending hours on the phone with the class nerd so people, girls mainly, who would not acknowledge my existence in person, would happily engage me in conversation for 2-3 hours on a given night.

But I digress....

So here seems to be the logic:  The only reason to use a gun is to kill someone.

Suppose, for example, that the intention is to "take him alive" so the shot is aimed at a non-lethal area, like the shoulder.  What happens when instead of impacting muscle, the bullet breaks open the Axillary Artery?  In a few moments the victim is going to bleedout and instead of taking them alive you've taken them dead.

There are other ways to go if the intention is non-lethal.  Why take the risk of a fatal event if that is not the intent?

This strikes me as one of those things that writers do because it makes for a good plot, even if it doesn't jive with reality.  The main character has a gun,which is cool and all, but we don't him to have the burden of being a murderer.  We don't even want him to ~want~ to kill someone.  So he makes the "tough call" and he tries for a shot that will disarm, disable, and only wound.  He's the "good guy" and good guys don't kill people.

That also creates confusion in someone forced to take a shot in a high stress situtation.  The time it takes to decide "Shoot to kill" vs "shoot to wound" is time that someone might not be able to spare.  And even if they do spare it, what if they "miss" and either fail to disable, or (possibly) worse, kill?

To that end, the training, the repetition, the drill, is to shoot to the center of the body of mass (the easiest to hit) and also the most fatal place, ie, to kill.

I wonder, as I put down this under "The Writing Process" if perhaps our "gun culture" has created too many dramatic images of heroes using firearms to all other manner of purpose, everything except to kill.  Is it possible, then, that we might have less "problems", if the only time a gun was drawn was when lethal force was the desired outcome?

No comments:

Post a Comment