I solemnly promise…

Not carried by actual members of the armed forces.

I solemnly promise not to be a horrible hack writer. I may not be great, but I do promise not to do any of the following:

Have everyone on a Navy S.E.A.L. team armed with .32 Walther Pistols (or, BB guns cause they’re so quiet.)
Pretend to know anything that I haven’t researched or tried on my own.

Have characters recover from a “flesh wound” and bounce right back into the fight. Flesh wounds are bullets going something other than bone. People die from some of them. Getting shot in the gut is a flesh wound. I’ll try to be specific about the wound if people are going to bounce right back.(Goes double for concussions.)

Do teeth-grindingly-stupid things that only the suicidal would do – and make it out of that jam every time.

Have my characters insult the intelligence of the reader.

Defy the laws of physics unless Divine intervention is part of the plot.

Why do I promise these things? Because as a part of my journey as a writer I picked up some “best-selling” Christian fiction that I’d seen advertised. I won’t name the authors involved but the books were really badly done. And that’s a shame because most of the Christian fiction I’ve read is wonderful (see my review of Karl Bacon’s latest book as an example.)

Well, you might say, what have you gotten published? Nothing yet. But if I wrote dreck like the stuff I’ve been reading I’d never expect to get published. Bad fiction is bad fiction. I’d truly prefer to never be published than to have the readers say, “Man… has this guy ever even seen a tank/rpg/squad car/aircraft carrier/fighter jet/candy store, etc.”

And thus I promise to do my homework. Doesn’t mean I’ll never stretch the limits of credibility. Doesn’t mean that I won’t just plain screw up some details on purpose so that readers cannot build weapons that actually work, or disclose police procedural stuff that could get cops killed. I won’t do that. That’s part of the fun of writing fiction. But you have to try to make it work. Change details of places/people/things but stay close enough to the truth that readers can suspend disbelief and enjoy the work. I know, great and sage words from an unpublished wannabe.

But in the great scheme of things, wouldn’t you rather that I get it right or not do it at all? That’s how I feel.


I solemnly promise… — 3 Comments

  1. Well said Joe. As a medical person I laugh when a character sprains an ankle or does some other type of injury in chapter 32, and in 33 they’re outrunning the bad guy.

    I abuse my characters, and they don’t get off so easy.

    I have to say that I’m enjoying your blog posts and comments almost as much as our times visiting in Dallas. Keep it up, and thanks for the encouragement for me.

    • With my work in progress people actually die and get badly hurt from bullets and bombs. It’s how life works and when the book reflects things properly it makes for a better yarn. Sometimes “the miracle” is welcome, but the foot chase following the sprained ankle is tough to swallow.