When Writers Get it Wrong

There’s nothing more jarring, disorienting, and annoying than getting jerked out of a good story because a writer gets a detail wrong. Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not trying to be anal here. But once an author establishes the rules of the world they have chosen to set their story in, he or she has the responsibility to follow them.

Once I’m pulled out of a story in that way it is almost impossible for me to go back. The spell is broken; the magic is gone. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Here are a few examples that recur often enough in popular fiction to make one sick:

Everything Works Like a CarA super, know-it-all, tough guy secret agent is escaping in a small plane he learned to fly in one of the million wars and conflicts he’s been in. He’s speeding down the runway steering the plane using that little steering wheel looking thing. Only problem is that, that little plane is not a car, and while on the ground is steered using the pedals on floor called rudders, not the wheel. On the ground that steering wheel does nothing.

So Mr. Lazy writer didn’t bother to check his facts, assuming his readers are too stupid to know the difference. And is not only planes, I’ve seen boats with brakes, or a stock motorcycle straight from the dealer with a reverse gear.

Magical Guns

Authors don’t have to become gun experts. But if they are not, they shouldn’t act like it, and end up sounding like total retards.

For example, some authors are just in love with the word Glock. These guys don’t have the faintest idea of what a Glock is, but I guess they think the word sounds cool. It just drives me crazy when a character I’ve come to like reaches for his trusty Glock, slides his thumb over the safety and fires. No, dear careless writer, Glock’s DON’T have external safeties. They come out of the holster ready to fire.

Then there’s the guy that carries a .45 caliber and a Glock, like Glock is a caliber and the Glock Company doesn’t make any .45 caliber models. Come on. Just say gun next time. Just gun. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, gun will do.

Another one of my favorites is the cop that draws his weapon and pulls back on the slide to feed a round into the chamber. If you’re a cop and carry your weapon without a round in the chamber, you are a moron and should be fired. Enough said.

Now this is the all time worse in my opinion, especially in movies. I mean this is it, we’ve reached the climax of the story. Our hero is down on the ground and the bad guy is pointing a semi-automatic handgun at his head. He pulls the trigger, and click. Nothing happens. He keeps pulling the trigger but there’s nothing but more clicks. The gun is empty.

Well Mr. Careless author, not only are you committing the unforgivable storytelling sin of resolving the climax of your story using mere chance to save your hero, but to add insult to injury you got the details way wrong. Non revolver handguns are gas operated. When the last round is fired the slide locks back. There is no way to confuse it with a loaded gun and no way to pull the trigger for it to go click. Even if by some weird malfunction the slide were to travel forward there would still be no way in hell that you could continue to pull the trigger. Sorry.

I also love the super snipers who pick up someone else’s discarded weapon and hit a target a mile away on their first try. Guess what. You can be the absolute best shooter in the world, but you still would not be able to do that. A riffle scopes, even iron sights for that matter, are zeroed to one person. It is virtually impossible to pick up someone else’s rifle, place the crosshairs on a target and hit it dead center. Can’t be done. That is why military sniper teams each carry their own weapon. They don’t share the one, even though it would make their carrying load lighter. They can’t.

Magic Handcuffs

This one is just ridiculous. So your favorite cop character gets handcuffed with his own cuffs, and now he needs a hacksaw to cut them off. Then after, he spends a huge chunk of the story with the broken bracelets hanging from his wrists.

First, it’s not that easy to use a hacksaw on a handcuff chain with them still on your wrists. But second and most important, all handcuffs I’ve ever heard off are keyed the same. One key opens all of them. How about our hero using his partner’s keys? How hard is that?

Then there are those that use a paperclip to magically pick the lock. Yeah cause is that easy. Give me a break. There is a way to easily open handcuff with a small sliver of metal, but you do it by inserting it in the small gap where the teeth meet the mechanism. Of course this too becomes impossible if the cuffs are double locked, something any cop worth two cents will always do.

I also love characters that put on shirts with handcuff on. Do I even have to explain this one? It’s impossible. Can’t be done.

The Super Hacker

In this ridiculous scene the super hacker has to prove his skill. They sit him in front of a computer screen, and the bad guys place a gun to his head giving him ninety seconds to break in. The hacker starts typing and lo and behold, 89 seconds later he’s in. Isn’t he wonderful?

Yeah, okay. The only way to get passed password protection in that situation, is to know the password beforehand. That’s it. Without software to run an attack and without time or previous preparation the hacker is useless. I could go on forever, but I think I’ll stop here. Just please, authors, stop embarrassing yourselves and ruining otherwise well written stories. Either check your facts or write around them.

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