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[personal profile] kaigou
Originally this was intended for urban fantasy (UF) authors, but many people have pointed out it has implications for more than just one sub-genre. Hence, title revised accordingly.

[ETA: some folks have told me the tone is arrogant, so it might help to remember that this was written with a great deal of annoyance running beneath the surface -- aimed at writers who get it wrong even in really simple things. ALSO: this post isn't applicable to all cities, or even all countries; ie, if your country doesn't allow private citizens to own guns, then there are parts that won't apply. That doesn't make my words automatically wrong; it just makes them inapplicable. Take what works and leave the rest, because everyone's experiences and mileage will vary -- and for alternate perspectives, I recommend scanning the comments for what others had to say about their own experiences.]

This is due to a long -- and I mean long -- conversation with [livejournal.com profile] difrancis last night, because when the semi-annual phone mood hits me, it takes a good four hours before it's out of my system and I'm ready for another three to six months of email only. I even killed my phone, no really, how's that for dedication to a conversation? Anyway, in the various tangents of the conversation, we hit on a few points that I think some urban fantasy authors might benefit from...

Let me rephrase. We hit on a few points that I know some [not just urban/cont fantasy] authors would find useful. I've read their books and there's major lack of vérité. But either no one is willing (or knowledgeable? can't be that, I hope) to knock the authors with a reality check, or the authors just haven't realized how much they need it and to take it when offered.

Dear author: this will hurt you more than it hurts me, but if any point o' mine might apply to something you've written... then it probably does. Pay attention; it's for your own good. Love, me.

1a. It's not enough to just shoot the gun: understand why a person prefers one gun over another.

Yes, you could simply say "a .357" or "a .45", which would be the equivalent of saying "he drove a car." But if the character is using that car to get away from a robbery, I'd expect more information on the car, since I'm using that information -- as a reader -- to determine whether this character has a clue (anonymous silver Honda chassis but with a juiced-up engine under the hood), has sidestepped into a farce (rusted Yugo held together with baling wire), is all about overkill (bright orange Porsche 911T), or is trapped in a novel with an author who doesn't understand cars (Volvo 245DL automatic).

In the same vein, there are just as many quirks to guns, their styles, their grips, and if you're going to convince me that this character uses this weapon to defend him/herself, a lack of details tells me -- even if that's not your intention -- that this character isn't really paying attention. Doesn't care. Maybe doesn't even know. (If not, tell me so, and tell me why it wouldn't matter, because I'd think it would to most folks.)

CP prefers a Kimber because he likes the action, and the grip fits best in his hand. I've met cops who swear by Rugers, for similar reasons, as well as the economics of the ammo cost. Weight, recoil, grip, load, force required to rack the slide... these can be as telling for a character's strengths and weaknesses as much as the car s/he drives, or where s/he lives.

1b. A weapon is a personal thing, not a random choice, and the choice has significance.

This is a corollary to #1 -- in that not every character should be walking around with a gun. Some will prefer a knife/blade, but first let me make something clear (or partially clear, and see the rest of this post for more info). A gun is expensive; knives aren't exactly cheap, though. A gun requires a steady hand, a good eye, and strong nerves, but handling it can be learned relatively easily/quickly -- while a blade needs dexterity, flexibility, speed, and hella lotta nerves, and it ain't even close to a quick learning experience. Ignore Hollywood, because no one learns a blade in one day, or even one week.

Furthermore, ask anyone who's faced down either, and they'll probably tell you the same I heard everywhere: if you have a choice, take the gunshot wound. More chances of dying (mostly from shock) but at least you won't hurt like a mother on the way down -- a knife fight is brutal, bloody, and likely to injure you far worse than being winged by someone's bad aim as you're diving for cover. A lot of that is also because a knife fight requires you to be close-in, and grappling is almost as hard to learn as knife-handling.

On the streets, a gun is really -- regardless of city, it seems -- the ultimate version of the nuclear attack. There just isn't a weapon anyone can pull that's likely to top it off (short of perhaps a grenade, but most folks don't carry those around on a regular basis). It has range, it has power, it doesn't take a lot of skill to use, and even a skimming shot through your gut will take you down; even if you survive, you might be doing your surviving in a wheelchair. Displaying a gun indicates you're capable of killing without getting close enough to touch; actually pointing the gun says you're willing to kill.

A knife is vicious, and a few years' work with a blade will render someone more than capable. Pulling a knife is still a step shy of the scorched-earth statement of a gun, but it's nothing to mess around with. Pulling a knife and doing it with ease and comfort (which are visible in tiny tells to anyone watching) indicates that you're willing to risk the close-in injuries of a knife fight. A knife, far more than a gun, is a boatload of swagger.

A baseball bat, a rock, a brick, a trash can lid: these are the street kid's ready-to-hand, adaptable environmental tools. There's plenty of kids whose fighting skills never go beyond registering what's around and noting what's close enough to grab and use as a weapon -- throw, bash, whatever -- just enough to make the opponent back off, and then you can run like hell.

Facing down an opponent is first and foremost a battle of wills. Sometimes, the other will back up a step, glance to the side, and it's a stand-down. Maybe they come back with friends, maybe they don't, but at least this time it went down with nothing more than words. If they don't flinch, then the tension ratchets up, someone breaks, and the fight starts. (I'm not counting fights where someone's jumped in an alley and gets taken down thanks to the surprise attack.)

The risk of weaponry, especially amongst gang, street, and drug culture, is that you're also dealing with an issue of face. I can't think of how many times I've read UF novels where a character has no qualms about packing blades and a gun (which right there smacks me as odd, since the two are entirely different skill sets). All that prep, and then the character goes straight for maximum damage to prevent (or end) a fight: they pull the gun.

Do authors not realize the escalation factor takes place on all levels? Think about it from the opponent's point of view. They want to win the staring contest, and if they do, hackles go down and everyone walks away to bitch about it amongst friends at their favorite bar or club. If your character pulls a gun, and the other guy is unarmed... do you really think that's the end of it?

No. If someone has taken it up to eleven, and pointed it with every indication of being ready to fire, then one's reputation and street-integrity will pretty much require that you answer. Somehow. Maybe not for all, maybe not always, but the more likely you see that gun-holder as otherwise equal to you in skill or possessions or territory or reputation, the greater your likely offense (and loss of face) upon being so abruptly out-classed.

This is how my home city went from a city of baseball bats and knives, to a city bristling with high-caliber semi-automatics and machine guns.

