Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Clip vs Mag

Some time ago I had the chance to get some first hand experience with firing a hand gun, the point of which was to have the experience to more accurately write the scene in Mind the Thorns where Regan defends herself from a band of hunters. It was a good experience and I think that it enriched my story telling.

For Bastion I have been networking with a mix of "experts" to get things right in the particulars given that all of my characters have such wide ranging backgrounds. But this also creates its own dilemmas.

Specifically, what do you use to load a gun? A clip or a magazine?

According to my handgun expert, it's called a magazine.

Thankfully I think I can safely use the term magazine with out confusing anyone. Similarly there is little risk in using nautical miles for my distances but calling them only miles in dialogue. There is a small risk that someone may check my math and point out that my ranges between locations is off but that too is very unlikely.

But I start to run into other problems when it comes to computers. Apparently databases do not index or connect to a program, the program "ingests" the database.

I can honestly say that I've never heard of the term "Ingesting" a database. It makes sense though, now that I'm writing about it. A data base takes the data offered to it, and it internalizes it just as we take in food. It's not a horrible word, but it's just one that, even as a fan of sci fi, I had never heard of before.

And this creates a unique dilemma when writing: do you use completely accurate language and alienate those most in "the know" or do you use the common language that laymen would apply and thus understand?

Referencing back to my time at the gun range, I remember making a mental note that the "thing that holds the bullets" is not a clip, it's a magazine. I had never called it that before. In fact when I said "magazine" I usually thought, historically of the "powder magazine" where all the kegs of powder are kept. I didn't think directly of the "mechanical device to hold and feed bullets into a gun".

So when a character reaches for more ammo, does she grab a clip or a magazine?

And this is really one of those cases where you can't win for losing. If you're accurate you risk losing readers, and if you're not you face the same danger.

My advice, if I'm at all positioned to offer it, is to err on the side of the layman. While it's good to show that you're doing your research you also don't want to risk losing the majority of your audience. There are some outs, such as mixing terms or using both the common term and the official term in the prose, but it's important to your narrative to stay within your voice or character. You also can look for chances for a character who would know the right term to correct your narrator with the correct one as a means to say "hey I know we call it this but the right term is that."

At the end of it all, the most important thing is to keep the story fun to read and as grounded as possible in reality, even when that reality is not real reality.

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