Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shots Fired

By Annette Dashofy

I’m sitting here staring at a blank page as I ponder a topic for this blog. Do I write about some of the interesting locations we have around here for cheap summer vacations now that gas prices have taken away the joy of travel planning? Do I write about the death this weekend of one of my all time favorite comedians, George Carlin? Now there was a man who could make me laugh each and every time I saw him. I’ve been watching some of his routines on You Tube and thinking that some of the stuff is dated. I mean, was fart really one of the seven words you couldn’t say on TV? Is it still? I don’t think so. Seems to me they say it several times each episode of Two and a Half Men. In case you haven’t ever actually heard that routine, feel free to click here. But be forewarned, this is not the bleeped version. If you don’t want to hear the words, don’t follow the link.

I also considered writing about a recent bout of graffiti in little old Canonsburg where a gang of kids went around spray painting nemesis on cars and houses. Do we need to bring Pittsburgh’s graffiti squad out here to Washington County??? And nemesis? Why do I think these morons just learned a new word and are showing off to the world?

I started scanning other blogs, hoping to mine ideas. Hey, if you can’t come up with an original one, steal one from someone else.

But then divine intervention struck in the form of gunshots. I’ve been hearing a lot of them lately. What makes this blog worthy (or at least, I hope it is) is the fact that I’ve been paying absolutely no attention to them. I just assume someone got a new gun and is out playing with it. Around here, surrounded by acres of pasture and woodlands, guys don’t need to go to a firing range or sportsmen’s club to sight in a new rifle. They just step outside. Not that they DON’T go to the sportsmen’s club. That’s a big social thing. But they don’t NEED to.

Somehow, I suspect that if you heard this kind of gunfire in the city, you’d be thinking the cops should be involved. Drive-by shooting? Domestic disturbance?

And then there are the war-torn cities where bursts of gunfire may have become old hat, although anything but benign.

A couple years ago, I attended a funeral for a close family member. The graveside service included full military rites. A friend of mine was holding onto me, trying to be supportive. But when they fired the twenty-one gun salute, she about jumped out of her skin. I never so much as twitched.

Which then leads to our writing. What kind of background does you protagonist have? If she heard a gunshot, would she flinch? Seek cover? Never bat an eye?

What about you? How do you react to the crack of a gunshot? And how much does your personal background affect that reaction?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the George Carlin link, Annette. I remember the "7 words" routine from when I was in high school, and it has always annoyed me I can remember 6 of the 7. I just discovered which one I left out! (Short "c" word.)

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, I just re-checked the date on that. Make that college, not high school. :-)

Anonymous said...

Annette -

I second Tory. Thanks for the Carlin link.

I grew up in the city, in one of the neighborhoods [Lincoln-Larimer] that has frequent shootings nowadays and had infrequent shootings when I was living there. Whenever I hear something that sounds like a gunshot,though, I tend to turn and look. A rational person would take cover first, then look. Luckily, I haven't been shot or even witnessed a shooting. I hadn't really thought about how my various protagonists would react to a shot -- guns don't play a part in most of my manuscripts, except as a threat, so characters don't have to react to the sound. Still, it's probably something I ought to know about them. Thanks for bringing it up.

Annette said...

Tory and Gina, you're welcome for the link.

And, Gina, I don't know if not taking cover first makes you irrational. I suspect if you had been shot at in the past, you WOULD hide first, then look. I think that's my point in posing the question. Our past experience determines our responses in the present. Shouldn't it be the same for our characters?

Wilfred Bereswill said...

My protagonist, Laura Daniels and I run in opposite directions. One toward the gunfire, the other away. I'll let you all figure out who's who.

Anonymous said...

I write cozies, about people much like me. We've never really encountered violence (until the books started, anyway, and I started throwing stuff at them). My protagonists - both of them - would be surprised, wondering what that loud noise was, what was going on... and then would be going about their business as usual. Now, if sirens started coming down the street, then they'd get nosy and go try to figure out what had happened.

I've lived in cities my whole life, in Europe and the US - including NYC - and I've never had personal experience with gunshots. Funny thing is, just in general, I feel a whole lot more nervous in the country than I do in the city. All that darkness...

Joyce Tremel said...

My character is an ex-cop, so she would probably take cover first, determine where the shots were coming from, then go after the person.

Annette said...

Will, I'm going to guess it's Laura running TOWARD the gunshots.

Annette said...

