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“Writing is the realm of uncertainty; three-quarters of the factors on which action in writing is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” — Carl von Clausewitz
I’ve dealt with this idea before: Are you a pantser or an outliner. I think I’ve evolved a bit on the subject.
I’ve never been an outliner. Tried it once with my satirical novel, In the Black. The book is my homage to Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. It’s a complicated story, tracing the lives of father and son, during World War II and in the Sixties. It’s got more characters than a Leo Tolstoy tome. I was about halfway through and needed to try to sort out what was going to happen because I was totally confused. So, like Joseph Heller, I opened up a spreadsheet and laid out dates through the end of 1969, then filled out everything I thought was going to happen with the different characters. Great. Then, I went to work writing it out.
Well, unfortunately, none of the characters seemed to want to do what was there in the outline for them. They all had their own ideas and finally, I waved the white flag.
Having been so unsuccessful with outlining, I gave up and launched into my other nine novels on a wing and a prayer, hoping that I figure out where I was going before I got there. I was a third of the way into Jungleland before I discovered what was going to happen.
Even worse, I was working through the final chapters of Somethin’ for Nothin’ without a clue as to how I was going to close the book—even though I already knew the story ends with a plane crash that I previewed in the prologue. In a way, it’s kind of exciting—working without a net. It’s also kind of nerve-wracking. Then, I woke up one morning and I automagically had the last chapter in my head, and I was able to finish it off in less than 100 words. And I am pretty proud of the ending.
When I look back on the “fog of war” in which I found myself while writing my previous books, I realized that while I don’t sit down and lay out my plot in a finalized “VII…E…3…c…(2)…” outline, I am always “wargaming,” analyzing my characters and plotlines to figure out what is going on at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of my story. I am always trying to figure out what is going to happen in the future based on what has already happened and, what the characters are going to do, and what they are going to say. Wargaming is a constant on-going exercise and I believe it works better for me to keep my characters and stories more alive and more realistic.
Like Clausewitz concludes about being wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty: “A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”
~Doyle ‘Wahoo’ Nicholson, USMC
Sweating it out in the former Belgian Congo as a civil war mercenary, with Sparks turning wrenches on his T-6 Texan, Hawk splits his time flying combat missions and, back on the ground, sparring with Ella, an attractive young missionary doctor, in the sequel to My Brother’s Keeper.
Enjoy an Excerpt
“Break left,” I radioed Angel, jammed the throttle forward, and yanked the stick back and to the left in a climbing turn to circle around on the enemy position. I searched back over my shoulder for a road or trail leading out of the area to anticipate their possible direction of movement. There was a small scar coming down off the hill to the southeast.
As we came around three hundred and sixty degrees, lining up on the small section of the jungle where red and green tracer rounds floated up our way, the intensity of the fire began to wane as the rebels understood what was about to come their way.
“Take the trail. Southeast,” I radioed Angel.
He clicked his mike twice to acknowledge the one-two punch plan and throttled back to drift away in trail to follow up my initial attack on the enemy positions with rocket fire as they inevitably fled to melt back into the jungle.
I banked hard and began to dive down on the hilltop. The tracers began to concentrate on my nose. I lit up my guns, spreading the field of fire left and right with a little dance on the rudder pedals. I felt the Texan buck up a bit as rockets left the rails. I followed the plumes of their engines halfway to the target before I had to pull up, but noticed the intensity of the enemy fire had waned considerably.
“Way to go, Batman,” Angel radioed. “Let me just clean up this little mess you made.”
Behind me, Angel strafed the road and fired his rockets in so close that he seemed to clip the top of the fireball from the warhead explosions.
I circled back and took a path coming back up the road, stitching it with .303 caliber fire…
About the Author:
Born in Athens, Ohio, M.T. Bass grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in English and Philosophy, then worked in the private sector (where they expect “results”) mainly in the Aerospace & Defense manufacturing market. During those years, Bass continued to write fiction. He is the author of eight novels: My Brother’s Keeper, Crossroads, In the Black, Somethin’ for Nothin’, Murder by Munchausen, The Darknet (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #2), The Invisible Mind (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #3) and Article 15. His writing spans various genres, including Mystery, Adventure, Romance, Black Comedy and TechnoThrillers. A Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor, airplanes and pilots are featured in many of his stories. Bass currently lives on the shores of Lake Erie near Lorain, Ohio.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/mtbass
Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/jungleland-white-hawk-aviation-stories-2/id1526689285
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jungleland-mt-bass/1137448962
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