Tag Archives: writing advice

Hello, I have two questions about one subject. I have two characters who are injured in my story. One has a deep stab wound in his upper back. The other has a sprain wrist. I want to know, realistically how fast each one can heal? The stab wound is a clean cut in-out job and I would like to know how fast the character is able to walk about. The one with the sprained wrist is also a sword fighter, how quickly could he heal at a push? It will be a great help, thanks.

A couple of weeks on the sprain. Technically it can take as much as two months until it fully heals, but the joint should be useable long before then.

The stab wound… depending on the circumstances, you could be looking at a month before it’s even sealed up, to say nothing of actually healed.

The closest I’ve gotten to being stabbed was stepping on a nail about a decade ago, and I cannot recommend it.

Accounting for various factors, including the victim’s age, diet, and general health at the time of the injury, you could be looking at six or seven months before the wound is mostly healed.

Moral of the story: if you want to use that character again, and your time frame isn’t spread out over years, don’t stab them. Shooting them and car accidents come with similar warnings.

Again, I’m not a doctor, so some of my numbers could be faulty because someone was getting creative with case studies on the internet because they wanted to sell their “new” medical techniques. But, best guess.


readingwithavengeance said: To be fair, with the stab wound, he can *walk about* the whole time. It’s using the shoulder/arm that’s going to take healing.

That’s correct, and this is why I probably shouldn’t be answering questions in the middle of the night.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that you really can’t “push” to heal faster. Proper medical treatment will speed the healing process, but pushing (in most senses) will usually aggravate the injury further, meaning it will actually last longer. This is especially true of the sprain if your character is pushing to recover as quickly as possible. Once they’re mobile, if they try to push the joint too hard before it’s fully healed they could very easily injure it again. My suspicion is, they’d also be at risk for a more severe injury in that case, but I’m not sure.


Hi, my questions are is berserker a type of fighting, what would be a counter to a berserker style of fighting, what are the different types of fighting, plus the cons and pros of each fighting style. Thanks in advance. :D

Used to be it was a psychological warfare tactic. Berserkers (and Vargserkers) would strip naked, work themselves into a frenzy and charge screaming at their opponent. Because if twenty or thirty screaming naked barbarians running at you doesn’t freak you out a little bit, nothing will. Or, at least that was theory.

It’s also important to remember, berserkers weren’t a replacement for infantry. The groups that employed them would have some berserkers to break their enemy’s cohesion, and normal combatants to actually finish off their foes.

If the names are to be taken literally, this apparently meant naked except for some bear or wolf skins. Which isn’t really better, but you’ll see them get mentioned in connection with werewolves occasionally because… a naked guy wearing a hollowed out wolf head as a hat and swinging an axe around is “close enough?”

A single individual working themselves into a frenzy isn’t really a threat for a disciplined opponent. But, it can be intimidating, especially for someone who isn’t mentally prepared for it.

Psychological warfare aside, it’s not a legitimate combat style. Blindly striking and thrashing is the opposite of a coherent combat form. It’s possible to get lucky with it against an untrained opponent, but, against a trained martial artist, the actual attacks are going to be very easy to predict, counter, and exploit.


My MC (a highly skilled fighter posing as cleaning staff) disables an assassin (amateur and unskilled, but armed with a knife). So as not to blow his cover, he disables the man with maximal flailing and, once the knife is under control, a small shallow injury to himself for extra sympathy. Maybe the knife “slips” as he grabs it. Plausible? How precise can he be? I thought a slash to the forehead, which’d bleed safe & spectacularly, but he got knifed in the eye once and might be leery of that.

Plausible? Not especially. There’s three problems.

First, knife fighting is very dangerous. There’s no margin for error, and screwing around is a fantastic way to end up dead with no warning. Trying to get hurt, is a fantastic way to end up dead, because your character wouldn’t be able to pick and choose between a strike that would kill them (or could lead to certain death) and one that would be superficial.

This is actually one way a lot of real world martial artists get themselves killed. They approach a situation with a knife (or another weapon), the way they approach sparring, and they get shanked (or shot).

