Writing like a Hack: Lesson 6. When writing it’s utterly important to keep some consistency for the reader. When writing like a hack, however, you must make sure to switch point of view as often as possible. This is especially important when you’ve got to pass time while the main protagonist has something boring to do like travel a long ways. A really good hack will instead choose to follow their dull protagonist around and show every agonizing second. Very few writers have the skill to be that good and so many will be force to compromise via the point of view switch.
So we join Angel as she wakes up. I guess Paopoa isn’t the only idiot who thinks that’s a great way to start off a chapter. Though Jimmy has quite a thing for hitting you with sentence fragments to drive home certain thoughts.
Her mouth was so dry. Her head ached—everything ached. Angel blinked several times, trying to wake up. Above her was a dark brown plastic roof. A cage. A dog crate. A Kanine Kamper, size medium. Fuzzy thoughts pushed at her brain as she struggled to a sitting position. She knew where she was—she would recognize that chemical, disinfectant smell anywhere. She was at the School.
How does she know that? Does being psychic give her the ability to be intimately familiar with products? Maybe that’s her real power and the telepathy is a side effect. As it turns out, these scientists were trying to breed the perfect retail associate. They’d be able to identify any product on sight and be able to recite cost like they’re Price is Right addicts. And then they gave them wings so they could get things off the top shelves for customers. Add in telepathy so they can anticipate your needs and they’ll corner the market. Yes, it’s all falling into place now. Come, my children of retail, come and aid my conquest of the free market!
Jimmy also suffers from the same problem that a lot of writers do in that they can’t seem to imagine how someone’s thoughts might sound if they were mentally impaired. Instead he decides to ape that device where you just string a couple words together sans articles, prepositions or verbs. That’s supposed to show us that they’re simple minded and don’t understand a lot of concepts.
New new ‘n’ wings and new new wings girl new
These are the thoughts of two other kids near Angel, both of them in. Angel looks over at them and thinks they’re probably boys. How they, or one of them, knows she’s a girl is beyond me. Maybe one of them is part wolf and can tell by the smell.
Why are they thinking in words though? Even though they’re simple nouns used by themselves, they’re being strung together as concepts. This doesn’t really fit being as they’re supposed to be mentally stunted. You can tell because one of them has patches of scales and the other has extra fingers/toes and patchy hair.
Then a couple of “whitecoats” come in. Now, I know Max and the rest are supposed to be kids but you’d think they could come up with a more creative and insulting name for the “scientists” than that. Jimmy, being an idiot, can’t do any better so we’re stuck with “whitecoats” for the rest of the novel. That’d be like calling a police officer “blue pants” and trying to make it derogatory. Sure you could put the inflection there and it’s strictly true that they wear blue pants, in many cases, but it’s just not that much of an insult.
Now, being as Max and the rest love using avian terms and these scientists always wear their labcoats, why not make an observation based on their mannerisms and birds? Maybe refer to them as Gulls because they’re opportunistic and intelligent? Plus it’s sticking with the bird theme. And that’s just off the top of my head, Jimmy boy.
Anywho, the two scientists come in and talk loudly about some project for no apparent reason. Why they didn’t chat about this earlier, on the way to Angel or while on break is a mystery to me. Maybe one of them was trying to talk about it but the other kept shushing the first.
‘So have you heard about the…’ ‘Ah, tat, tat, tat. No talking about the project.’ ‘What?’ ‘We have to wait until we’re in the room with a main character. Otherwise they won’t be able to learn about the plot and further the story.’ ‘Huh?’ ‘Oh man, don’t tell me this is your first time.’ ‘Well, yeah.’ ‘Okay, well just follow my lead and try to be as menacing as I am. Don’t worry if I come across as evil for the sake of it, we won’t actually do anything to her. Her friends will launch a daring rescue that will save her at the last moment.’
The first whitecoat rubbed his hands together with glee. “You’re looking at it.” He leaned forward to unhook her cage door. “Come on, little thing. You’re wanted in lab seven.” Oh, yes! Man, when I section her brain . . .
Does he have to be so cartoonishly evil? At the age someone could be considered “Young Adult” is right about when they can start learning that villains are more complex that one dimension, Jimmy. Feel free to give us some motivation or anything that touches base with reality. What’s that you say? It’s really tough? That must suck for an accomplished writer like yourself. Too bad that’s not an excuse.
