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PLEASE HELP ME – I’M STUMPED!

March 13th, 2010 110 comments

Yes, I’m serious.  I need your help.  Let me tell you why.

It happens to most writers sooner or later.  They hit a snag, run headfirst into a problem they don’t know how to solve or are even sure is a problem.  In my case, it’s a chapter in my novel that those in my writers’ group say doesn’t work.  I have two basic choices: Eliminate the chapter (it’s short), or try to fix it.  But . . . can it be fixed?

As writers, don’t we all find ourselves excessively enamored of something we’ve written?  Maybe it’s a succulent paragraph or page of description that would be better off jettisoned.  Or it’s the first fifty pages of a novel that slows it down.  In my case, it’s this chapter, which is only about ten pages long.

Let me (finally) tell you about it.

Turtan, the hero of  Inspector of the Cross, is captured by the alien enemy at their headquarters, a colossal station in space.  As he’s taken under heavy guard to their Emperor (accompanied by a human female who loves but betrayed him), he decides to escape.  Better to die fighting, he feels, and perhaps take some of the enemy with him, then meekly submit and do nothing.  After all, he’s a warrior, right?  Escorted by the guards, Turtan uses his special training to feign sickness.  Blood gushes from his nose and he staggers about.  The Bad Guys are surprised by this unexpected development, and Turtan seizes the moment by throwing a pilot aside and climbing into an alien jet.  He’s such a bright guy that he discovers how to lift off within seconds.  In the air, he learns quickly and overcomes his unfamiliarity with the craft (much like Will Smith in Independence Day).  Because he’s so darn good, Turtan manages to blast pursuing aircraft like they’re ducks in a shooting gallery.  Ultimately he kills seventeen of the enemy, destroys nine aircraft, and after he himself crashes, is recaptured by the enemy.

I thought this made a darn good action chapter, especially since it showed the hero’s toughness, resourcefulness, and added to his mythic stature.  However, there are at least two major problems (and some minor ones):

  1. Turtan’s seizing the alien aircraft and taking wing is just too damned easy.  We’re talking a gargantuan logic hole here, one that strains credibility to the breaking point.  Surely, the enemy can’t be that dumb and incompetent.  If so, the war in the novel between the two empires would never have lasted over 3,000 years.  It would have been over in 3 years.

     2.   Turtan’s shooting the Bad Guys down doesn’t make much sense either.  After all, they are in a giant space station, and any artillery fire would run the risk of breaching the surface of the station and exposing it to the vacuum of space.  A gigantic explosion could result, crippling the facility.  Why, for that matter, would the enemy keep aircraft with such dangerous firepower neatly lined up in the first place?

 Okay, here’s the deal.  Those who propose the best three solutions to either or both of these two problems will get a free e-book of their choice.  Just visit my website at www.johnrosenman.com.   The e-book can be a short story, a novelette, or a novel.  Just give me your e-mail address, and it’ll be on its way.

Please note: Your solutions ultimately may not be practical, or simply will not work for one reason or another.  That’s okay.   The most ingenious, witty, inspired, and off-the-cosmic-wall suggestions are eligible, too, as long as they have some seriousness and desire to help behind them and don’t suggest that I simply eliminate the chapter (which I may still do).  You see, I want to cast as wide a net as possible so nothing slips through.

You never know, readers and fellow scribblers.  Even a nutcase idea may be the key.

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