Tuesday, April 14, 2009


By Darvell Hunt

For the first time in over a hundred years, pirates have attacked a ship flying a flag from the United States. Now if that idea doesn't arouse some sort of story in the mind of a fiction writer, I don't know what would.

Interestingly, though, this story taught me something about writing that I wasn’t expecting. A few days ago, I was watching the news about these modern-day pirates, well before the hostage situation was resolved and before the pirates had been killed.

I said to my wife, "Man, what they need is Jack to take care of the situation!" (Meaning Jack Bauer).

My wife turned to me and said, "Jack Sparrow?"

I laughed. The minor confusion was funny, but it also helped me to realize that a reader isn't always going to know what you were thinking unless you make it very clear in your writing. I'm not exactly sure how Jack Sparrow of The Pirates of the Caribbean could have helped the hostage situation in the Indian Ocean, but I'm quite sure that Jack Bauer of 24 could have. Not knowing which Jack would certainly not have helped the situation for someone reading about it.

Unfortunately, unclear writing problems like this are often hard to see. You sometimes need an extra set of eyes to spot chances for these misunderstandings. A good critiquer can help not only with typos and grammar problems, but also with clarity and plot problems as well.

Just another reason to find yourself a writing group.


LexiconLuvr said...

Here, here! I'm all about the critique-group-love! Without it, only I would understand the strange ramblings from my keyboard.

Carolyn V. said...

I agree with you too! I just read a first chapter of a friend of a friends. All I kept saying was, "Whew, where did he come up with that? He hasn't mentioned that anywhere before." But in his mind he had.

Extra eyes and critique groups! That's what makes writing understandable. =)

Anonymous said...

Hey, the whole gang has an award waiting for y'all over at Wendword!

Kent Larsen said...

I know this is a little off topic, but the information for your first sentence is not correct. I don't know what your source is, but the wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_attacked_by_Somali_pirates reports that two US Navy ships were attacked by Somali pirates in 2006. I'll bet there have been many such incidents around the world in the past 200 years against U.S. flag vessels.

It is also misleading information because many (the majority?) vessels owned by US companies are flagged in other countries (flags of convenience) for tax and legal reasons.

The modern surge in piracy is new, but I doubt that piracy against US vessels ever completely disappeared.

Darvell Hunt said...

Thanks for the info, Kent.

I'm just going by current national news reports. Perhaps they are the ones who are misleading us, but that's what THEY are saying. My sources are The Associated Press and The Washington Post. I think they also said that on the local television news, but I'm not positive I remember that correctly.

Just last night, John McCain said the last time we battled pirates was under Thomas Jefferson. I have also read that in online news.

So, technically, I may be incorrect, I don't know, but if that's what the current national news media is reporting, it's good enough for me; after all, I'm not reporting news, but blogging about writing.

(I also think that pirates trying to take over ships by piracy and pirates firing on U.S. Naval ships are quite different things.)