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WHEN IS TOO MUCH TOO MUCH?

January 21, 2015

I just finished a military thriller. After living and breathing the Air Force for 24 years on active duty and nine years as a contractor, I’ve pretty much had my fill of all that macho flyboy, call sign crap, acronyms and guv’mint jargon. Okay, to say I lived and breathed it is kind of a stretch. It started as a way to avoid a foxhole in Viet Nam. Best living conditions and I didn’t have to sit on a boat for six months at a time. Also, I’d rather look up than down.

After my initial enlistment and a two year break, when I grew up and decided to get a real job, the Air Force called again and I made it a career. I still never really lived and breathed it. I did what I had to do, but though it was my career, it was still just a job. It was my way of life, so to speak, yet was just eight hours a day, most days, and when I went out that shop gate, I was a civilian with a short haircut, who happened to be in a uniform. That attitude, for certain, hurt my career, but I still did okay.

Back to the military thriller. I usually avoid them like the plague (cliché intended). The last thing I want to do is re-live all that macho call sign, flyboy ego crap I lived with, especially being a very low-on-the-totem-pole maintenance puke. It’s not that we didn’t have plenty of personnel that ate this stuff up within our lowly non-flying ranks. Oh yeah, there were plenty that could recite every acronym, state all the regulations as well as every slang term imaginable. They could probably go to the local salvage yard and build a B-52 from scrap. I wasn’t one of them. So, when I see a military thriller, I usually run for the hills (another cliché, sue me) because I know I’m going to get acronymed and call-signed to death.

Sho’ nuff. This military thriller even had a glossary at the beginning of the book that listed acronyms and hardware. I should’ve known, but just out of curiosity, I bought it anyway.

I wasn’t disappointed or surprised at the outcome. It lived up to my expectation and I almost couldn’t finish it. However, I paid good money, grit my teeth and made it to the end. I think I gave it a two-star rating.

WHEN IS TOO MUCH TOO MUCH?

Even though you’re up front about your genre, when is too much too much? If there’s the slightest idea of drawing a wider audience, are you going to chase them away by bogging them down in whatever jargon and details apply to your world, real or imagined?

Now, this is all hypothetical.

After all, when you shop for a book, you check it out ahead of time so you’re supposed to be able to figure out what you’re getting. However, on the side chance it might have a bit wider appeal, some books are able to do that, while others polarize readers with too much immersion – too much jargon and detail.

As I read this military thriller, I sometimes had the feeling I was reading an Air Force technical manual. There was a thriller buried in all that jargon, but geez. Yet, this author has a huge fan base and I know the fighter jocks lap this stuff right up as well as the military buffs. In fact, some of them probably ran for their manuals and checked facts as they read books like this, looking for errors. However, those that have no military experience, or those like me that are sick of it, may get turned off when it’s pounded into every page. What about the story that’s supposed to be buried somewhere in there? After all, isn’t that the original intent?

Are you guilty of maybe going a bit too far? Maybe not.

THE OTHER EXTREME

Maybe if we all backed off just a tad, would we garner a wider audience? We could also pick at straws and think of those extremists who would hate the book for mentioning one thing, or for not mentioning enough of them. Sometimes, you just can’t win. We can’t please the extreme crowd, but 99% of the readers fall in-between that.

WHAT TO DO?

The purpose of this article isn’t to necessarily provoke any of you to change your writing, just to ponder the question and to think about your approach. It may give you a healthier outlook. It may prompt you to see it in your own reading of others and compare.

Story is the key. Moderation prevents losing that.

Happy writing!

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