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Guest Article: Getting It Write with Rick Anderson

by Michael 5/23/2012 1:44:00 PM

Once again, my friend and fellow writer steps into our guest spot -Michael

Getting it Write 

The great thing about Michael's site is the resource it provides for writers that want to write about cops—and for cops that want to write. To be more precise, writers can find opportunities to inject authenticity into the cop characters that they're creating. I'm retired after a almost four decades in public service, capping my career as a federal agent. I met Dr. Michael Thompkins two years ago at the Southern California Writers Conference in Sunny Sandy Eggo. We were teaching separate workshops but our topics had connections to police characters. Comparing notes later, we were encouraged by the large turn-outs that revealed a deep desire among writers to keep their characters honest. There were Q&As following the lecture portions and the questions came fast & furious. One example: "Can my hero use a silencer on his revolver?" The short answer is, no. Or consider this question: "My protagonist is a police officer. She has to take on four punks in a dark alley. What're her options?" I replied, "Multiple," and explained a few. 

Michael's premier novel Gun Play reveals the great effort he put forth to bring to life vivid characters that not only talk the talk, but walk the walk in all things related to the world of cops & robbers. His characters are original, their credibility as working cops faultless. And how did Michael accomplish this? Through research, by riding with working officers, and through social contacts. As a result he's nailed the procedures, the talk, and equally important, the attitudes. This last quality is important because cops do have attitude—and good cops have very healthy ones that enable them in their work.  Writers also have healthy attitudes; it's what compels us to put pen to the proverbial paper. We have something to say, and of course we let our characters speak for us. But to accomplish this task, readers must accept that character, and if that character is found to be fraudulent in their actions—by using a silencer on a revolver, for example—many readers stop turning the pages. Let's examine that whole "silencer" issue to reveal how one wrong move can cascade into a boiling mass of rejection by readers.

 To begin with, the term "silencer" is a misnomer. The correct term is "suppressor," because that's what these devices do—they reduce the noise. But they can't eliminate it. For example, pulling the trigger creates a mechanical action as the handgun's parts move. There is always a loud click or two, and possibly more in the case of a pistol's slide as it works back and forth. Then there's the bullet itself. Depending on its type, it can go supersonic, thus creating its own noise. The bullet—or more correctly, the round—can also produce noise upon impact. In the case of revolvers, the cylinder that holds the rounds is exposed, and the explosion produced when the hammer falls cannot be silenced—not by a suppressor that's attached to the muzzle which is at least two inches away. I've also thrown three terms at you: revolver, handgun and pistol. Revolvers and pistols are handguns, but a pistol is not a revolver, and vice-versa. The difference seems subtle but can be profound if an author mixes and matches with indifference, thus catching a knowing reader's attention and bringing them to a screeching halt. The error might even prompt the reader to put down the book forever. Worse still, they might write nasty things about the book on Amazon. By the way, a suppressor can be attached to a pistol (and remember, a pistol is not a revolver), but there are still mechanical sounds to contend with. Bottom line: suppressors cannot silence a shot fired from a handgun.

 Fortunately for us, Michael's site not only provides a source for insight and facts, it also yields his tremendous insight into a cop's attitude. He tells us what's going through a trooper's mind as he or she approaches a car full of burly men on a lonely highway late at night; he lets us see what the trooper is looking for, and why. Michael can also reveal a cop's emotions after being forced to shoot someone. It's important, because Hollywood's portrayals are so often bogus. Fans of old movies might recall seeing cops or detectives shoot a bad guy or two bad in the morning, then break for lunch without further comment or show of emotion—or even referring to the reams of paperwork that they'll have to deal with. Contemporary movies tend to swing in the opposite direction, obsessing over the angst involved. What's the reality? Someone in the middle. And Michael can provide that reality for writers. So thank you, Michael. You've provided a great site that offers invaluable advice, insight and additional resources to all of us—and I look forward to reading your next novel, Big Island Play. 

-          Rick Anderson,






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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.