The next chapter has us back with Max. That must mean something Exciting™* is about to happen. *Excitement™ is a registered trademark of Blandular Inc and may not be reused without permission. All rights reserved. Presence of the Excitement™ does not guarantee satisfaction. No refunds.
Max is hungry as is Nudge but she doesn’t want to show it. Of course this means that less than a sentence later she’s asking Fang what he thinks they should do for food. How about eat? That’s a surefire hunger fix.
Fang pondered. It always amazes me how he’s able to seem so calm at the absolute worst times. Sometimes he seems like a droid—or a drone. Fang of Nine. Fang2-D2.
Okay, Jimmy, we need to have another conversation. I get that you’re trying to make these into “average” kids who appeal to your target audience by making cultural references that they should know. The problem here is that this is supposed to take place in modern day, that’s oh five based on the publication date. And Max grew up in a lab.
There’s no way for Max to know anything about Star Wars or Star Trek Voyager. Those all happened before she escaped. Is she psychic too? Did she read minds while the scientists were giving her a weekly checkup? Did the doctors monitoring her wing growth chat about it while they were studying her wings?
‘So that’s the entire Star Wars saga.’ ‘Great, though I think you doing all the lines, sound effects and scenes by yourself might have detracted from the experience.’ ‘I could try again, if you’d like,’ ‘How about we keep studying the kids we’re raising right here in the lab?’ ‘Oh, come on. They don’t need our attention. They’re basically vegetables that can fly.’
So they’re above the San Francisco peaks acoording to their map. Though how they can check that while flying new. I guess they’re using Google maps and they have the best cell phone reception, even while flying over mountains. They decide to look for a seasonal home and raid it for supplies.
They break in and find some dry food and warm soda to snack on. Then they lay down on the furniture and now they’re tired. Fang then says they should take a rest and Max agrees.
“I second that emotion,” I muttered, my own eyes closing. We’re coming, Angel. In a minute.
I like how Max rationalizes her laziness. ‘We’re coming. Sure they could have lobotomized you before we arrive but I’m just no that motivated. I mean, how much do I really like Angel anyway? Sure I’ve known her all her life but it feels like it’s only been a couple of days. Besides, she’s telepathic. She doesn’t need my help.’
Now don’t tell anyone but this is the part where the homeowner stumbles in to find three winged teens sleeping in their house. They’ll be frightened at first but then they’ll keep Max’s secret because they’re just so nice.
Writing like a hack, lesson 7: In good writing, you must put a lot of thought into the development of both heroes and villains as they drive the story. This is particularly true in terms of moral beliefs and actions, as that is what separates heroes from villains. Neither have to be wholly heroic or wholly villainous, but no more on that subject, as this is a discussion of writing like a hack, not writing like a pro.
In the best(i.e. worst) hack writing, the narrative will treat heroes as wholly heroic and villains as wholly villainous, whether the text supports that assumption or not.
Heroes: Have the narrative treat the hero as being anywhere from a guy who gives his entire life savings to charity to the second coming of Jesus. Again, this does not need to be supported by the text. Suggested techniques: Treat small or unimportant acts by the hero as great acts of decency, gloss over any unsavory actions or again treat them as decency, have all supporting characters constantly remind the reader that this is a good and heroic person, etc. Example: The titular character of Eragon.
Villains: Villains in hack writing need even less effort than the hero. A good (i.e. bad) villain is, in character terms, little more than a scarecrow with an evil face drawn on it. They need no subtlety and no motivation. Example: any Captain Planet villain.
breaking and entering still counts as a heroic act, right?
now if Jimmy wanted to write Max well, he could have established her with an unconscious superiority complex. intentionally, i mean. Only wanting to be “normal” because it somehow got drummed into her that’s the way to be. but can’t shake the feeling that normal people are beneath her. Therefore, tresspassing and robbery? what are such things to Bird Squad 6?
Ha! Bird Squad 6, I love it. Yes that would make sense, that she feels superior but doubt always bothers her. It would almost make her a little more like a real person and less like Spunky Teen Girl 187 with an added perk of super powers.
Also, if the protagonist has done something morally questionable, have them atone for it in a token manner. If they wounded someone, have them apologize. If they stole, have them pay the other party back with interest. Remember, the other character has to accept it unquestioningly or else you’re venturing into the world of complex writing and that’s a no no for hacks.
to be fair about the white coats i’d imagine the gang would have much more colorful terms for the people who kept them locked in cages and tortured them but maybe jame’s Patterson couldn’t write what they’d actually call them becuse this was back in the 200’s and standards were stricter for YA books then.