Pawn StarsWhen I write fiction, I do a lot of research (even if it’s comparatively easy these days), because I want the things I write about (guns, wars, lingo, cop procedure, CSI, etc.) to be as authentic and accurate as possible. I think readers appreciate authenticity, even when they read fiction. Here’s the rule I follow:

If you don’t have to make it up, don’t be lazy, look it up.

For months I’ve been telling people that Pawn Stars, in addition to being entertaining, is ALWAYS several history lessons, rolled into one half-hour episode. I was spurred to write this blog today because there was an 1884 Colt revolver brought into the shop allegedly used by “lawman”  Fred Coates in the Wyoming Lincoln County Range Wars. The first scene in my book Blood Land, Chapter Two, has retired infamous defense attorney, J.W. Hanson (my character), lecturing in a Wyoming History Class, on the posse-murder of small-time cattle rancher, Frank Champion (real person). I quoted from the journal Champion was keeping while pinned in his own cabin, best friend dead on the front porch—the final entry before Champion was shot and killed or murdered, depending on whether you were on the side of rich cattle barons or that of small ranchers who ran a few dozen head of caliber:

OldCowboy(Written by Frank Champion, just before he died) ‘Boys, I feel pretty lonesome just now. I wish there was someone here with me so we could watch all sides at once….Well, they have just got through shelling the house like hell. I heard them splitting wood. I guess they are going to fire the house tonight. I think I will make a break when night comes, if alive. Shooting again. It’s not night yet. The house is all fired. Goodbye, boys, if I never see you again.’”

The gun that came into the pawn shop had a book with it that talked about “lawman” Coates being part of the posse that surrounded Champion’s home and cut him to pieces when he ran for freedom (the book being Banditti of the Plains, copies of which are rare in an of themselves).

Criminal-Minds-criminal-minds-2953191-1280-1024Clearly this blog is about fiction writers (and, of course, Historical Fiction writers) taking the time to be accurate in their facts as much as it is about convincing you that Pawn Stars is one of the best choices you can make if you enjoy fun, humorous, verifiable history (the guys at the pawn shop call in at least ione expert (Museum President, former Blue Angels pilot, weapons and armory experts, etc.). Most of us have watched the CSI-spawn plethora of shows depicting the team computer geek that can find out anything, any time, from anywhere, about anyone, regardless of database (IRS, FBI, any bank in America, hotel receipts—even satellite imagery REAL TIME—with a scurry of keyboard pounding.

It makes me sick, the laziness these writers exhibit when writing such embarrassing, shameful doo-doo. It’s forgivable for a writer not to know everything about everything, of course. But with Google literally a mouse swipe or keystroke away. If you are writing fiction, take the time to be authentic. It will pay off because readers will appreciate it (and eviscerate you when you are way off base).

Back to the Pawn Stars. I even learned a new word on the show:

Provenance.

The irony is three-quarters of the people that come in, including some of the less-experienced shop workers, use the wrong word, providence.

Provenance is the traceable history (paperwork usually) that proves the origin and/or authenticity of, say, an 1884 Colt revolver allegedly used by “lawman”  Fred Coates. Providence is the guiding force watching over you (said force being God, Mother Nature, or whatever energy source you believe is in charge, if any).

So let’s look at the lessons taught today, dear readers:

InternetResearch DKmLc1) Research the parts of your fiction novel—regardless of the apparent insignificance—and be authentic. These days, with the advent of the Internet (and it’s accessibility literally being installed on the instrument with which you probably write your books).

2) Don’t dismiss shows like Pawn Stars as “junk reality TV”; we live in reality and if the show is about actual reality (unlike The Jersey Shore, which is auditioned, scripted, and is about as far from most people’s “real lives” as it gets. (Another great indicator):

Pawn Stars is on the History Channel.

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The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.

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Rubber Chicken Arrow Through Headv2Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.)

 
 
 
 
 

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14 Responses to Pawn Stars. You Could Learn A Thing Or Two.

  1. Jack Durish says:

    I am fascinated by those “intellectual snobs” who eschew “reality shows” that dominate the airwaves. In truth, there are some that are truly revolting. “Real Housewives of …” fairly leap to mind. However, Shows like Pawn Stars, Pickers, and so many others are awash with real reality that is invaluable to writers and anyone else whose natural curiosity wasn’t destroyed by institutions of education.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Me, too. In their (unenthusiastic) defense, “reality TV” has 1) In many cases, anything but; 2) Grown by such exponential numbers that the term is sorely incapable of encompassing the breadth of “reality” shows; and 3) As you mentioned Real Housewives, I’ll mention Toddlers in Tiaras and its hideously revolting spinoff Honey Boo-Boo and say that there is at least reason (because all these shows are lumped together under the one category) for people to feel sick when the subject comes up.

