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  1. #1
    Chris Chamberlain

    "In a book or a film they would have..."

    May I trouble fellow writers to tell me ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ as to whether the following comes across as a good idea or not? I’ve mulled over it too much, so now all I’m pretty sure about is that my objectivity has broken down.

    The following excerpt is from the climax of my current children’s book, aimed at the eleven-to-fourteen age bracket, and to spare you reams of explanation you can think of it as historical fantasy. It's from the big battle at the end of the story, just when the baddies’ air force is getting into its stride:

    “Forward units confirm they’re meeting with crack troops,” a radioman was saying. “Making heavy weather.”
    “Same with the armour.”
    Then they jumped as one WSAF man swore and clutched his earphones. “Contact Mjollnirs!” he cried. “Going sub-sonic. Bearing one nine one range five miles, descending angels three - .”
    “That’s under the radar,” gasped somebody.
    Dawn stood suddenly closer to the children. Like any good air force officer she knew an attack run when she heard it. Through the door Oswald saw blasts erupting from the AA battery over the road. Blowtorch flames lifted red and spluttering from around launch drums as a salvo of Ashbolt rockets leapt aloft.
    “Snap target, snap target!” another technician began calling down his link to the AA batteries at the same moment. “Missiles launched on our bearing –.”
    “Down. Everybody down!” barked [ the commanding officer].
    The pock-pock of anti-aircraft guns filled the [ child hero and heroine’s] ears as the missile teams despaired of locking on. Crouching with Dawn under their workstation they felt the gristly dread of knowing that missiles were locked on and coming straight for you. A tooth-jarring bang overhead brought down a crumbling fireball that spat glowing segments towards Salisbury.
    Behind it a smell of high octane and burnt steel gusted down like a rude cough.
    In a film or book there might have been cheers or some ironic remark, but these were real military professionals in deadly earnest. They just swung back into their places.
    “Coltishall has launched,” reported the radar monitor. “Two sub-sonic aircraft bearing west.”
    “Three old Aughravn fighter-bombers here, origin …”

    And back to the main action. Only the obvious question is how advisable does anyone think it is to say, “In a film or a book” … in a book? Does it make for a fine bit of chutzpah, or make you look like a pretty simple poseur? Or, er, what? Bearing in mind this is for youngsters and my information is that they’re a conservative readership, and resent being patronised to taken for fools.

    As you may have guessed, I did some research for the big battle mugging up about the Falklands War. So I’m under the impression that real anti-aicraft etc. professionals do not indeed stop and congratulate themselves or make quips when they shoot something down: they watch out for the next target. So I'm hoping child readers will sense and appreciate that.

    By the way, don’t hesitate to throw any rotten tomatoes at anything else in the above excerpt. It’s not quite ‘finished standard’, as I call it when I’m convinced I’ve given something my best shot. Yet it’s not far off and I’m told my style is prone to getting, a) “clotted”, b) long-winded and, c) too “clever” for children.

    By all means wake me up if I’ve drifted into them again …

  2. #2
    Finnley Wren

    Re: "In a book or a film they would have..."

    I think that phrase falls under the heading of "author intrusion" which is usually to be avoided. Perhaps one of your characters might think it to themselves, e.g. "this is like no film or book I've ever seen, thought whomever."

    I'm also not comfortable with the "Like any good air force officer . . ." line but maybe it's just me.

    And you might change, "another technician began calling" to "a technician called" or something to tighten it up a bit. Not bad, though. Keep it up!

  3. #3
    Grandmaster Sik

    Re: "In a book or a film they would have..."

    I read no more than the first sentence.

    We all go through the phases of, "It sucks/it's genius" mood-swings, and the only one who can honestly tell you which is the right answer is yourself.
    Because it's you who has to put the work in, to shape the story, the characters and the words to come up with a finished product that will either be yay or nay.

    To me: some books have nothing going on but work and can even be excellent; others may have a lot happening but are just pants - it's the same with films and television.

    Don't post tiny excerpts here to be possibly taken out of context - that'll only damage the way you feel about your work. Get some people you know who would be your target audience (no point getting someone who hates kung fu to read a martial arts saga) to read through your completed/semi-completed work and give you feedback.
    It's harsh if you've really wasted your time writing absolute crap for the past year, but on the other hand, you can learn from those mistakes to craft a better novel next time around.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    nom de plume

    Re: "In a book or a film they would have..."

    Couple of things.

    Consider using the invisible tag of "s/he said".

    "“Down. Everybody down!” barked [ the commanding officer]."
    The dialogue makes clear that X barks the command. So, just say X said

    I'm not that keen on the "was saying", "began calling down", ...

    Agree with Finley about the film/book sentence being "author intrusion". I also feel the remark is smug and belittles established writers and gives readers a strong desire to find out how truthful your scenes are. I would just delete the sentence.

  5. #5
    Joe Zeff

    Re: "In a book or a film they would have..."

    As written, the line's a bit of an intrusion, but I didn't find it bothering me.

    If you want, you might have one of the children thinking that it's hard to be scared because what they're seeing is so much like a movie. I suggest this, because that's exactly how I felt when I was watching 6" NVA counterbattery landing off my ship's fantail back in '72.

  6. #6
    Chris Chamberlain

    Re: "In a book or a film they would have..."

    Golly, thanks everyone. I am humbled by the quality of all the responses, but maybe especially by Joe’s because you can’t beat the voice of experience.

    The consensus seems to be that I’d best NOT say “In a book or a film”. The sense of which I probably can put inside the children’s heads, anyway.

    So thanks against for stopping me chasing my tail!

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: "In a book or a film they would have..."

    What is this, a remake of "War Games?"

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