Jennie, you bring up an interesting point and one that drives me nuts. I've lived in the country all my life and I LOVE the darkness. In the summer, I like to wander around outside by the moonlight and look at all those stars. You know...the ones you can't see in the city because of all the ambient light. Then we got new neighbors in the house next to mine (other three sides surrounded by fields and pasture). They were town folks and leave every outdoor light burning from dusk to beyond dawn.

I guess I should be grateful they didn't install one of those big dusk-to-dawn lights. Yet.

Hey, people, if you don't like the country lifestyle, stay in the city!

Okay, rant over. Back to your normally scheduled blogging.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah... those stars!

I enjoy looking at the stars, too, actually, but I feel much safer in the city, surrounded by people (and lights), than I do in the country. What if a wild animal comes and gets me?! Or a person? There's just something about there being nobody around to save me if I need help. Anything could happen to someone in the country, and nobody would know...! In the city, at least lots of people would hear you scream.

Annette said...


We do have coyotes, but they run at the first sign of a human. My biggest concern are skunks, but you can smell them from a mile away, so they aren't likely to sneak up on you.

I have come close to tripping over a possum or two, but they look scarier than they really are. So NOT seeing them is a plus.

As for those two-legged preditors, I have given this considerable thought (over-active writer's imagination) and I figure I know my way around our property in the dark way better than any interloper out to get me, so I have the advantage.

I think there's a story there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Checking in from Stone Harbor NJ - we are heading home tomorrow night.

If I heard gunshots down here, I'd definitely call 911 - this place is quiet by design.

At home - depends on which street. A couple of blocks in either direction and its SOP...

Anonymous said...

We have possums, too - or opossums technically, I guess - and they are ugly, poor things. No coyotes, although there's a problem with stray dogs around here. Pitbulls...

Yeah, it's mostly the two-legged nasties that worry me too. I've got that overactive imagination going as well. One day I should do a blog post on "you might be a mystery writer if..."

- you never pick the first cereal box on the shelf for fear it might be poisoned!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Annette, you are absolutely correct.

We live in the suburbs of St. Louis were discharging firearms is illegal. However, several years ago, there were several shots fired. I found out later that an elderly neighbor man got pissed off at a racoon that was raiding his bird feeder. Oh, did I mention he was drinking?

His next door neighbor says it was a .45 revolver. A little overkill.

Oh, I did go out on the deck to see if what I heard WAS gunfire. I didn't run either direction.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Annette, great post. George Carlin told it like it was. The foul-mouthed guy will definitely be missed. Gun shots, wow, interesting topic. I think since doing ridealongs and watching firearms training, I've become *desensitized* to the sound? But when my kids were babies and DH traveled a lot, I wanted to get adept at handling them. So we went out to Rampart Range to shoot, as you know it's a crime to dislodge a firearm in the city limits at least in C.S.

As my DH and I approached the range and I read this bumper sticker that said I SHOOT, THEREFORE I AM, and then I stood at that range and tried to fire a gun with some very glassy-eyed fanatics around me, I couldn't go through with my training. I kept picturing the guy next to me turning and firing.

Now I know precisely where to go to get training, and I plan to. But roundabout answer to your question is... I will remember how I felt the first time I approached that range and put that into the appropriate protagonist's head. My hardened self will be the one I use for my cops. You have a new chapter up, Hurray! Great blog!!!!

Dana King said...

I grew up about 40 miles the opposite side of Pittsburgh from Canonsburg, and have lived relatively close to major population centers since I left home in 1980. One of the first things I notice when I go back to see my parents (who still live in the house I grew up in) is how dark the nights are, and how many stars there are. I miss that as much as anything.

As for gunshots, we lived far enough out that if the bungee cords wouldn't keep the raccoons out of the garbage can, the .22 would.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the South, so gunshots to me mean one of two things. It's either hunting season or someone's having a family reunion on the other side of the trailer park.

Seriously, I remember the day when I ran toward the sound of gunfire. Wouldn't happen these days.

Annette said...

A big reason I'm so desensitized to the sound that even a 21-gun salute doesn't make me flinch is because of hubby's hobby of shooting muzzleloaders competitively. Hang around on the firing range when those beasts are belching smoke and fire all day long and your nerves become deadened.

Interesting conversation today, folks. I always assumed I was the weird country gal, but there seems to be more of us around than I thought.

And Jennie still has me chuckling over the cereal box comment. You need to have a serious talk with Tory.