Someone escalated, and the drug dealers' ultimate turf-sense required they retaliate, and so it spirals around and around. That's all well and good if you're sitting in suburbia reading this, but think about being the person who's actually walking out into the street armed to the teeth. If things escalate -- if your opponent, planned or accidental, decides to raise you one and slam you down, it's not going to be some random drive-by shootings in some other city. It's going to be purposeful, and personal, and the dead body's likely to be you.

When you character carries a weapon -- or more importantly, let someone know s/he has a weapon -- that's the choice s/he'll face. Underneath that, of course, is that the weapon the character does reveal also reveals a great deal about the character -- what s/he is willing to risk, how far s/he is willing to go.

It's not a hard one to visualize, dear authors, and I wish you'd stop and think about it. Your character certainly would.

2. There are rules at the fringes of society. They're just the opposite of your rules.

There are rules on the street as much as there are rules anywhere, but talking to Di made me realize the key is Joplin's phrase: freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When you don't have anything, literally, all you have is your cred. Sure, street kids can be loners, but the loners don't last long; in that environment, you gain points by your actions and by your connections. Who you know, who introduces you, is also who bails you out or backs you up, and I bloody well wish more urban fantasy authors would take the time to actually meet a few former (or current) street/fringe kids, to realize this instinct doesn't expire just because you've managed to reintegrate with society.

This cred, this importance of reputation, is also why most kids can and will bluff their way out of some pretty scary shit. Okay, so the kid staring you down is a good forty pounds lighter, and looks scrawny as hell, but you can't know for certain that he's not got a blade hiding in his sleeve -- anymore than you can know for certain that he's not connected to six far more powerful/capable friends who'll come kick your ass six ways to Sunday.

It means every situation is sussed, from the exit locations -- always have an escape route -- to the people. The kids I knew were amazingly perceptive, able to grasp complex personal dynamics pretty damn fast (even if not always coherent in their analysis afterwards). But they had to be, to be able to make those bluffs and flash that cred; they had to instinctively know when to press and when to back down. Make the wrong choice, and the lesson for it was often a hard one.

I watched a friend once face down five guys in their mid-twenties; she and I were around 18. She pulled a blade to defend us, but to my astonishment, she turned it on herself. The guys recoiled in horror, and the second they collectively did that back-step, she moved forward as though she'd already won the fight. They backpedaled and left; later, I asked her, and she didn't seem to think it was all that much. She'd known our exit routes were limited, she knew her goals (get us out in one piece) and her limitations (two guys at a time, max). A group of guys, she told me, can get a mob mentality, but nothing reality-checks them like a solid dose of apparent craziness.

Which is where the real crux lies in experiences of being a deadhead, or a street person, or a gypsy: that which the rest of the world thinks is up, is down for those outside society. You see the guy in the alley, the drug dealer, the thief, the prostitute as Scary Things, as monsters among those that go bump on the street. To a street kid, these are his community; the real monsters are the preachers, the social workers, the cops, the 'well-meaning' adults who'd drag them off to foster homes. You see a regular schedule of school or work as security, and a parental roof as safety; a street kid is invariably on the street because the security or safety proved to be false. The only safety is in one's cohort, however loose; the only true security is having the ability to get the fuck away.

These are experiences may not scar everyone they touch, but they do change a person, however subtly. It's hard not to stand outside society's polite lines, and not feel the burn -- years later -- when you're hemmed in by regular schedules and a safe/secure life. Either you distrust it because you know just how impermanent or illusory it really is, or you cling to it because you've finally gotten back 'inside' and refuse to be associated with anything remotely resembling being 'outside'.

Whichever lasting influence takes hold, the person may always retain that 'prove it to me' bluff of the streets, where one's reputation is everything because you ain't got nothing else. Newcomers have to jump a few hoops, prove their value/trustworthiness. Not because the street teaches you to use everyone (though it does, to some degree) but because it teaches you that a friend today may be stealing your last five bucks tomorrow -- that is, the street teaches you that just as others can be of use or no use... so can you.

The street teaches some good lessons, too, like independence and self-reliance; it teaches the ability to stand your ground and show your hackles, until the other person backs down because they can't equal the pure force of your will. It teaches you that getting into a fight might be fun sometimes, but that someone with real power is the person who says, "I can't be bothered to waste time on you," and can walk away and suffer no consequences. It teaches you subtle dynamics that pass most safe/secure folks by, like the snub (and utter bluff) of turning your back on someone.

3. Never, ever forget the economics: things cost money.

This should not be rocket science, but urban fantasy seems to be rife with phantom incomes. There's no better indication of authorly cluelessness than in the economics. From the books out there, it seems the vast majority of UF authors have never missed a meal -- at least not for any reason other than "simply forgot" or "couldn't be bothered to cook". You'd think these authors could at least recall the experience of counting pennies while in college, which is possibly the closest most come -- but it's not like authors are required to kill someone to write about murder mysteries. Extrapolate a little, people; it's not hard if you just keep a few things in mind.

Apartments cost money. In some cities, apartments cost a lot of money. In some cities, the chances of finding an apartment with two bedrooms of any decent size, within reasonable distance of a subway or bus line, with regular heat and at least general safety covered... well, not too many freelancing, fly-by-night urban fantasy non-human critters or social-fringe characters are gonna be making the money to score a brownstone.

Most doorman, bartenders, couriers, and band members live in a shared house, if not a shared apartment; why would the economics be any different for someone making not much more money if in a different industry?

Food costs money. Not just to buy it, but to get to the grocery store and back again; that might be a subway trip, a bus trip, or the thirty minutes to walk the mile and a half to pick up no more than you can carry/haul back the mile and a half to the barely-affordable apartment. If I could, I'd take a clump o' urban fantasy authors and send them off to the grocery store with ten bucks and the instructions to come back with food for a week. If I were being really generous, I'd say twenty. If I were being really generous, I'd allow food that requires a kitchen for cooking, or that needs to be refrigerated.

Someone on the street doesn't eat well; the cheapest food is often (sadly) the worst for you. Double that when you don't have any means, or at least not reliable means, to cook the food -- there goes ramen and Mac 'n Cheese as an option. No fridge, or a fridge of only questionable working value? Milk, orange juice, butter, yogurt, cheese... either you eat it when you get it, or it goes bad. (And, too, what's "kept for later" may in fact get eaten by someone else; cf being used.)