      That said, clearly I agree with you in totality. There are some true must see shows for history buffs, shooting aficionados (Top Shot; you haven’t lived ’til you’ve seen a Gatling gun in action!!), and a plethora of other really good reality shows.

      Thank for weighing in, Jack, Always a pleasure. 🙂

  2. Lizzy says:

    If the staff in the show Pawn Stars weren’t such nasty people to their customers, I might be able to tolerate watching it. I just can’t see people being treated that way; I don’t care if they do live in Detroit.

    I understand what you mean about how many reality TV shows are scripted and how it seems like certain books are too, however I think you should have chosen a TV show with more “likeable” characters to use for your analogy. If I read a book with those two “kids” in it, I wouldn’t be able to finish.

    • rsguthrie says:

      You’re not thinking of Pawn Stars…they are based in Vegas and they treat their customers with the utmost respect and the customers love dealing with them. The owners (family) many times bicker amongst each other, away from the customers, play pranks, whatever, which is funny (and sometimes seems a bit scripted), but I’ve never seen them treat any customer with anything but total and complete respect. You’re talking about Hardcore Pawn, which I’ve never seen, and probably now never will; it sounds like an episode of Bad Girls Club, another completely low-ball show (I know about some of these because I watch The Soup every week, a show that makes fun of all the ridiculous reality shows, and all the ones we’ve been talking about make regular “clip” appearances, EXCEPT Pawn Stars, which I’ve never seen on there).

  3. Renee Pawlish says:

    I love Pawn Stars for exactly what you say; it’s a history lesson and I’m fascinated by things of the past. And like you I learned about provenance. I’m a collector, too, so I get suckered in to “isn’t that cool”, I’d love to have it.
    Thanks for a great post.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Yeah, I love it when Rick “tips his hand” because he loves an item so much. Negotiation terminated. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  4. chickletslit says:

    I’m fascinated by any show, Pawn Stars included, where you see the unique or vintage items. It always amazes me the seeming ease with which people sell pieces, as in Pawn Stars, or let them be auctioned off, like in Storage Wars. And the Provenance you talked about: Working part-time for antique dealers, I’ve seen my fair share of items sold or appraised with Provenance. Usually the story that traces the item back to its production is more interesting than the item itself – I suppose for a writer anyway. Fiction is yes, fiction, but unless it is pure fantasy, the more you ground it in fact the more real you make it to the reader. Like you said, it’s too easy now to cross-reference and dig a little on the computer. And, if that fails, simply pick up the phone and call an expert – they are usually thrilled to talk about anything relating to their trade. (Writers aren’t the only ones that love their job.) As usual, your blog was entertaining while keeping it educational. EXCELLENT writing lesson 😀

    • rsguthrie says:

      You nailed it: the story tied to the history of the item can ne far, far more interesting than the item itself (AND drive the price through the roof for collectors). In fact, I could only see myself collecting things that DID have amazing or fantastic (provable) history. Another great observation: writers aren’t the only ones who love their jobs. Amen. 😀

  5. Amy (KidFreeLiving) says:

    Ha! You just reminded me that my husband and I were watching the Jackie Robinson bio film “42” when we saw Jackie toss a kid a baseball.

    Instantly, both Mike and I said, “Well that’s great, but the kid has no provenance, he can never prove it was Jackie who gave him that ball. Useless.

    Clearly, we watch too much Pawn Stars.

    • rsguthrie says:

      And you just reminded me that I want badly to see “42”. That is hilarious that you guys thought of Pawn Stars at that moment. Poor kid. 😉

      Thanks for sharing that. It goes down as “Best Comment Story Ever”. 😀

  6. Jackie Paulson says:

    Hello, I will say that you are right about checking facts in google, and there is no reason to write “doo-doo.” It’s so easy to look things up, verify facts in books that I do read. I met you through LinkedIn and glad I did, I am exciting to read your new book!

    • rsguthrie says:

      Hi, Jackie! So nice to see you jump over, and I assure you, there are plenty of posts with me not writing “doo-doo”. In fact, at times I must be careful. 😉

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