Also, getting stabbed in the eye usually means it no longer works. Which means they should not be getting into knife fights under any circumstances. The lack of depth perception would be fatal there.

Second, your character has no way of knowing their opponent is unskilled. This is actually getting into general writing advice, but you always need to keep what your character knows separate from what you, as the writer, knows. Always.

Your character has no way of knowing this is an unskilled amateur. They have no way of knowing that they can jump into a fight with this assassin and not give it their all. For that matter, they may not even know the guy is an untrained assassin, because whatever tells they’re expecting to see from a trained killer won’t be there.

Third, what are they blowing their cover for? Your character went undercover for a reason, and it wasn’t to deal with this one off, random, untrained assassin that any security guard could deal with. He’s got an actual job to do, probably surveillance, based on the information you’ve given. Risking their cover to deal with this one guy isn’t heroic, it’s sabotaging their work.

Going undercover isn’t about being a secret good guy, it’s about disappearing and passing yourself off as someone else. This whole, Clark Kent would change in a phone booth, but he doesn’t have the time, so he’ll just have to do this out of costume thing doesn’t apply for undercover operations. That’s superheroes, and it’s very different.

Your character would need to do whatever a janitor in their position should, which is contact security or trigger a silent alarm and let the people who are actually being paid to deal with situations like this do their jobs. They should not jeopardize their position by exposing themselves so they can pretend to be a superhero.

If your character is a competent spy, they’re not going to risk their cover unless it is necessary to achieve their goals.

As a stray note, if your character’s lost an eye, they’re going to be a sub par choice for undercover work. Ironically not because of the vision issues. The problem is they’d be more memorable. Which is exactly what you don’t want. While an actual janitor with a missing eye makes perfect sense, they’re also someone you’re more likely or remember than “that nondescript guy over there mopping.”

Now, if the point was to get noticed by someone, your one eye janitor getting shanked by some crazy would be a good way to do that. In that case, the missing eye is a good way to keep in people’s minds. Along with a story about being some blacklisted/burned out/screwed over badass who’s been reduced to cleaning up other peoples’ vomit.

But, that approach would be more about ingratiating your character to the villain. It would require your “untrained assassin” to be an accomplice, who can stab your character safe(ish)ly, before taking off. Because the entire thing is a scripted act and not just improv night with knives.


Should size and weight be put into consideration when picking a weapon that a character is going to use most of the time in fighting? Or is it more about training, or both?

I assume we’re talking about weapons, in which case, size and weight are both very important considerations, though possibly not for the reasons you’d think.

Size is critical for determining reach. This is how far you can reach out and impale someone. Generally speaking, longer weapons have a significant advantage over shorter ones. I say “generally” because there are a ton of specific exceptions, but if you can stab someone before they can reach you, that’s a combat advantage.

Weight is a major issue, but it’s never about being able to lift a weapon, (unless we’re talking about weapons designed to be used from an emplacement, like the M2 Browning) it’s about how agile the weapon is, and making sure that you can carry and use it all day.

This is why the heaviest swords intended for combat rarely exceed 8lbs. It needed to be light enough that its wielder could carry it and a couple other weapons and use them during constant physical exertion.

That “intended for combat” bit is a fairly important distinction, though. Parade swords were the historical equivalent of your friend’s gaudy katana display. They were there to look cool, not to be useful. Parade swords could get into the 20lb range. Some of those are amazing pieces of art in their own right, but they’re not practical weapons.

If we’re talking about your character? Then size and weight aren’t major considerations. Overall physical fitness is vitally important, but beyond that weight isn’t a huge issue. Depending on climate and diet, weight is semi-independent of physical fitness. I realize that may sound insane, but particularly in cold climates, it’s entirely possible for someone to bulk up while maintaining a layer of fat as insulation.

Size isn’t a huge issue unless your character is unusually large or unusually small. Characters that are less than a foot taller (or shorter) than their opponent should have roughly similar (unarmed) reach.

That said, shorter individuals do have lower centers of gravity, which makes it much easier for them to get into more stable stances.

It’s worth pointing out that: women have a lower center of gravity for their height than men.


