Tag Archives: writing advice

What’s the feasibility of a 12 year old girl using a slingshot in battle. Is it a good weapon. Or is a bow and arrow better. I’m thinking a bow and arrow is way too overused…

If she can use one accurately, a bow is a better weapon. But, it also requires a much greater level of proficiency. But, it’s somewhat unlikely a 12 year old would have reached the level of skill necessary to use a bow in combat.

Slingshots (and slings, for that matter) aren’t particularly great weapons, but they can be quite dangerous in the right situation. I know how funny that might sound.

I’ve actually got a hunting grade slingshot around here somewhere. Mostly they’re used for small animals like rabbits or squirrels. Killing a person with one is possible, but it does require some serious precision.

Fortunately, slingshots are really easy to train on because improvised ammunition is everywhere, and they are relatively non-destructive to their targets, (compared to something like a bow, or handgun.)

Also, compared to a bow, and this is just my personal opinion, slingshots are easier to sight. The pocket and arms create a natural sighting line.

So, I wouldn’t recommend intentionally using a slingshot as a combat weapon, but if it’s all she has, it is viable, if she’s careful.

-Starke

Are there any dual knife styles out there?

Eskrima comes to mind. Normally, we think of it as combat using short sticks, but the original style was designed around using dual blades.

Beyond that, I’m not sure what else to recommend. Neither of us have spent any time studying knife fighting, so we’re not well versed in the formalized knife styles.

Most modern close quarters military training will include some knife forms, but I’m not aware of any that actually employ dual wielding. They may exist, I just don’t know of any.

-Starke

In my story one of my mc’s has the hability to regenerate so there are this guys testing his power (so far successfully with wounds like cuts, etc.) and they want to push his limits to the next level, and chop his arm in half, they apply a torniquet to stop the blood-loss and leave him to see if he survives (note: he’s passed out from pain). Could he survive the, like, 3-5 hours it takes his arm to re-generate? With nothing else than a torniquet?

There is literally no way to answer this question satisfactorily. It might not be possible for that character to bleed to death. Either because he doesn’t actually need the blood (the regeneration keeps the cells from dying due to lack of oxygen), or he produces blood to replace it at a fast enough rate to survive. It’s possible the regeneration supercharges the clotting response to the point that arterial damage isn’t lethal.

It’s also possible that the blood loss, even before the tourniquet, would be enough to push him into shock. If he’s already unconscious, that’s not a good sign. Generally speaking, pain doesn’t actually put someone under, believe me, with some kinds of pain you’ll wish you could lose consciousness. But, bloodloss will. That suggests that if he’s unconscious, his brain is getting starved of oxygen, and it’s quite possible that, yes, this could result in him bleeding out. Though, if that will actually arrest the regeneration is anyone’s guess.

-Starke

What is the average length for Garotte wire? My character is a dwarf, would it be realistic for him to keep a length of it in one of his waist-length braids? Do you see any logistical problems with keeping it in that manner? Thanks for the blog, by the by, it’s a really great source for information.

Oddly, this number’s a lot harder to run down than I expected, so, I’m going to have to make an educated guess. The wire needs to be long enough to hook around someone’s neck with some play. That puts it at, at least, 20”. On a large adult male that might not be long enough. My guess is between 24” and 36”.

Now, I do see two immediate problems. For a normal adult male, 36” hair would be roughly waist length. For someone who’s ~4’, that’s going to be closer to knee length hair.

Now, that’s not completely fair, if he doubles the wire over itself once, he could theoretically run the wire down a 20” braid… and then learn when he goes to pull it that it’s snagged in braid somewhere. He also can’t put it away without taking his hair down and re-braiding it. All of this to conceal a weapon that (if he’s using ring grips) can be hidden in a condom wrapper. And, yes, that actually works.

Even if he’s using horizontal crossbar grips (which you probably can’t hide in a braid) you can easily hide a wire in your pocket. Unwrapping it to use it will be a pain, but, it’s less of a problem than learning your assassination tool is now a fashion accessory.