I suspect those grocery-shopping authors would find that things like snacks, healthy juice, and well-rounded meals would abruptly drop to the bottom of the priority list. Just get the damn anything -- in a carryable, immediately-edible, affordable form -- and be done with it.

Weapons cost money. I think some authors do minimal research on weapons and never think about what it takes to get the weapon: frex, a Sig is a $1K gun if bought legally. Triple or quadruple that if you're purchasing it on the black market for a gun-controlled city (New York, Chicago, the District). Do these authors not realize that for a character with no credit card -- hell, no credit -- and either no job or a low-paying one, that four thousand dollars is a shitload of money?

Even knock-off guns like Di listed to me (off-brand guns, as it were) are going to run about $300 to $400; in a gun-controlled city, that's still pushing a grand. Even if the story's set in a city where guns are permitted, $400 is easily a month's rent. If you have a solid job and a safe life, imagine trying to come up with the cash to purchase something equivalent to your monthly mortgage -- not credit, but cash, in the hand. Kinda tough, really, and moreso if you don't even have a bank account to keep that cash. Where you gonna put it in the meantime? Under your mattress? What if you don't have a mattress?

I won't even get into the ridiculous notion most authors seem to have about swords and knives, that these things grow on trees or something. A practice katana is going to cost you about $1500, ignoring that the blade length puts it most definitely into "concealed weapon" category (and heftier laws) if there's any issue of malintent. Throwing knives that will actually hit something with any accuracy? Try about $30 to $50 a pop, maybe more.

Now, try figuring out the economics of your character who's so street-savvy, making a living in a band or as a bartender or as a courier. Let's see, a generous amount would be $10 an hour, given taxes and whatnot. Now, let's even pretend that's $10 an hour for 40 hours weekly (a consistency actually rather unlikely), and I'd still like to see how the author is going to stretch that money -- for any character lacking financial expertise, which is 99% of us in the real world -- to cover a share of rental costs, food, transportation, and the amazing stash of never-ending weapons. Oh, and the ammunition for those weapons, and the materials/tools needed to maintain those weapons, not to mention everyday things like clothes... leather jacket? $100 to $150. Boots? About $100, these days, if you want steel-toed that lasts more than two weeks and can actually hold up when you're kicking the shit out of someone (or running like hell after failing).

Thrift-store clothes can be affordable, but it means a lot of time looking for a) stuff in your price range that also b) fits -- those male characters 6'2" and lanky? Gonna have as much of a hard time as a female character who's 5'7" with a 36" inseam... which means either less time to work (less cash coming in) or more spent (more cash going out).

Really. Readers are not stupid. We can recognize phantom incomes, even if some readers don't have the background to necessarily pin down exactly why it's off. But if you do your homework, believe me when I say it can only be for the good. I mean, if your character has stepped outside society due to being pushed, then these details let me see the cost of that push; if your character chose to step outside, these details show me just how high a price s/he is willing to pay to have his/her freedom.

Because, for all the economic suck of being on the fringe, there is still an undoubted amount of freedom that people in the Mundane Everyday cannot comprehend: no credit card bills, hell few enough bills if any, no long-term savings but no long-term finances. Life is lived in the now, and what matters isn't the brand you're wearing or the corporate name on your business card, but your word and your reputation.

4. Know the law: because the character sure as hell would.

Swords are as controlled as guns, in the US (and most other third-world countries, come to think of it). A blade over 3" is illegal in most states in the US, but in certain states (like New York, curiously) the state must prove malintent before the knife can move from "pocketknife" to "weapon" status. A cop can, and will, yank over a kid or young adult carrying a baseball bat if the cop gets suspicious... gee, you're wearing a leather jacket and steel-toed boots and looking pissed-off and you have no hair, and you're carrying a baseball bat. You really think the cop is going to believe you're heading out to a game at the park with some buddies?

Ask anyone with a concealed carry permit about the dynamics of carrying, and they'll tell you the same thing as a street kid (though for different reasons): the real power is in what someone cannot see. Someone might brandish as part of a bluff, but if you ever see someone really brandish -- as preliminary to a fight -- you might notice the blade's held point down, the shotgun's pointed at the ground. There's always that last bit held in abeyance that says, "y'know, I could use this, but you don't want to make me do it." The person waving the gun around, letting the blade sway back and forth in defensive motion, has (in my experience and observation) already lost the fight: again with the dynamic that true power means not flexing a muscle.

If you conceal-carry, you've probably learned that you don't want people to know you're carrying. First, because it'll freak folks out (and, if you're social-fringe, it'll draw attention to you from those monsters on the street -- the cops and other 'contributing upstanding society' people). Second, because if someone does pull a weapon, you don't want them knowing you're armed: they'll attack you first. Never, ever reveal the extent of your muscle, not until you absolutely must; never put all your cards on the table.

This is one facet of why most street kids having a pretty good idea of the basics of the law (though in some ways they can be remarkably ignorant, mostly for things that don't really impact them, but this is true of everyone, I've found). They know what they can explain/wriggle out of, and what must be concealed because discovery would bring strong consequences. It's not just an issue of dynamics and power; it's also because when you're outside society, you learn to live with the assumption that society does not care.

So the cops wrongfully arrest some deadhead broken down on the side of the road -- who's going to cry over that? Who's going to even notice? It makes for a fine balancing act between showing one's colors (either to draw like minds, a la deadheads, or warn them off, a la skinheads), and cloaking one's loyalties to pass under the radar of those protective edges of society -- cops, social workers, shopkeepers, vigilantes, and other do-gooders.

Which is why it surprises me sometimes when some urban fantasy authors are so quick to give their characters a gun... because in some areas -- even if it's a gun-permitting region -- the use of a gun in a crime will automatically carry a jail sentence. You don't even have to pull the gun. Hell, you don't even have to take the gun into the store with you. It was there on your driver's seat, you committed a crime, you have a gun, and you could have used it... five years, kiddo. Enjoy the ride.

Cross state lines with a weapon -- blade over x" length or gun, doesn't matter -- and now you're talking federal. Sure, there are folks on the street who don't know (or do know, and don't care), but these aren't the folks that last that long. The criminals that get caught are invariably the stupid ones. I suppose if you want to write about stupid characters, that's your choice, but I'd at least ask that you be aware you're writing stupid characters, and mean to do that.