What kind of weaponry would be the most effective in a highly urban environment? It’s a futuristic setting, but most weapons are improvements on existing ones, so many are still valid. Would it be SMG type things, or lighter pistols?

It wouldn’t be pistols. If you’re talking about actual military operations, handguns occupy a position somewhere between “badge of office” and, “that’s cute, it thinks it’s a gun.”

Before I get going, I’m going to be naming a lot of guns, feel free to Google Image Search these as you’re going, so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. When it comes to the firearms themselves, my recommendations are about near future aesthetics.

If your characters are dealing with an area where there are a lot of civilians they don’t want to kill accidentally, you’re probably looking at SMGs and shotguns with an ammunition solution.

Rounds like the Glaser safety slugs are expensive as hell, but frangible ammo might be a good solution when dealing with combat where you do not want blowthroughs. Also, if you’re talking about DoD contracts, you could expect the price on those rounds to be a little more manageable.

Even if that’s the case, in fairly tight quarters combat shotguns are still a solution to both the blowthrough issue, and a good close combat weapon choice.

The Kel-Tec KSG might be a good one to look at. The UTAS UTS-15 might not be a bad shotgun to look at.

Now, actual urban combat presents a real problem for weapons. Full size rifles are very awkward for room clearing and moving through tight spaces, but SMGs don’t (usually) have the accuracy to replace a combat rifle in engagements at ranges over 100m.

One of the biggest solution has been bullpup weapons. These are weapons where the grip is located towards the front of the gun. The FN P90 is an excellent example of the design that’s all over the place in popular media.

In close quarters, a shorter weapon offers enemies less to grab in the event they try to get the gun away from the shooter. It also provides less to get caught on the environment, and, in general, allows more mobility. This is part of why SMGs and compact rifles are preferable in city fighting situations.

Normally, when you simply shorten the barrel, you end up with a firearm that’s harder to control and less accurate. Bullpup designs get around this by keeping the barrel length, and by using the stock as an integral part of the firearm instead of dead weight.

This results in compact, highly accurate, assault rifles that can be used indoors and in the streets.

You might want to look at the FAMAS, FN f2000, Enfield L85 and FN P90 for inspiration here. Also, if you want a more rugged looking bullpup, the Russian OTs-14 “Groza” (“Thunderstorm”) might be a good choice. As I recall, the OICW was also supposed to be a bullpup when finished, that project was abandoned about a decade ago.

The FAMAS is a bit bulky, but it already looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie. The L85a2 is (reportedly) incredibly accurate in the right hands. The P90 is technically an SMG, (because the FN Five-Seven uses the same round) though, honestly it’s a weird little monster all it’s own; not a true assault rifle, but with some of the characteristics of one.

Beyond this, there are also a few very compact SMGs like the H&K MP7 and MP9. The KRISS Vector probably deserves a mention, this is a new .45 that has a fairly compact form, and an interesting recoil control mechanism, that redirects the force down, reducing climb. This technically isn’t a bullpup, but it’s worth looking at. Just keep in mind, all of these would be substandard solutions because your characters would have to switch weapons when heading outside.

It’s worth pointing out, that for law enforcement, SMGs are actually a better choice. Combat rarely occurs at long range, outside of dedicated police marksmen/snipers), so the short range of an SMG actually becomes an advantage.

If you’re wanting some high tech pistols to go along with them, the Berretta PX4 (this was Cobb’s pistol in Inception), the H&K USP and USP compact (the USPs actually have an internal counter-spring that does amazing things to reduce recoil), the Walther P99 (this has also been used in a few of the more recent Bond films, and I distinctly remember a sci-fi film trying to pass them off as distant future hardware), the SIG Sauer SigPro pistols (like the SP2022).

I know I’m missing some examples there, but that should give you a start on what you want to tinker with.

If you’re a gamer, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a virtual buffet of near future hardware to play with, including a lot of non-weapons tech, interspersed with levels set in the 1980s. Crysis 2 has a nice mix of modern/near future weapons in an urban environment, though the focus there is the nanosuit… and alien invasion, rather than high tech guns. (I’ve also got a soft spot for Crysis’ take on the FN SCAR.) Come to think of it, Deus Ex: Human Revolution might be a bad choice, again the guns aren’t really the focus, but it might mesh with what you’re trying to do.