-Starke

Hi! This blog is so helpful. I have a question regarding armor. My MC is part of a s.w.a.t. like team. They fight supernatural being who use sword and shields and engage in gunfights. What kind of armor would would you nede to be alle to engage in both?

Well, riot armor actually reduces mobility. It’s good for dealing with someone chucking a bottle at you, but if someone opens up on you with an automatic weapon, you’re screwed. I’d assume your supernatural beings would be slightly more dangerous than that.

Normal SWAT gear is probably the best option, honestly. Unless they’re dealing with a specific threat that calls for heavier armor.

If you’ve never seen it, the British TV series Ultraviolet, might be a good thing to look at.

I would strongly recommend against sword ‘n board in a modern environment, though. The problem with going toe to toe with a monster that’s superhumanly strong and fast is, in melee, you’re just going to lose. If your characters are going up against werewolves or vampires, or something worse, a shield isn’t going to save them, at best it will become the implement used to beat them to death.

Something Ultraviolet does, that might be worth expanding on is specialized ammo. Just because a vampire is “immune” to a chunk of lead passing through their body, doesn’t mean a dragon’s breath shotgun shell won’t ash them on the spot. High explosive rounds are a (rare) thing, so your monster might be able to soak off a .38 to the face, but when that .38 explodes on contact, it’s a different story.

Even things that are immune to conventional weapons might not be able to shrug off a Tazer slug.

The other thing that might be worth looking into is Hunter: The Reckoning. My fondness for the original World of Darkness is pretty well documented, but, Hunter was about humans with limited superpowers going up against monsters in an urban fantasy/horror setting.

-Starke

Hello! My current urban fantasy story is centered around an supernatural policing agency that enforces a professional uniform while on the job. I know that if a member plans to fight one-on-one in hand-to-hand combat, it’s probably a bad idea to wear a tie. Is there a variation on the suit and tie uniform that my fighters could wear to prevent any disadvantages?

Police wear clip-on ties. I mean, really, it’s that simple. I would say, going hand to hand with a nine foot tall snarling death beast is probably a losing proposition. But, at that point, wearing a normal tie isn’t going to be a deal breaker.

Also, although they’re probably going to be facing more serious threats, bullet proof vests, particularly the kind that can be worn under the shirt are a must. That said, most officers don’t end up wearing them because they’re uncomfortable, and sweating on them can cause the material to break down.

Generally speaking, your characters in suits are going to be the ones not seeing combat. If it gets to the point where there’s actual combat, they’re going to want to call for the guys in tactical gear.

-Starke

Hello. In my story I have my characters decorate their weapons with feathers/scales/hairs/ect. from their mythical creatures. As I edit, I realize these items will, most likely,have a negative impact on fighting ability. Should this type of decoration be restricted to ceremonial weapons or is there a way I can incorporate it without “harming” my fight scenes?I really like having the decoration as a way for my characters to show ownership over their weapons so any insight is appreciated. Thanks!

It’s going to depend. Off hand, it’s a lot easier, and safer, to decorate armor with trophies than weapons. That said, depending on the weapons, and where the trophies are attached, it could be fine.

The important thing is to make sure the trophy attaches to a part of the weapon that isn’t actually critical in combat. That means it can’t be a part that actually connects with either the wielder or enemy. It also can’t be a moving part.

For example: if your character is using a revolver, they could attach a feather to the base of the grip, but if it’s a magazine fed automatic that loads into the grip, that wouldn’t be an option. The feather would interfere with reloads.

There’s a little more flexibility with melee weapons. Swords and axes can be ported, to reduce their weight. This will result in holes that trophies could be mounted on. But, it also weakens the weapon overall.

If your character is using a monster’s skin, that could be applied over a grip. Though, that’s getting more into the range of an actual weapon modification, rather than a trophy. Similarly, bone or ivory can be carved into grips for some firearms.

With swords, it would actually be safer, and easier, to mount the trophies on the scabbard rather than the blade itself.