5. When the economics fail, the solution tells me a lot.

So your courier-character can't afford food, apartment, bike and maintenance, clothing, and a few extra bucks to actually have a life and afford any weapon more than a pocketknife. Which is ridiculous, since most couriers I've met could wield that Kryponite lock with some serious ass-kicking skills -- but right there is a solution that tells me the character is limited in funds but not in determination or creativity.

The girl with the butterfly knives originally stole them from a jacket at a coat check -- there's the first half of the character solution: stealing as a justified event -- and then modified them to suit her purposes (further resolution when first isn't adequate), and trained herself to use them (characterization, and if I need to explain this part, you need more help than I can give).

If the character must have/use a gun... how does s/he learn to shoot it? Name somewhere in the average city that a social-fringe character could walk in and shoot a gun for practice, assuming they've got the $25 or more for the day's pass to the range. Go out to the country to shoot in a field? How do they get there? How do they know about the field? Do you realize that a gunshot blast carries phenomenal distances in the country, and that a gunshot out of season is bound to bring attention nearly as fast (if not faster) than in the city? If you shoot in the city as practice, what about residents hearing, cops on their beat coming to check it out, even rival gangs wondering who might be infringing on their turf? Just how did this character learn, how did they afford to learn, or are you going to have the character mishold the gun, misinterpret the safety (or not even realize there is one, or isn't one, depending on the make), shake the gun, or thwack him/herself in the forehead when the recoil catches him/her off-guard?

If the character must steal to obtain the gun, how do they know where to steal it from? What does it cost them, other than money, to do this -- who tells them the info, what other skills (breaking & entering) do they need, and what about the fact that if the gun's theft is reported that they're now most definitely using an illegal/stolen gun? If you're going to tell me the character has a code of honor, just how does it fit into that code that the only means to obtain a gun -- or sword, for that matter -- required theft?

Most readers aren't going to be of the mindset that theft is 'okay' or that 'personal belongings' is a loose term; then again, this may be why most urban fantasy authors skirt the issue completely. I think that's utter cop-out, myself -- don't try to pretty it up, guys. You're just annoying me, giving short-shrift to your characters (and your readers), and generally just slacking. So it might upset some readers that your character had to steal the gun -- or perhaps steal, and pawn, something else to have the money to purchase the weapon -- or maybe sold him/herself as a whore, or as a drug runner, to get the cash. None of these are palatable to most mainstream readers, but if you're going to give a character current or former streetwise status, then you need to be aware that the honor, and logic, are not the same as roof-and-food-secure citizen Joes.

Sometimes the justification is an "us versus them" -- the Have-Not getting back at the Haves. Sometimes the justification is that the Haves have so much, they wouldn't miss this one thing, so the Have-not can rationalize that their big need will outweigh the Have's small lack. Sometimes it's just plain desperation, mixed in with a bit of guilt -- and then colored with relief when not caught -- and sometimes that first truly 'despicable' act is a sign of finally, and completely, accepting one's place outside society.

Mingled feelings and all... but the character's solution, and justification, tell me a lot more -- and in a lot fewer words than I've used in this post, too -- than just "he loaded the gun and shoved it into the back of his jeans."

6. Things don't just take up space; it's how we perceive them in our space, too.

Which brings me to the next point: packratting, minimalism, and things in general. Most folks I've known who've spent enough time going without -- or with so very little it might as well be completely 'without' -- have an acute sense of stuff. Some now packrat like crazy, as though making up for the past lack. Some remain minimalist, unable or unwilling to attach to things because it's all be lost before (a sort of distrust of fortune, maybe). Some achieve an almost-zen attitude towards 'stuff' after going without, and retain that into adulthood and/or re-merging with society; they don't gather, or keep, many things, not compared to their Everyday peers.

Some I've met are zen-like because they know they can live without -- and, too, an adolescence on the streets does kind of exempt you from the non-stop TV/movie/media pressure of buy-buy-buy; when you're spending time outdoors wandering the city, you're hardly trapped in front of the 'tube being taunted by endless commercials. Others are zen-like because it's a reaction to their In-Society peers, an association between "social obligations" and "financial debts" being tied to "things you own". That is, the fewer things you own, the freer and looser you can be... always that escape route. If trouble comes, you can leave and either what you have is little enough it can be taken with you, or it's little enough that it's no loss to replace or just plain forget it.

One thing I have noticed amongst former street/squat folks is a strong preference for cleanliness, and often a peculiar, specific, quirk. (The same also seems to hold true for former deadheads/hippies, as well as druggies.) I was in and out of numerous, numerous crashes and squats and shared residences (and by shared, I mean twenty kids chipping in to pay rent on a two-bedroom apartment whose total square footage was probably less than my current living room, and it's not that big either) -- and one consistent thing was how filthy the places often were.

Not that I can blame anyone; I tolerated the subtle frustration just as passively. We did what we could, but the more drinking or drugs going on, the less it got attention -- but when you're on the edge with rent and food, who the hell has $5 to buy Comet and sponges? Ashtrays would overflow, spill on the carpet; beer got knocked over and soaked in; sheets didn't get changed except once a month or so because laundry costs money and so does taking the bus to the laundromat and who's got a second pair of sheets anyway? Never enough storage, and no major furniture, meant clothes stacked up or just lay around, or hung from bent nails in the wall, shoes piled haphazardly, and everything reeked from the bar or the club we'd been to the night before.

Soap was the cheapest we could find (or steal) -- assuming the place had water, of course -- and the towels were always mildewed because they rarely got washed and when six people are using one towel it never really dries, anyway. Toilet tissue was usually stolen from a restaurant, which meant newspaper would've been more pleasant on the duff or the nose during flu-season; who needs paper towels when you've got a shirt hem; socks and underwear and bras might be washed semi-often with cheap dish soap & hung to dry and that meant jeans and shirts could go longer before getting attention...

Sometimes you'd have someone like me come along, who'd 'pay' for a night's crash by cleaning the kitchen as best I could, with hot water and bare hands, maybe a little bit of soap, edge of my shirt or something; sometimes I could guilt/coax a friend into helping. But there'd still be stuff crusted on the two-eye stove, that never really worked that well, anyway; the one pot could be scrubbed with a bristlebrush and it was still too beaten to look anything but ruined.

Despite our best efforts sometimes (with the possible exception of maybe two crashes I stayed at, which had to have been run by Virgos), the place always stank, it was always littered with random tossed-away things, it was always cluttered, it was always too hot or too cold or too stifling. And it was always, always, filthy.