If you’re not a gamer, or at least not that kind of gamer, some of the old Shadowrun source books might be worth looking at as a reference. Just be prepared to filter out the fantasy elements you don’t want from the ones you do.



Some links I have found in various Tumblr Posts that I have saved on my computer. I do not take credit for collecting all these links. Unfortunately, I did not have the mind to save/note where these various links come from. Thank you to whoever compiled these links together.

General Writing Tips, Guides and Advice

How to be Confident in Your Writing
Start Your Novel Already!
Why First Chapters Matter
How to Outline a Novel
Incorporating Flashbacks
Word Building 101
Common Mistakes in Writing
Tips on Getting Started
What Not to Do
7 Tips to Become a Better Writer from Stephen King
How to Use Reading to Become a Better Writer
Why Writers Must Read
How to Finish What You Start: A Five-Step Plan for Writers
31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing
10 Tips to Write Fanfiction
Writing a Blurb
10 Writing Tips
Perfecting Description
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Recieving Bad News
Useful Writing Apps
Avoiding Clichés
Writing Lessons
Finding Inspiration

Plot and Conflict

What is Conflict?
Where’s Your Conflict?
Adding Conflict to Your Scenes
Guides for Using Inner Conflict That Makes Sense
Plotting Your Novel
Internal and External Conflict
The Top Ten Plotting Problems
The Elements of Plot Development
Plot Help
Writing a Plot Your Own Way
Plot Development
Develop a Plot
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Your Plot, Step by Step
Plot vs. Exposition
Plot and Conflict

Character Development

How to Describe the Body Shape of Female Characters

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

Placement of Speech Tags

All About Names

List of Names

Genre Based

20 Tips to Writing Love Scenes


Word Count

You mentioned in a previous answer that getting shot in the head is “surprisingly survivable”. Could you talk a bit more about that?

I run across the statistic occasionally, but I don’t usually try to keep track of it. My recollection is that head shots are only fatal about 98% of the time. The rest of the time the bullet either deflects off the skull or doesn’t actually do lethal damage to the brain on the way through. I’d assume this includes cases where there is serious brain damage, but the victim survives anyway.

Either way, there’s a mountain of medical cases where someone gets shot in the head and survives in some condition for any number of reasons.


Q&A: Shot in the Leg

what would happen if a character were shot in the thigh? would they die of blood loss or would it depend on where on the thigh the bullet went? also if the character somehow survived, would they be left with a scar or possibly a limp? eventually how long would they be limp (forever)? sorry for my english, and thank you!

If the bullet severs the femoral artery, death would occur within… I want to say two minutes, but it could be as much as five. If the bullet blows through cleanly, and the blood loss is managed, it shouldn’t result in anything more severe than scar tissue at the entrance and exit wounds. If it damages the bone and that’s not treated, or treated incorrectly, it would permanently impair movement (barring corrective surgery).

If the bullet tears up the muscle tissue, and it doesn’t heal properly, I think that would result in permanent mobility issues, but I’m not 100% certain how that would manifest.

Again, I’m not a medical professional; my familiarity with gunshot wounds is academic. So, I could be wrong here.


EDIT: I’m going to attach this reblog to the main post because it’s actually really useful, and I did drop the ball a bit last night after tumblr ate my first draft of the entry and exit wounds answer. So, with thanks to Disasterintow.


Gunshot wounds vary depending on the type of round used, special attributes to the round (hollow point, armor piercing, etc), the distance from the shooter. A normal sized male (6’ 180lb) shot at close range to the thigh with a simple 9mm round would be in a lot of pain, but risks only moderate damage to bone, and supposing the femoral isn’t stuck, the most you would to be dealing is a hopeful through-and-through. That way, as mentioned before the most to be dealt with is stopping the blood flow and stitching up entry and exit wounds (the latter of which will be significantly larger).

Do. Not. Dig. A. Fragmented. Bullet. Out. Unless you are a skilled surgeon, though even these days, a majority of those professionals choose to leave non-life threatening shards inside. Removing the bullet damages muscle tissue, connective tissue, and tears nerves, all of which are needed to counteract the trauma of the initial wound. And you run the risk of more blood loss.

