Jim A.

"Judgment Call"

7 posts in this topic

Here is another "practice story" I'm writing: http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dgjr99hw_17fq9v6h. It is a short story about what happens when a naval officer assigned as executive officer on his first submarine meets his Captain.

I've never ridden on a submarine. I was once stationed at a submarine base--the sub base at Groton/New London, Connecticut--but was attached to the hospital. In other words, I don't know a damned thing about submarines.

Since "Judgment Call" is not in its final form, I would love to get comments and criticism from people on how to improve it. My main concern is first to have a solid plot structure, then good, three-dimensional (not in the sense of being Naturalistic) characterizations, a clear style and good dialogue. I am aware that I still have some study to do about submarines and submarine warfare, so if anyone can give me some tips about that subject, that would be nice, too.

Also: before I go about rewriting this story, I need to identify--clearly--for myself the theme and the plot-theme of it. If anybody can name what they think are the theme and plot-theme, I would be appreciative. The theme especially, since that will integrate and govern all of my choices in plot details, style, and characterization.

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For plot, I would recommend greater dramatization and an increase in narration. Most of what we learn of the characters is through what the characters say--but we can learn many valuable things through straight narration of the story. The scene where the captain is arrested by the lt. commander could be dramatized better.

The framework for the plot is essentially set--but they depend on the weak points that you mentioned: Characterization and theme. Is this a story of good versus evil? Is the captain simply insane or does he lack some moral quality? The theme seems to be: Mistakes in thinking lead to psychological problems, or something like that.

It is hard to recommend more than that--perhaps I can offer more once there is a finalized version of the story.

-Tom

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Tom:

That is just the kind of constructive criticism I'm looking for; it helps a great deal.

Thanks!! :lol:

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Here is another "practice story" I'm writing: http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dgjr99hw_17fq9v6h. It is a short story about what happens when a naval officer assigned as executive officer on his first submarine meets his Captain.

I've never ridden on a submarine. I was once stationed at a submarine base--the sub base at Groton/New London, Connecticut--but was attached to the hospital. In other words, I don't know a damned thing about submarines.

Since "Judgment Call" is not in its final form, I would love to get comments and criticism from people on how to improve it. My main concern is first to have a solid plot structure, then good, three-dimensional (not in the sense of being Naturalistic) characterizations, a clear style and good dialogue. I am aware that I still have some study to do about submarines and submarine warfare, so if anyone can give me some tips about that subject, that would be nice, too.

Also: before I go about rewriting this story, I need to identify--clearly--for myself the theme and the plot-theme of it. If anybody can name what they think are the theme and plot-theme, I would be appreciative. The theme especially, since that will integrate and govern all of my choices in plot details, style, and characterization.

Hi, Jim A. Here's how I would break down the theme and plot-theme:

Theme: A man takes actions to avoid a potential nuclear conflagration.

Plot-theme: Lt. Cdr. Scott, newly out of subschool, is assigned to a nuclear ballistic submarine, and soon has misgivings about the captain's ability to make rational decisions. The captain, Cdr. Spinnaker, is preocuppied with biblical prophecy, especially scripture dealing with "end times", to a degree that seems obsessional. Scott envisions that, under the right set of circumstances, Spinnaker could precipitate a worldwide nuclear war. Scott decides to have the captain put under arrest.

Now the actual plot would simply be the scenes that act out the plot-theme. The plot-theme should be supported with action events. So, were I to be writing this story from scratch, I would, using the theme and plot-theme just devised, think up of some events that would act out the plot-theme, which would also demonstrate the theme, since the plot-theme was derived from the theme.

I think that this theme and plot-theme is more conducive to a longer story, possibly a novel. There are about 120 people on a ballistic missile submarine, and only several characters are portrayed here. A person, even if it's the X.O., can't just go up to the Chief of the Boat, tell him to arrest the captain, and expect to be obeyed. I think you have to have a lot more scenes interspersed between the boat's sailing into the pacific and the captain's arrest, to establish credibility. In the story, a major effort is made to establish credibility by way of a philosophical methodology. It would be better to show the captain's irrationality and instability through concrete actions (many concrete actions). And other crewmembers, especially the other officers (of which there will be about 18) should be involved. Perhaps a novella of around 30,000 words, if not a full-blown novel. As the story stands now, Scott has put himself out on a limb based on a lot of inner thinking about statements made by the captain in conversations. In the real world, Scott would probably be the one that actually ended up looking into the business end of the .45. Unless more concretes are shown to support Scott's fears.

In one section of the dialogue, Scott voiced fear that Spinnaker would not fire off the missiles when and if ordered to, and cause the nuclear war that way. That's the reverse scenario to the movie Crimson Tide. That's a unique and relevant aspect of a situation that could potentially develop on a SSBN on patrol. Some statements by Spinnaker during Battle Stations Missile drills could be what really gets Scott questioning Spinnaker's reliability. There would be much room and opportunity for intense conficts on the part of the crewmembers, in choosing sides.

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To EdFab:

Regarding post #5: that's just the kind of criticism I was looking for. Thanks!

I'm sorry I didn't respond until now; when you submitted your post, I was away on the Cordair Arts Cruise! I just happened to be browsing through the Forum just now.

I will study your comments; they help already. Thanks again! --Jim A.

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How about this for some plot themes......

You've got the same bible thumping fundie for a captain.

At the start of the deployment some Ayn Rand books (AS, VOS, PWNI, etc.) get brought aboard the boat. The first sailor reads them, gets excited about what he's read and starts passing them on to his shipmates. After a month or two into the deployment most of the crew has read them and are taking every opportunity to discuss them. It's like they can't contain themselves over the power and truth of the ideas they've all just been exposed to and they realize how horribly they've been lied to about the nature of this existence we all find ourselves trying to comprehend and deal with. The XO finally becomes aware that something has worked to excite the crew and finds out from talking to some of the enlisted men that it's these books by Rand. Being that he's essentially a man of good character with an active mind he decides to read them to see what all the buzz is about, asks to borrow them and is given the books by one of the enlisted men. He too has an ephinany of understanding brought on by what he reads.

Next the Captain of the boat realizes that some things up with the crew and asks the XO about it. The XO simply gives the Captain the books he's just read telling him they're the most powerful and in sightful works he's ever read.

After a partial reading of one of them the Captain is horrified because he deems them to be contrary and blasphemous to his fundementalist religious beliefs. He considers them to be the work of Satan and orders the XO to confiscate every Rand book on board and eject them over board thru the sewage discharge. He then makes an announcent over the boats intercom that he will tolerate no further discusion among the crew of Rand or her ideas and that any one caught doing so will face serious punishment. Just to set an example he finds out who originally brought the books on board and has him confined to the boat's brig on bread and water rations for 3 days.

Led by the XO the crew revolts. The first thing they do is take that bible thumping fundie of a Captain and shoot him out one of the forward torpedo tubes. Next they move the boat out of their assigned patrol area so they can't be as easily found and launch a cruise missle strike on that massive nest of proffesional looters and amoral swine that has accumulated in Washington DC. Next they decide to roam the high seas (a' la Dagnar) meeting out summary punishment to any one who attempts to initiate force against any one else who is trying to use the worlds oceans to engage in free trade. They should definetly sink a few Somalian or Nigerian pirate vessels before steaming majestically off into a tropical sunset.

A=A

Oh yeah, some where in there after the revolt the boat gets re-christend the USS Galt (SSBN-57)

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