clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, March 3, 2014

Still, We Watch

At left, an unfortunate MD-10 (Boeing re-worked DC-10) in Memphis.

Pilot error. First officer put the plane down hard and snapped the right main landing gear. Minor injuries. Everyone else was fine.

I'm reading non-fiction at the moment: the Fukushima after-action reports on the reactor failures following the March tsunami three years ago this month. Fascinating.

I can't put the material down.

The linear narrative of the first 72 hours after the waves struck and reactors 1,2,3 and cooling pool of 4 all began to spin out of control. Explosions, sacrifice, herculean efforts, conflicting orders, mis-information, communication failures, supposition, and poor engineering assumptions all make for powerful stories.

The short version is that after the infrastructure was destroyed by the wave, the blackout conditions at the reactors doomed them to meltdown. Even if the road had not been blocked and the full might of TEPCO was available to address the crisis, the loss of the power routing infrastructure effective rendered the reactor controls "broken."

It was a matter of time.

I know what is going to happen. I'm aware of the current status of the plant (the "robot graveyard" is the high radiation area where robots go in ....but they don't come out). Still, I have to read.

So, why this topic? We all want to write like that. We all want to tell such compelling stories that the reader cannot help to plunge through our works. Even if the narrator begins by saying " three of us survived" we want the reader to engage to see how only three remain from the crew of forty-seven about the spaceship.

There is something here in real-life drama that has been missing from my prose. There has been an detachment from the emotional tumult of the narrative. I haven't placed the reader close enough. I've let the reader remain safe.

I'm done with that.

I'm putting the reader in the cockpit as the plane enters a flat spin and plummets. I'm going to make the reader feel the plane race to the ground faster than gravity would pull it so that the reader floats up towards the ceiling of the cockpit clawing for the controls and screaming for the first officer to deploy the starboard speedbrakes.

I'm going to make my reader want to read. I'm going to invent compulsion from within my narrative.

You should too. We've plenty of detached literature around where we watch as the protagonist is wheeled into the room for electro-shock treatment.

Let's put the reader on the gurney. Lets have the reader feel the desperation of fight or flight. Let's have the reader sigh and sob as Dr. Jones appears on scene in time to call of the horrible medical mistake that would lobotomize the reader.

Let's write something compelling that drives the reader on, shall we?

I'm going to go try as soon as I finish these next dozen or so chapters.

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