Now, when it comes to larger caliber bullets and shotgun shells, there is a problem with distance. Up close and personal, a .45 caliber handgun round could shatter bone and leave an exit wound the size of a Granny Smith apple. broken bones (shattered ones, at that) have a very high risk of sepsis, and if not dealt with quickly, could spread to the rest of the body.

AP rounds – Armor Piercing – go straight through flesh and have very little sign of slowing. There is risk to bones, however, as the amount of power (force) they carry with them hits full on if it meets a hard structure. The kinetic energy alone can fracture shoulder blades.

As for buck shot and slug for shotguns, those are trickier. They do need to be a certain distance to be effective, but make no mistake: these rounds will break bones and most certainly leave holes in you. Buckshot is pelleted, but deadly in a closer range.

A safe bet would be to say the person was shot by a .40 caliber or lower handgun, or anything around or lower than a .308 rifle round, and that the meat of the thigh took the bullet. If at a decently close range, that person should survive and most likely walk with a little hitch for most of their lives. Nothing too noticeable, however. There would certainly be scarring, and if nothing happened to bone, and no nerves were injured, there should be no loss in range of motion or use.

Hi. Do you know anything about 18th century firearms? I’m wondering how much damage pistol shot would cause to the face at close range. Would there be just a single entry wound or would the face be unrecognisable, and at what range would that kind of damage occur? Many thanks for your help.

It wouldn’t. At least not from a pistol. Handguns usually lack the ability to completely shatter the skull, they’ll still pierce the skull, but it will be a (figuratively) clean entry wound.

Gunshot wounds vary based on how far away the gun is from the victim. Bullet velocity, and caliber also affect the wound, but it’s not a huge consideration most of the time. Now, keep in mind, this is all from modern forensics. But, the basic idea of how a gun works hasn’t really changed in the last 800 years. That is to say: boom = splat.

Gunshots over two feet from the firearm will result in a small circular wound in the victim. This will usually be slightly smaller than the bullet. This is because the skin stretches to accommodate the bullet before it penetrates. It also bunches, creating something called an abrasion collar, which is an inflamed ring around the entry wound. The collar is usually black or blue as it picks up grime and oil from the bullet as it passes into the deeper tissue.

Between two inches and two feet (roughly) there will be a pattern of burning and unburned powder that gets forced into the skin. This is called stippling. It creates tiny pinpoint hemorrhages under the skin. The closer to the victim, the smaller the ring.

It’s worth pointing out, this will occur if you shoot someone with a blank at very close range, and you can kill someone with blanks because of stippling.

Shooting someone with the gun pressed against them will result in a contact wound. In these cases the expanding gasses from the gunshot will vent into the victim, resulting in a star shaped eruption under the skin. These are big messy wounds… but they still won’t cause someone’s skull to cave in, or even for their face to be completely unrecognizable.

As an aside: These are the same gasses you’re trying to reduce when suppressing a firearm. I’m not sure what kind of a contact wound you’d get off a suppressed firearm.

Now, a shotgun loaded with buckshot, at medium range, can turn someone’s face into hamburger. The 18th century equivalent would be a blunderbuss. These were loaded with whatever shrapnel came to hand, and were really nasty weapons. So, if you haven’t looked into them, that’s probably what you want, even if they weren’t one handed.

If your character hot loaded their pistol and forgot (or chose not) to load a ball, the resulting spray at close range might be enough to sear their opponent’s face. This should kill them, but it is theoretically possible for a character could survive that. Though, getting shot in the head is surprisingly survivable, in general.

Now, that’s if we’re talking about the entry wound. Exit wounds are usually larger and ragged, particularly if we’re talking about 18th century firearms (there’s some modern exceptions). If your character was executed by a gunshot to the back of the head, it’s possible, if the angle was right, for the bullet to take most of their face off on the way out. Obviously, this isn’t a survivable wound, but it is possible.