My ex used to start to twitch when any ashtray got more than three cigarettes in it. He had to empty it, right then -- or it did nothing but remind him of the days when he didn't give a damn, let the ashtray tip and spill on the carpet and stink up everything and no one cared. CP sometimes makes comments along the same lines, after time spent in band-houses and cheap rent places, where cigarette burns and dirt on everything and a stained carpet were taken as par for the course.

My brother absolutely positively must have the finest pots/pans and all his plateware must match. He expresses nothing but disgust for those decorating shows that have "delightfully 'thrown-together' shabby-chic china" -- to him, when it doesn't match, it screams "bought this as I could afford it" with a strong dose of "and I didn't care anyway". The second something gets chipped? In the trash. He did his years not caring enough to notice it was all chipped, second-hand, ugly stuff.

And me? I will never, ever, if I can ever help it, ever buy the cheapest toilet tissue, ever again. It is, perhaps, the one item where I look at the prices and get the most expensive. To me, 'being rich' means not just having the best and softest toilet tissue, but being able to afford the best and softest kleenex, too -- instead of using cheap toilet tissue for everything from duff to nose to face to random clean-ups.

These are the ways in which the things around us, the space we occupied, continues to impact us even upon entering/returning to the mainstream. The way everything is dirty and reeking, when you just don't have time or money or energy to clean -- like after coming back to the shared place after your second eight-hour shift at the second job just so you can afford rent again this month and be able to eat -- when security finally arrives (assuming you don't flee at the earliest signs), everything changes... sort of.

Maybe you end up with a lot of stuff, maybe only a little -- although the less stuff, the more likely (in my observation) it's going to be the best/highest quality the person can afford. Maybe refusing to get more than a bare minimum of stuff is a private expression of a continued rebellion against being Inside Society, and its attendant gimme-gimme of materialism. Maybe there's a residue of fear that too much means too much to lose. Or maybe a person's now collecting joyfully and rapaciously...

But almost every time I've walked into someone's house and found they twitch at a very specific item or event, I also find invariably that they spent time on the fringe. By that I mean, people who grew up in decent, relatively clean houses (regardless of actual familial income) will be either lax in general ("oh, don't worry about that, just move it over") or anal ("please, no heels on the wooden floor"). In contrast, former street/fringe folks will have a particular expression: they'll ignore the stack of dirty clothes but flip if you're setting the wine glass down on the counter too hard, or they'll not give a damn about the curtains or the sofa but will vacuum every morning.

On the outside of you, you're back ensconced on the Inside. But on the inside of you, you'll always be that person who went four days without showering, brushing your teeth with your shirt-cuff, who flipped a coin with a friend to see who'd sleep with the guy to repay him for letting both of you have a place to stay. You'll always have that dirty, too-cold or too-hot, slightly-rank, always-hungry kid hiding inside... and all the issues with stuff boil down to that one, single symbol.

My ex and his ashtrays; my brother and his dishes; me and the toilet tissue: these are our symbols where we can say, this proves we're out of there. As long as those last-stand things are intact, we can ride with nearly any other punch life throws (on a material level). Being broke don't scare me. Been there. Working sixteen hour shifts, been there. But the times since then that I've had to count my pennies to buy toilet tissue... those are the times I can feel my past breathing down my neck, and it scares the living shit out of me.

No, I'm not entirely certain why each takes its own form, but I suppose knowing that -- and picking something -- would be part of your job as author, to characterize.

7. Everything has a price: there's no such thing as a gift.

This touches on the economics, but it's also a long-term pattern I've noticed in those who spent a lot of time on the street, or in the drug culture, or in clubs. Gifts are a suspicious, distrusted event; accepting a gift means you're in debt to another person. Just as you never know who exactly you're facing down (and who might be waiting to defend them), you also never know when someone might call in a marker on you. Accept that gift of a jacket, of dinner, of a place to stay, and if you don't explicitly come up with a payment on your terms (or refuse the gift altogether and be done with it), then you may be expected to pay on their terms.

It's a judgment call; maybe you'll like their terms... maybe you won't. Maybe it'll be a small price to pay for a good meal, or maybe it'll be the first step to buying into a continued debt and growing cost with each successive step.

In some ways, this is almost identical to the reactions from adults who come from abusive households. In that kind of upbringing, gifts might be guilt-objects, might be bribes, might be making up for the past... or might be given, only to be taken away in the next moment of anger. Hell, for some kids, just plain admitting they liked a certain possession meant making themselves vulnerable; plenty of abusive parents are not above spitefully destroying those things.

To accept a gift means to accept a debt, to accept an obligation. Even now, there are certain friends for whom I give gifts only by deception: I visit and leave the gift on the bed when I go, for them to discover later. That, in itself, is an implicit "there are no strings attached" because I have distanced myself from the giving (and the ensuing obligation issue) -- but if I try to give in person, they accept begrudingly and with little grace. Not because they don't want it, not because they don't like it, not even because they don't like receiving gifts, but because instinctively, they're braced for being required to give in return and they can't help the sudden flash of resentment that I'd do that to them.

[The other tell of a kid from a abusive home, the street, or similar situation, is when the adult gives a gift and explicitly says, "you don't need to do anything back, I just wanted to give you this." That's practically a neon sign that the person, him/herself, would personally think in the recipient's place: now I must reciprocate. Granted, some cultures also push this kind of reciprocation, but it doesn't usually carry the elements of resentment and distrust that it does for those whose gifts always came with price tags.]

8. ...I forget what eight was for.

9. Understanding politics may save your ass, but ignorance will eat it alive.

Former street kids, like kids from abusive homes, are amazingly astute when it comes to political dynamics. They may not always be able to articulate what they see, or why they react just so, but their instincts are honed by the necessity of self-preservation. These are warzones, and just as a soldier must suss up that guy walking down the street and being able to tell in a split-second whether the guy is just cold this morning or is hiding an AK-47 under his jacket, so must the kid suss up an adult/authority/opponent in a heartbeat to know whether to smile, glare, back off, push forward, bluff, or run.

The one difference is that kids who grew up with roof & food but questionable parental security are often insecure thanks to that inconsistency, but also somewhat politically blind when it comes to external dynamics. Those I've met did hone their skills, but those are attuned to one (or two) particular people -- and all others are either seen through that lens, are barely visible except when hitting the adult-kid's familial hot buttons, or are just plain invisible. It's like spending your life in a world that's shades of blue and yellow, and not being able to identify purple, red, or green even after leaving the blue & yellow world.

