Calling all writers…NaNoWriMo or not…
Today’s article is very specific to writers and those participating in the National Novel Writing Month. If you aren’t actively writing or doing the NaNoWriMo. You have my permission to spend the next five minutes of your life doing something more important and move on. Should you choose to read on and you feel slighted for any reason. Go look in the mirror and blame the person looking back at you for you have been warned.
On a dark and stormy day, the flight of two C-130s flew over the West Virginian mountains at breakneck speed; The formation dropped into a valley for some general purpose, low level, good natured, enjoyable flying. From the lead aircraft, not much changed except that they were looking up at the tops of the hills. From the second aircraft, not much changed except that from time to time, the lead airplane disappeared around a bend in the valley. On the ground, not much changed except the deer hunter in his tree stand never got a shot off because of the thunderous sounds that echoed down the valley from the four fans of freedom attached to each of the whale sized aircraft. After wasting precious minutes running up and down the valleys doing some off course maneuvering, the Mission Commander needed to get the formation pointed back in the correct direction to make the air drop.
“Pilot, this is the Mike Charley (Mission Commander). Fire up the ELINT-DP (Electronic Intelligence Data Processor). Establish a secure phone patch to the ABCCC (Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center). Inform them the CARP (Computer Air Release Point) has been modified. The new TOT (Time Over Target) is Zulu minus five. Come left to a heading of 275 towards the DZ (Drop Zone).”
If this was a scenario you were using as a plot device in your work, you might be tempted use this dialogue in your work. Lots of verbiage here, most of it is gibberish and to the lay person it might seem realistic. To someone with experience in aviation, it would make absolutely no sense. The point is that dialogue like this might sound cool, but it draws an informed reader away from your words and draws attention to the fact that you might not have a good grasp of the subject matter. As writers we should strive to make dialogue and our plot twists relatively accurate.
In my former life, I was inundated with acronyms to help me remember acronyms about something that had a fancy name. It drove me crazy and only made sense to a handful of people but I still used them in my speech. As a writer, I have found that it takes a balance between official sounding jargon and well written words to make a story come alive. Between 2003 and 2005, I was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. That was before easy access to communications and the internet so I had a lot of free time. I spent a large majority of that time reading. Faced with a limited selection of books; I read every genre imaginable. From Thrillers to Romance, if it was a book, I read it. I am not saying that I am a better writer today than I was a reader then, but I found that the vast majority of novels then and now have some type of aviation component in them. It might be a simple as taking a commercial flight to something as complex as an aerial battle. But the point is, if someone like me reads your description and finds fault with your use of aviation. Then I am going to doubt the rest of the story.
I started writing my own novel in 2008 and am still working on it. Kind of like the tortoise with dementia; I don’t really know where I am going but I am taking my time in reaching the destination while being relatively happy about the process. In the last six months, I have taken a break from writing and have focused on reading. I’m sure all of you can tell because I went from an average of two articles a week, down to an average of two articles a month. My life hasn’t changed and the thoughts are still flowing out of my brain. The only difference is that they are not making it too you via the blog.
Today, I would like to share a common theme that I have observed in the last six months of reading real live, published authors. Writers, as a group, don’t know jack about airplanes, aviation, and travel. I took pictures of all of the books that I have read and to be fair some of them are from some very famous authors. Others are from authors that are not as successful but they all share one astounding fact. They all got the aviation parts of their works, completely wrong. For that reason, I am not going to share any of the titles or the authors that I read.
An example off the top of my head was reading where an ultralight which is a small fabric and aluminum frame aircraft with a lawnmower engine out maneuvered and shot down a Soviet style Hind attack helicopter. An Ultralight does not, cannot and will never do this in real life. I don’t care how cool you make the ultralight, I don’t care how stealthy it is, I don’t care how top secret it is or if the pilot is Chuck Yeager himself. It will not be able to carry a weapon that will shoot down a helicopter and it cannot out run an attack helicopter. I wish I had been there for this author because he had a pretty good book going until he threw that out crap for me to read. I finished the book under a self-induced, highly skeptical protest.
So here is my offer to you, the writer. If you have an aviation theme in your work and you would like some expert advice. Please e-mail me and ask the questions you want to know. I do not want any reimbursement for this and my only goal is that when someone else is stuck in the middle of a war and they have to read a romance themed murder mystery. It contains some realistic descriptions of airplanes specifically and military themes in general. I’m not going to re-write your work but I will give you some idea of what works and what doesn’t from the perspective of someone who has been flying airplanes for over twenty-five years.
I am serious. Send me an e-mail and let me clean up your ideas so that when your time comes to be published, you will be found credible. This is my primary e-mail address, it is probably dumb to give it out so please don’t spam me. The last five e-mails in my inbox are from my financial advisor, my union, my church, my fantasy football league and an estimate for some work to be done in my neighborhood. I am as real as a heart attack, so please let me help make your work better.
Until next time, keep on rockin.