When it comes to armor, slapping feathers or fur on your pauldron might look a little weird, but it should be structurally sound. For some reason Boba Fett’s Wookie fur braid comes to mind as an example. Though, really that’s just scratching the surface. So long as the trophies don’t impair the armor, or interfere with movement, you’d probably be good to go.

-Starke

A is a trained soldier with some regular work out. B can be described as a spy with an office job. To be on a similar level concerning hand-to-hand combat, what initital training should B have received, and how regularly does she need to train?

A couple hours a week will keep you mostly up to snuff. But, she’s still screwed. It’s not because she’s out of practice, it’s because her training is out of date.

I know we’ve talked about this before, but modern combat forms evolve, constantly. Counters are developed to deal with popular techniques. Those techniques are adapted to prevent the counters from working. The counters evolve or are replaced with different ones. Or, the technique is abandoned in favor of techniques that currently lack counters. Everything evolves.

It’s not that combat gets better, it’s more like combat wanders around a little bit. It isn’t more lethal or even more effective, it’s just learned from its past mistakes, and ready to make new ones. If you’re behind the times, however, this is disastrous.

One of Michi’s favorite scenes from 24 is where Jack gets his ass handed to him by a security guard because (by that point) his training is about four years out of date. (It’s actually a recurring theme in the later seasons.)

Realistically, you need to be updating your hand to hand training roughly every six months. Ideally, you want to be updating as frequently as possible.

Your soldier/mercenary is going to be on their own for keeping their training up to date, but, if they want to survive, they’re going to understand that they need to.

Your spy might not, particularly if combat isn’t something they need to do on a regular basis. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter how hard or long they train, they won’t be able to keep up.

-Starke

I am writing a fantasy world with many new planets involved, I was wondering if you had any suggestions for fantasy books to read? I’ve read a few, but feel like I need to read another two or so. Please and thank you in advance. Also, I love the helpful posts you put every day so thank you for the time and effort you make.

Off the top of my head, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, and Fritz Leiber are all necessary reading.

Howard because, well, if you’ve never actually read the Conan short stories, you need to. He’s one of the founding fathers of modern fantasy. Without him we wouldn’t have the sword and sorcery genre at all. Any fantasy you read that isn’t Tolkien owes a huge debt to Howard. I’m sure we’ve all seen the Boris Vallejo artwork, and we do all know the trashy reputation Howard’s work has, but his writing was actually remarkably concise and clear. His worldbuilding is a weird pastiche of history shoved in a blender, but for heroic fantasy, it’s necessary reading.

Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser is, in many ways, the origin of urban fantasy. It’s not fantasy in modern day, but fantasy in an urban environment. Lankhmar was the New York Leiber knew, even if he did file the serial numbers off and set it in a less technologically advanced era.

Moorcock is the origin of dark fantasy. Without him, we wouldn’t have Game of Thrones, The Witcher, or the wave of fantasy writers who think smearing everything in blood is “dark.” So, you know, mixed results. He was criticizing the heroic fantasy genre. Specifically his Elric of Melniboné novels are a direct response to Conan.

I’m going to toss H.P. Lovecraft out there before someone else suggests him. He’s got a hell of a following, but, well, his prose is bad. He abuses adjectives in ways science never thought possible, and might accidentally make a few new ones on the way through. He’s also the father of modern horror and racist as hell.

That’s not two separate statements, Lovecraft’s xenophobia is the cornerstone of his horror, and you can’t really extract it from the work without also removing the horror. He’s still worth looking at, and the foundation of mixing horror and fantasy, but, you’ve been warned.

In the less foundational range, I have a soft spot for Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels (I’ve never really been able to get into the games.) There’s a philosophical bent to novels that chews on a lot of assumptions about modern fantasy, and modern heroic fiction.

For world building, the best source is, oddly enough, role-playing games. Well written RPG guides provide the player with a toolbox to use in their story. Really good ones show enough of the worldbuilding to actually give you some insight into doing it for yourself.