Street kids have a wider range of interaction, and the dangers come from more than just a single authority figure, so those I've known tend to be far more perceptive in general (though not nearly as attuned to any one person). It's a more general, generalized, version of the in-family war zone.

So if you're writing an adult character with this background, and you think it's all cool 'n stuff to have the kid grow up on the streets... for the love of pete, remember that the kid survived to a great degree on his/her wits. That means s/he is considering the angles, always considering the angles, even when aware that they're of little consequence or relevance. You can't not do it, not after it was grilled (or beaten) into you that the second you let down your guard, the second you don't bother to at least check, is the second you'll get nailed to the wall. Literally, even.

Maybe your character is secure in his/her role, maybe your character knows there's no one in that PTA meeting who's going to whip out a knife and gut him, maybe your character looks around and sees no one who's a real threat. The point is, the character will still look around. The longer s/he spent in that war zone environment, the harder it'll be to ignore that instinct, because that's what kept the kid alive.

Although it seems to be a pat stereotype in fantasy & science fiction (hell, in a lot of fiction) that the young thief can get to the heart of a matter that misses the adults around him/her -- it's also a detail that, for once, I see as accurate to reality. And it's not that stupid "wisdom from the mouths of babes" because if you've ever met someone who's lived for a year or more on the streets, this person is not a baby, and is not even young: their eyes are old, their faces are old, their bodies are old, and they may be sixteen but they sure as hell could pass for late twenties. Their life is hard, their life is brutal, their life is demanding and dangerous and has its good times but there's not too many soft edges to it.

When the young thief speaks, s/he has the wisdom not thanks to being the proverbial innocent, but because every day tests the kid's ability to assess, analyze, and come up with a plan in a matter of seconds -- and having learned that skill, a sharp kid then turns it on opponents to study their motivations and likely actions. And therein lies the ability to take a quick look at a room and know who's got the power, who doesn't, who wants it, who flees it, and who's willing to kill to get it.

all the parts ▪ dear [not just urban fantasy] author part Idear [not just urban fantasy] author part IIdear [not just urban fantasy] author part IIIpermanent record, pt I: edginess, and street fightingpermanent record, pt II: guns, knives, and making it hurt

continue to part II
Page 1 of 2 << [1] [2] >>

Date: 20 Nov 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oneminutemonkey.livejournal.com
Extremely impressive piece'a work there. I think this should be required reading for a lot of writers, and not just urban fantasy. Thanks for taking the time to elaborate on these points!

Date: 20 Nov 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Heh, well, if you know someone who'd improve with the pointers, I'll be keeping the post public so feel free to link. *whistles*

Yeah, I suppose it does apply to more than just urban fantasy, now that I think about it... it's just that urban fantasy, like YA, tends to have more than its fair share of street rats.

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Date: 20 Nov 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
ext_7025: (Default)
From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com
Good stuff, and thanks for it. Okay to link?

Date: 20 Nov 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Go ahead -- the purpose was to help educate, after all. ;-)

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From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com - Date: 26 Nov 2007 07:46 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 20 Nov 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ravensilver.livejournal.com
This just made it into my collection of "things to think of when you write".

Thank you for taking the time to put this together! I'm definitely going to use that as reference...

Date: 20 Nov 2007 09:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Good! That was pretty much the intent -- to help giving writing-folks a better grasp on a life that's probably far from their personal experience.

Date: 20 Nov 2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] temporus.livejournal.com
This is awesome.

Date: 20 Nov 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Thanks! Hard-learned experience, but I'm glad it's become of some use to me now, and anyone else interested.

Date: 20 Nov 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maldoror-gw.livejournal.com
Good point about the guns. Must remember that. The miraculous source of income grates as well.

Oh yes, the poooooooor hero/heroine who somehow manages to pay the rent on a fairly nice two-room right in the middle of, say, New York, where they're always a hop, step and a skip away from cool well-recognized landmarks, nightspots and/or restaurants. That used to drive me crazy many years ago when I was watching 'Friends', much less reading a book which is at least supposed to be able to touch down in reality from time to time. I have a cousin who lives near Central Park. His three-room on the twentieth floor takes a two-person income and I'm not talking small income here.

For the last point, street kids and the adults they grow into often have a lot of savvy. Some of this savvy may be Darwinistic in part; those who survived the first few days/months are the ones who had the seeds of it. But it's easy to give them too much in a book, to turn them into little Gary Stus of the streets. In some books, it seems they're these little fonts of hard-core wisdom, and/or they turn into ass-kicking vampire-fighting adults or whatever, with way too much ease. There's this idea that they got toughened and educated by the streets, where they couldn't afford a mistake, hence now they never make any, and they can spot a con at five hundred paces etc. etc. If this was true, there wouldn't be so many of them killed every year, or jailed, prostituted, ODed or running drugs (the stupidest, most short-term job on the planet, according to Freakonomics, even packing grocery bags or cleaning washrooms works out better in the middle run). I guess it just annoys me when an author drops in the inevitable 'and then [insert heroine's name here] spent two years on the street, where she learned to fight, to fend for herself, yeah, it toughened her up and made her smart' blah blah. Bleh. Makes me wonder why I bothered with so many years of higher education. The street's the best finishing school there is, apparently.

You seemed to have pulled through the thin parts of your life okay, but I recently met another thirty-some ex-street kid and she's a mess. Real smart in some ways, very self-aware. Self-destructive and blind and a little stupid in others. Which, I guess, is just an amplification of what most people are. You probably made this point in your list, I didn't read all of this in detail, my free time comes in ten-minute parcels five times a day these days ^^;

Date: 20 Nov 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] okaasan59.livejournal.com
Self-destructive and blind and a little stupid in others. Which, I guess, is just an amplification of what most people are.

That's a good point. I've only known a couple of people who were really on their own at a young age, but I know quite a few from the lower echelons of society--bikers and addicts and hangers-on--and they tend to have the same problems everyone has, but multiplied. When they self-destruct they really self-destruct.

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Date: 20 Nov 2007 09:55 pm (UTC)
ext_141054: (Default)
From: [identity profile] christeos-pir.livejournal.com
> 3. Never, ever forget the economics: things cost money.

So much for Hemingway. All his characters seem to have Phantom Income Solvency Syndrome

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Too bad it's not contagious.

I'd like one phantom income, hold the antibiotics, please.

