By Margaret Lucke
In real life, my weapon of choice is avoidance. I try to stay out of situations where a violent confrontation might occur. To employ the soft answer that turneth away wrath. To resist throwing the first punch even if provoked. To stay away sketchy neighborhoods at 2 a.m. when the bars close.
On the page, though, the situation is different. It's hard to commit murder on a regular basis -- fictionally, of course -- without making use of a weapon or two. And we mystery writers don't just need to place murder weapons in the hands of our villains; we also have to give our heroes the means to defend themselves when necessary.
So writing crime fiction means that I have to know more about weapons than otherwise I'd like to. My shelves in my office hold books about poison. My file cabinet contains a file labeled "Guns."
According to the FBI, guns are by far the weapons most commonly used in homicides. In 2014 guns were used in 8,124 of the 11,961 homicides committed that year. That's 68%. Knives and cutting instruments, the second most popular choice among killers, accounted for 1,959 deaths, or 16%. Despite its popularity as a cause of death in mystery novels, poison was used only 7 times, a tiny blip in the statistics.
So far I've poisoned only a couple of my characters, though on occasion it's been tempting to administer a lethally loaded libation to a few others. Since I like my stories to be at least somewhat realistic, I've used guns and knives quite a bit. Other weapons my characters have used, offensively or defensively, include what the FBI calls personal weapons (head, hands, fists, feet), a pair of scissors, a staple gun, a scarf, a small stone sculpture, and a berry pie.
Sometimes you gotta make use of whatever potential weapon is close at hand.
In a book, that is. When it comes to reality, I'll stick to avoidance soft words, and hope I don't run into a situation where a real weapon is required.