One of the reasons I keep recommending Exalted is because the books spend a lot of time explaining why the setting works the way it does. The books aren’t just a series of, “…and here’s a neat little thing,” it’s a lot of explanation for what causes that neat little thing, and mixing human nature with fantastic elements.

If you just want settings with neat concepts, and a large volume, D&D is an excellent jumping off point. There are a ton of campaign settings ranging from horror, Tolkienesque high fantasy, post apocalyptic, urban fantasy (both in the Leiber sense and modern day with monsters) and some stuff that’s really hard to categorize.

The actual guides themselves are all over the place. I mean, this is an imprint that’s passed from TSR to WotC, and gone through five or six different iterations. It’s been worked on by a huge swath of writers over the decades. It doesn’t describe a single setting, rule system, or thematic element.

D&D guides do have a bad habit of being overly systemic. That is to say, D&D is very stat heavy, and depending on the book, you might only have one or two paragraphs of useful information per page, with the rest being massive stat blocks and/or art. If you’re familiar with the game, then that information might be useful, but if you’re not, then it’s just going to be an intimidating wall of numbers that doesn’t really provide anything useful.

That said, getting basic information on the settings is remarkably easy. Because of how massive the settings are, there are entire wikis dedicated to a lot of D&D campaign settings, so you don’t actually need to go digging for the books.

Of the top of my head, some of the settings worth looking at are: Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Planescape, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Eberron.

Depending on what you’re doing, Planescape, Spelljammer, and Ravenloft all deal with traveling between different worlds, so that might not be a list to start looking at.

There’s also a lot of tie in fiction for D&D, though I’m not particularly well versed in it. Off hand, Margret Weiss and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance novels are top notch. By reputation, R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels are also very good.

That should be enough to get you started.

-Starke

So, in my novel, an Interpol agent is tracking a murderer who has killed in many different countries. Should they notify everyone or should they act secretly? And what is stealthier, a silenced pistol, a knife or a silenced sniper rifle?

Okay, so a lot of media screws this one up. Interpol is a just an advisory agency. Today it’s a part of the UN, though the organization actually dates back to the 1920s (as the International Criminal Police Commission).

They have no actual law enforcement powers of their own, and they have no direct involvement in criminal investigations. Interpol agents pass information to governments and function as administrative liaisons between national law enforcement agencies.

Today, Interpol is mostly just the curator of multinational databases, including things like: fugitive warrants, arrests, fingerprints, and general crime statistics. Interpol Agents are more likely to be tasked with assisting local police in actually having access to, and being able to use those databases, than being asked to consult on specific crimes.

If you’re doing sociological analysis of criminal trends, they’re actually a fantastic source, but, they don’t actually do anything.

They’re not spies, they don’t hunt down criminals across national borders, showing up at crime scenes unannounced. They push paper around. That isn’t to say their services aren’t useful, but they’re not some kind of transnational FBI agent.

Further, Interpol does adhere to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which pretty quickly takes out your “covert assassin” concept at the knees.

If your character is a spy, an Interpol Agent would actually be a pretty terrible cover, unless the intent is just to bug a police detective’s office, get out, and disappear. It’s not a cover they can take into the field, doesn’t provide much freedom of action, and Interpol won’t authenticate it.

On the question of stealthy weapons, one of those things doesn’t depend on an explosion to function. Which will make it much quieter. But ultimately this is a “right tool for the right job” kind of situation.

Remember, in Europe, tight gun control is the norm. If your character is caught by local law enforcement with a suppressed weapon, that’s probably going to be serious jail time. I’m not sure what the fallout from an Interpol Agent going off and operating as a vigilante would be, but the scandal would almost certainly massive.

If your character is going the spy route, The Bourne Identity might be worth reading. Even if you’ve seen the film, dig up a copy. It’s not a fantastic book, but there’s a lot of basic tradecraft in there.

If you’re willing to dig through RPG systems, AEG’s Spycraft core books can work as a basic primer for writing espionage themed fiction, including what you’re describing. The core books are somewhat agnostic on the martini/stale beer spectrum, but, they do specifically provide information for stories of both varieties.

-Starke