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Date: 20 Nov 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cosplayeriori.livejournal.com
I think it is definintly something that should be required reading for writeres. I don't write (cause I SUCK at it, bad grammer and a # of other things I could yammer on about) but I would say even if your someone that does RP or something that is in the vein of story-telling. Its good to read. Also I think is facinateing and very true in many ways. I've not been in these situations but when you grow up in junk yards and major concert halls /clubs when your parents have no child care options for you. You see these things.
But as always amazeing read.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 03:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] onyxhawke.livejournal.com
Bad grammar is something you can unlearn. Trust me. You just have to will it. It might help to take a _basic_ possibly even ESL course. Or you might try picking up a good college English text book and going from there.

IIRC this one teaches sentence construction. http://www.amazon.com/Brief-Penguin-Handbook-Lester-Faigley/dp/0321245318/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195702933&sr=8-1

Just don't take _any_ English textbook or 'rule' too seriously, after spelling... its mostly a matter of what you're good enough to get away with.

Most of the other parts of writing can be learned (to one degree or another) by studying the writing of people who are good.
Lois Bujold
Mark Twain
Dave Freer (no i don't just say that 'cause he's a client and friend.)
C.E. Murphy
Rob Thurman
David Drake
Dianne Wynne Jones
J.V. Jones
Robin Hobb

All of these people write _well_ and I'd be hard pressed to keep from laughing at anyone who told me they wrote the same way.

Writing is both an Art _AND_ a Science. The mix in each book is varied, some writers have long careers with very little of the Art, which isn't really learn able, and a super majority of the science.

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Date: 20 Nov 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] okaasan59.livejournal.com
Lots of good info and food for thought here. It has applications beyond urban fantasy.

I'm going to save this for future reference.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Yeah, I realized about halfway through that other genres could apply, but the whole connection between "otherworld" and "fringe society" is big in urban fantasy... which means that street-folk, and street-kids, get a lot of screen time. And, to my utter frustration, sometimes it's nothing but lip service, like if you plaster "former street kid!" on an otherwise Suburbian Jane, then she gets auto-cred or something, and not a single lick of the scars such a cred would carry. Sheesh.

You'd think authors would want more meat for a story & character, not less. Why dumb it down?

Date: 21 Nov 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
white_aster: (Default)
From: [personal profile] white_aster
Yes. Yes, yes, yes, and yet more yes. I wish every writer would read this. Psychology and politics are NOT just academic subjects. They apply to EVERY SITUATION. Yes. Thank you.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com

Good to know it wasn't a wasted whole-lotta-words! But then, I think people sometimes don't realize how much of our everyday life (no matter how everyday) really does revolve around psychology and politics.

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Date: 21 Nov 2007 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meritjubet.livejournal.com
Indeed, we aren't all Bruce Wayne with our own multi-million dollar company to fund our foray in to magic and crime fighting. It was very interesting to read this, thank you for writing and sharing this.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
See, I don't think everyone should be a multi-millionaire. Just me. Not so sure about being Bruce Wayne, though. Would I still have to wear the tights? What about the walking-up-a-building part? Would I have to do that? My back can't really take the bending over for a extended scene, but I could do the Superman thing -- just lay down, arms out, I could do that.

Except the tights. Can I be a multi-millionaire without the tights? Is this contract negotiable?

Should I buy a vowel?

Date: 21 Nov 2007 04:53 am (UTC)
ext_27003: (Default)
From: [identity profile] sans-pertinence.livejournal.com
This - all of this - really needed to be said. I can't tell you how many times I've put a book down after a few chapters because the writer's complete ignorance when it comes to reality made me want to puke. Yes, I'm touchy and angry and easily annoyed, but a lot of that comes from knowing and having been and still - to some degree - being.

The street doesn't leave you. Rape sure as hell doesn't leave you. Scars fade. They don't disappear. Zen? Hell with zen. Survival. I have never been able to escape that mind-set. How and why I lived the way I did when I was sixteen is not relevant. What it did to me is. It's never going away, and when someone who hasn't been anywhere near that part of my life trivializes it, I almost literally see red.

Enjoyed your gun dissertation, by the way. I, like your cops, prefer Rugers for any number of reasons, not the least of which being, they fit my hand better than most everything else.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
You're right that 'zen' isn't really the best word, because it's not the right word -- but I couldn't think of anything else that could capture the external appearance that a mainstream reader could find comprehensible. Zen was probably the closest, even if on the underside it's really a combination of distrust, fatalism, regret, paranoia, anger, whatever.

I wrapped my hand around a 45 at the gun store once (wasting time while CP was picking up ammo or something) and was like, oooh, this is so much nicer in my hand than CP's guns. Then the guy said, "that's a Beretta," and I promptly put it back down. Because, sadly, I do have a bit too much personal pride to deal with hearing CP snicker -- bad enough he does that trowaistic leonine "smirking without really smirking" whenever I make noises about finding a BMW motorcycle. *sigh*

(Naw, not too worried about it, because the one thing that ever felt really right was the double-barrel shotgun. How can you not love the sound of that slide being racked? ChaCHUNK, man, that's a great sound.)

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Date: 21 Nov 2007 05:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daniela-lynx.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot for writing this . I will concur with White Aster here, every writer and wannabe-writer should should read it. It's a priceless tool. *bows* I'll rec it.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I'm flattered, and glad it's been of help. (I did add a second half today, to complete the notes I'd made that I'd promised to get to -- figured might as well wrap it up.)

Date: 21 Nov 2007 08:17 am (UTC)
onthehill: yuri plisetsky gives a thumbs down (Default)
From: [personal profile] onthehill
Thanks for writing all this up. I've added to memories and will be reminding myself of it now and again.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
You're welcome! I'm glad I could be of use. ;-)

Date: 21 Nov 2007 10:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] egelantier.livejournal.com
I'm not a writer, but this was such an amazing information - thanks for writing this up. bookmarking and re-reading later again.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Hrm, y'know, you're what, person number eight to say you're not a writer*? Think maybe I should add a note at the top of part 1 and 2 that says, "and if you don't think this has value, please, read the comments and see how many readers would appreciate if you put a bit more effort into things?" Okay, I won't be that snarky, but still... it's good to hear anyone can get something out of this lengthy pair o' posts. ;-)

[* I meant in the sense that, "I wrote this for writers, but wow, it looks like other readers are coming out of the woodwork to say this matters to them, too... so where are the writers? Or are they all lurking and saying, hunh, maybe on that next novel, I should..." One can only hope!]