In a modern context, jacketed and high velocity rounds tend to produce exit wounds that are very similar to entry wounds. When the shooter was more than a couple feet from the victim, and using one of these rounds, it can sometimes be difficult for an ME to differentiate between a victim’s entrance and exit wound.

Incidentally, Teflon coated rounds would actually fall into the high velocity group there. These gained a reputation for armor penetration, but the actual cause is the Teflon reduces drag on the bullet, improving its flatness. Either way, if these miss bone on the way through, they’re going to leave a similar entrance and exit wound.

Soft rounds can leave really messy exit wounds. If they impact a bone straight on, they can shear apart, it can even leave multiple wounds, or they can flatten out and wedge against the bone, leaving no exit wound whatsoever. If they flatten out, continue moving and start to tumble they can leave tiny exit wounds that look like minor lacerations.

As I’ve said before: bullets are kinda random.

Oh, and a reminder, when it comes to gunshot wounds, Google Image Search hates you, but it is useful if you really, really, want to see what this stuff looks like. Just remember to bring a strong stomach.


archieandkobi said: Apparently, the pistols back then were really weak. I’ve heard of cases where people tried to shoot themselves and failed because the balls didn’t even get through their skulls. Most seemed to suffer concussion.

That would actually depend on how much powder the loaded. One of the quirks with pre-19th century firearms was, you were responsible for the amount of powder you loaded into the weapon for each round. This was partially dealt with by using premeasured paper cartridges that you would tear open and dump down the barrel. But, those weren’t universal, much like modern speedloaders aren’t something everyone uses. If you don’t put enough powder down the barrel, it’s not going to clear it with enough force.

I’m guessing the cases you’re looking at were the result of under loading a pistol, but, I am guessing there.


Is it possible to make a functional firearm from some material that a metal detector can’t find?

Sort of.

So, used to be the answer was no, or at least, not really. The whole thing about Glocks being able to pass through metal detectors was a myth. The slide and frame are high impact polymers, but barrel and most of the internals are still metal.

But, now we have the Defense Distributed Liberator. This was the 3d printed pistol that made a lot of headlines a couple years ago. Technically the pistol itself should be able to pass through a metal detector without setting it off, and that was one of the major concerns regarding the Liberator.

The problems are, it still needs bullets which will set off a detector, and, well, it’s crap. The Liberator is highly inaccurate and lacks actual sights, meaning you kind of have to guess where the bullet’s going to go. It’s a single shot weapon. Meaning, you have to reload after every shot. So, you either get extremely lucky with the first round or you go scrambling for a replacement assuming the gun survived. Finally, durability is still a huge issue for the Liberator. Defense Distributed got the weapon so it could reliably fire a couple times, but it will still explode after prolonged usage.

It’s worth pointing out, even by their own admission, the Liberator is more of a political statement than a practical weapon. It was supposed to illustrate the futility of gun control laws in an era when firearms could easily be printed on demand. I’m not convinced it has any more value than your run of the mill zip gun, but, anyway, moving on.

Another company, Solid Concepts does actual industrial grade 3d printing, and made a 3d printed M1911 .45 as a proof of concept piece, but that was mostly printed from stainless steel. (The springs weren’t printed, and the grips were, I think, produced by a polymer printer.) Regardless, they’re aiming at producing custom replacement components for rare firearms rather than full firearms.

As a single shot weapon, it’s certainly possible to design a firearm today that won’t set off detectors, but it wouldn’t be much use beyond a very close range assassination tool. At that point, a high impact polymer knife would probably serve your character better.

That said, hiding a gun when you’re being frisked, especially by someone who’s actually been properly trained, is a lot harder than just shoving it down your pants.

That’s today. Polymers have advanced a long way, even from the stuff used in the H&K VP70. It’s entirely possible that we’ll see polymers that you can feed through a commercial printer and will hold up under multiple gunshots by the time the 3d printer technology becomes commonplace. So, if you’re setting your story in the future, it’s distinctly possible you’re looking at firearms that could slip through a modern metal detector. It’s also more likely that whatever detector system they’re using then will pick up heavy chunks of plastics, like a 3d printed gun. That’s sci-fi… but, we’re already living in a cyberpunk novel from the late 70s… so… what the hell, right?