I’m really not this bad. I read instructions, mostly, and I enjoy learning new skills, although I sometimes wish innate talent wasn’t so important.
And when I screw up, I’ll take all the help I can get—which is why I spent this morning on the phone with the public information officers of two city police departments, a bemused federal judge, a very nice man who works for the local branch of the FBI,* and this one wiseass lawyer of my acquaintance.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned several times that I can’t write guns. I’m so used to screwing up some obvious detail of the mechanics or the physics or the size that I go over every word of a gun scene with my handy-dandy Encyclopedia of Firearms for the Ignorant before sending a flurry of worried e-mails to my ever-amused Gun Person.
Which is no doubt why I missed the obvious: I’ve got a bunch of ex-cons running around my three-fourths-completed WIP casually toting Glocks and rifles and a sweet (or so I’m told) M110. Some of them are professional security guards.
News flash: felons aren’t allowed to touch guns.
Damn it, I knew this. I index the local newspaper for the library and not a week goes by that I don’t jot down “Crime—Firearm Possession” at least once. But it didn’t hit me until late last night. I snapped a pencil in half, stalked around the house ranting about my personal “Crime—Stupidity,” then sat back down and started thinking.
My main characters are ex-cons who work (or used to work) for a legitimate, private fraud squad / security company. Some of them need to be legitimately armed—not all, necessarily, because I kind of like the idea of one or two them having to worry about the consequences (to them, the company, and their primary goal) if they’re caught.
How could I get these three or four ex-cons armed, without having the resident superhacker machine a Deus Ex? Did I change the characters, the company, or the circumstances—or all three?
This morning, I called a couple of people on the above list—the ones I knew personally—and asked. They gave me information, new questions to consider, and more phone numbers. The people attached to those phone numbers did the same. Not everyone I called could help and not everyone had the time, but at least everyone was polite about it. And the people who could help were very generous with their time and knowledge.
By lunch, I had two provisional scenarios that could work—and knew exactly what would happen to my characters if they didn’t.
I’ve spent the rest of the afternoon figuring out where and how to make changes to the story. Not easy, no, but it’s a necessary skill if I’m going to do more with my stories than stuff desk drawers.
So everything is going well—or better than might be expected.
Plus, I just realized that I spent the whole morning introducing myself as a writer—which is definitely a new skill I’d like to develop.
*In a capacity he did not mention and I did not think to question.