To write a great murder mystery, you have to know all the components of solving the crime. I’m basing this series of posts on the book Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino. I’m in chapter 2, which covers the weapons of murder.
This chapter only covers three areas: firearms, knives, and unusual weapons. There’s a ton of great information on guns, and while I’m tempted to lay it all out for you, I’m going to point you in other directions, instead. There’s not enough information in the book to make you an expert in firearms, so you’ll have to do more research. There are great videos at the library on how to fire a gun, and of course there are loads of books on guns and how they work, what the parts are called, and all the great stuff you need to know. The Internet also contains a wealth of information. In addition to book and video knowledge, if you’re going to use a gun in your book, you really ought to know how it feels to fire one. Find a firing range and shell out some cash to get a personal feel for guns. Revolvers, semi-automatics, shot-guns, and rifles all feel different when you pull the trigger, and the more you know, the more realistic your book will be. (If you don’t know the difference between a revolver and a semi-automatic, PLEASE do the research or pick a different murder weapon. The fastest way to lose readers is to make mistakes about this stuff.)
Now that I’ve pushed you in a different direction for your information, there were two special tips that were brought up in the book that I feel should be mentioned. First, the writers state that the most common mistake they’ve seen authors make is using the word “clip” to describe the holder that contains bullets in an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. There is no such thing as a clip in automatics or semi-automatics. It’s called a magazine. Don’t rely on CSI to teach you the proper terms, or you’ll make errors that could cost you readers.
The second tip I wanted to share from the book is about spent shell casings. A shell casing is the outside of a bullet. Before a bullet is fired, the shell casing contains an explosive charger, a primer, and the bullet (or shot, if you’re using a shotgun). The casing can be made of brass alloys, or in the case of shotguns, plastic or heavy cardboard. Here’s the tip: with most semiautomatic weapons, spent shell casings are ejected to the right of the shooter. Keep this in mind when the detective finds the brass: the location of the brass means the shooter was two to three feet to the left of the shells. Again, having an error about this type of stuff will turn readers away. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you thoroughly know your gun stuff before you begin writing. Please note that the tip said “most” semiautomatic weapons eject to the right. If you chose a gun that ejects to the left, you’d better know about it and make it right in the book.
That’s it for guns and other murder weapons. We’re moving on to the next chapter in the next post.