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Date: 21 Nov 2007 04:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] l-clausewitz.livejournal.com
You're planning to update this later and expand on the points you've only skimmed over, right? It'd be really, really a pity if you don't. I'm putting this post in my Memories right now.

Just wondering: did you know that Hitler once lived in the streets--back when he still fancied himself as an artist?

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Yep, I went ahead and completed the sections, and then broke it into two -- there's a link to the next at the bottom of this one.

Oi, I do recall reading that Hitler had tried his hand at being an artist while in his early twenties, but I wasn't aware he'd lived on the streets at the time. Curious, that.

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Date: 21 Nov 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ningen-demonai.livejournal.com
Oh wow. This was amazingly accurate and I'm sorry to say that I never really noticed many of these things before, though I'll certainly be more attentive now. Thanks for the info and I'm definitely memory-ing this.

Date: 22 Nov 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I come from a background where analysis (of an academic sort) was highly prized, and circumstances forced me to turn it on myself and my environment when I entered high school. By the time I ended up in the city, it was old hat to study every tiny detail around me, note everything, puzzle things out.

One of the bouncers I knew told me that sometimes he wondered if I were just a very young undercover journalist... because even when we were only just "hanging out," he felt like I had a massive magnifying glass fixed on every detail, with camera attached to capture every bit. Maybe in a way I did, just sucking down information and grasping for more -- even if it's taken years and distance and maturity to comprehend not just how it fit together, but how I fit into it, as well, and the impact my existence had on the dynamics.

What is that quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (or is that before your time)? "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and take a look around, it'll pass you by." Something like that.

Thank you for this.

Date: 21 Nov 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangrgirl.livejournal.com
It's so easy to romanticize things we don't understand. Thank you for saying it like it is. Only after we stop romanticizing can we start to build three-dimensional characters.

You told others it's OK to link, so I'm linking away.

Date: 21 Nov 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Hey, just doin' mah job, ma'am. Yep, feel free to link -- who knows, maybe someone who genuinely needs to read this prior to publishing might use it to catch at least the more egregious mistakes. Or, at least, my hope is some authors wise up to the fact that we readers are not entirely stupid on these things, and to quit with the glossing already.

Date: 21 Nov 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] onyxhawke.livejournal.com
Extremely well put. The other things about guns some people need to think about are: What caliber of gun? And where in the hell did they find the money for the _ammo_ to become a good shot.

Date: 21 Nov 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] onyxhawke.livejournal.com
And i must add that anyone who uses the tag "* analysis is my chocolate cake" is someone after my own emotionally inactive brain.

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Date: 24 Nov 2007 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] matociquala.livejournal.com
Hi. Here via [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, and just want to say, thank you for writing this.

Date: 24 Nov 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I'd say "my pleasure!" but somehow that just doesn't seem an appropriate response. (Heh.) How about, "glad all that pain eventually served a purpose"?

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From: [identity profile] matociquala.livejournal.com - Date: 24 Nov 2007 04:56 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 24 Nov 2007 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kristine-smith.livejournal.com
Here by way of [livejournal.com profile] matociquala. Thanks for posting this.

Date: 24 Nov 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading. I'm just glad it turned out to be helpful.

Date: 24 Nov 2007 09:29 pm (UTC)
mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (Default)
From: [personal profile] mithriltabby
Another reader via [livejournal.com profile] matociquala. Very useful; I am definitely re-reading this next time I run any role-playing game with an urban setting.

Date: 25 Nov 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I'm flattered! If it helps in some way, that makes it worth it.

Date: 25 Nov 2007 07:33 am (UTC)
vass: A sepia-toned line-drawing of a man in naval uniform dancing a hornpipe, his crotch prominent (Default)
From: [personal profile] vass
Thank you so much for writing this.

I knew the economics part - and it drives me crazy regularly. Some of the rest was stuff I needed to read.

Date: 26 Nov 2007 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I'm glad it helped, then. ;-)

Date: 25 Nov 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daegaer.livejournal.com
This is brilliant, thanks for writing it!

Date: 26 Nov 2007 05:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Awww, ehh, I'm not sure I'd go so far as brilliant, but I'm flattered nonetheless, and thank you for reading!

Date: 26 Nov 2007 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carmarthen.livejournal.com
Awesome post! I think I might actually read more urban fantasy if it were realistic.

Everything about #1 applies to classic fantasy settings, too--and with most pre-firearm methods, there are styles of fighting as well as styles of weapon to consider. Phantom economics are a big problem there, too, as well as generally unrealistic ideas about the economics of pre-industrial societies. Actually, a lot of this would apply to certain types of classic fantasy, if slanted a bit.

BTW, butter, yogurt, and hard cheese (and eggs) will all keep at room temp for quite a while unless the city is extremely warm. That's part of why yogurt and hard cheese were invented. A lot of foods most people refrigerate now don't really need to be outside of places like Florida and the Caribbean. Of course, dairy products are also expensive (except for eggs, which need to be cooked), so it's probably moot.

Date: 26 Nov 2007 05:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I think I might actually read more urban fantasy if it were realistic.

I might go back to reading it, if I didn't spend half the time frothing at the mouth (or laughing hysterically).

I'm aware hard cheeses will do okay at room temp, and I know from hiking that eggs keep longer at room temp if raw than if cooked. But I also recall that most summer-time squats, crashes, and generally low-income apartments usually got into the high 90s with 80%+ humidity. Muggy, humid, miserable swamp of a city... but hey, at least it wasn't Chicago.

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From: [identity profile] artemisin.livejournal.com - Date: 4 Dec 2007 08:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 26 Nov 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marypseud.livejournal.com
here via [livejournal.com profile] metafandom

An excellent post, which obviously is based on close-to-the-bone experiences.

A corollary to point #5 that always drives me mad in a story: people who throw/discard guns. Whoops, it's empty, time to drop it - no. No no no. That gun is expensive, and although quite sturdy (it is meant to contain an explosion, after all) it will not do it any good to be dropped. I don't beleive it when a character drops a gun unless they absolutely have to. Better to stash it, or hand it off.

Date: 26 Nov 2007 05:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I ignored characters who drop guns during a firefight and just bring out a newly-loaded one -- I'm willing to write off the difficulty of dropping the 'zine, slamming a new one in (and getting it in the right way) and racking the slide -- all in the midst of a fight.

But I'd still rather see the character retrieve the gun, at the end. (Or someone else doing it, at least; it can't only be my ancestors who rifled bodies for coins and ammunition after a battle...)
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