# Pilots who write.

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Swampyankee, Aug 7, 2016.

1. Aug 9, 2016

### bmcj

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But how many of those actually gave it a try?

2. Aug 9, 2016

### Wanttaja

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Adventure and joy, yes, but the problem is to establish a conflict.

The basic flow of fiction is simple: It's a character, in a conflict, undergoing a change. The conflict typically involves a competition...such as a sports event or a battle...or a crisis, involving an emergency of some sort. The writer then creates characters who have characteristics or histories which make them unsuited to the conflict at hand, yet overcome the challenges to win out. "The hero's journey" (google it) is a classic example of this pattern.

Most aviation movies follow this pattern. "Flight of the Phoenix," "The Blue Max", "Flight", "Top Gun", etc.

The problem is making the conflict involve non-military flying. That's tough. We see few conflicts in GA, unless one participates in Reno air racing, aerobatics, or competitive sailplane events. When movies do involve crises in non-competitive GA flying, it's usually related to mechanical problems/crashes ("Family Flight", "Six Days, Seven Nights") or are mere backgrounds for other story lines ("Mannix").

And unless the storyline involves crashes, you probably won't interest the average citizen.

Ron Wanttaja

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3. Aug 9, 2016

### bmcj

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And don't forget the one movie that met all of those guidelines in spades.... AIRPLANE! :gig:

(PS -You missed The Great Waldo Pepper. I'm not sure if you could say Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines strictly follow those guidelines.)

4. Aug 9, 2016

### Wanttaja

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And "Zero Hour", the movie it was based on. "The High and the Mighty" is another example.

Just about all follow the sequence I posted, including "Those Magnificent Men." Multiple characters, the crisis of a race. The American goes from broke hick to splitting the prize (and getting the girl), Terry-Thomas gets his rightful come-uppance, etc.

Ron Wanttaja

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5. Aug 9, 2016

### Victor Bravo

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Not that bounder Sir Percy...

Speaking of sailplane racing as a potential competition/conflict basis for a movie, it was claimed that when Clint Eastwood was choosing an aviation based action adventure movie to make, he had two books in his hands that he was choosing from... Firefox by Craig Thomas and Sierra Sierra by John Joss. Since it was still in the Cold War era, he chose Firefox. That claim may or may not be true, it was John Joss who said it

I don't know, call me a snot-nosed elitist soaring snob, but Sierra Sierra was a little more exciting to me. Probably because I never flew military jets off of an iceberg, but I have been up in the High Sierra in a glider once or twice

Ron's right about the conflict, and the characters, and the hayseed who eventually rides off with the girl. There's a formula that kind of has to be followed in order to get a mainstream movie, TV show, or book financed. An old-timer in the TV business always used to say that there was a tried-and-true recipe. Take an average guy, put him up a tree, kick the s*** out of him for at least half the show, then get him out of the tree. Same recipe probably enforced by the book publishers, TV studio vermin, and movie financiers alike.

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6. Aug 9, 2016

### BJC

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A bit of trivia: The 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron, which was operating Migs as an aggressor squadron out of Tonopah Test Range Airport during the cold war, actually suspended operations when the movie Foxfire debuted, thinking that they had been compromised. (One of their pilots said, "You really have to trust your fellow man to get into a cockpit with nothing in English and a photo in hand with the instructions to 'put the switches like this, and it will start' and it must start the first time". He also said that the Mig 23 handles like a dog.) They later resumed operations. Interesting stuff. They had several fatalities, operating with decommissioned ejection seats.

BJC

7. Aug 10, 2016

### Swampyankee

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Like I said, I can't write worth snot. Well, not to sell myself too short: I have some vague competence at writing non-fiction, especially particularly boring non-fiction.

8. Aug 10, 2016

### Dan Thomas

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The aviation reading market is tiny. Only about a fifth of one percent of the population has a pilot cert of any sort, and there is a big percentage of people that don't read much, if anything at all.

There seem to be plenty of wannabe authors. I use a Kobo e-reader, and it's easy to buy books. There are plenty of books for a buck or two, sometimes free, and I have found that these books, too often, are written by people hoping to break into the big time. Sometimes they're so bad they're excruciating to read, sometimes the author knows way too little about his subject and gets everything wrong.

It's easy to write, but very difficult to write well. An aspiring author needs to read widely and learn what makes a successful writer. And stick to the subjects he knows and has experience with.

9. Aug 10, 2016

### VFR-on-top

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Not to pop balloons, but there is far more money (and easier to make online) in non-fiction. Just want to get it out there for consideration before people start writing. Google self-publishing for a look at what you're in for. The other thing, it's not so much the quality of your writing that sells, but your marketing skills. If you're not up to marketing, don't bother writing. There may be over several hundred thousands people (if not million) that figured this out the hard way (sold less than a dozen books).

That said, I personally enjoy a good non-fiction read about a subject I'm interested in. Roy Beisswenger's savvy marketing got my $150. Good book, too. There's no reason why anyone else can't do the same. nucleus likes this. 10. Aug 10, 2016 ### Swampyankee ### Swampyankee #### Well-Known Member Joined: Dec 25, 2015 Messages: 1,398 Likes Received: 356 Location: Earth USA East Coast Success can come in surprising packages. I don't think anybody would have expected a book, submitted by an unknown, about an abused 11 year old orphan's discovery he's a wizard to make its author a millionaire many times over. I do know one professional writer; he's found a niche where he's quite successful (not a millionaire one time over, but able to live reasonably comfortably). I just think that somebody here is going to have the talent and skill to get some exciting aviation stories out to the wider public. I also know that won't be me. Last edited: Aug 10, 2016 11. Aug 10, 2016 ### TFF ### TFF #### Well-Known Member Joined: Apr 28, 2010 Messages: 11,518 Likes Received: 3,224 Location: Memphis, TN What the public wants is WW2 hero stories or barnstormer ones, but they want it in a more modern setting. It just does not happen that way. You are not going to get barnstorming out of Vietnam. Interesting, yes, but not fluffy. Space stories is kind of the surrogate of this. Even Lucas said Star Wars was Errol Flynn and Battle of Britain in space. Here is some culture for you poetry deprived souls. There once was a pilot named Bob Who flew his plane into a log He said he was not hurt, but the girl in the skirt Said !@#$%^&*() you dumb &#%&!*\$#^

12. Aug 10, 2016

### Dan Thomas

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For non-fiction, the travelogues by Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux are examples of excellent non-fiction. Theroux is a bit cynical, Bryson hilarious, but both are intensely interesting. Find "A Walk In The Woods" for a really good Bryson story, or his "A Brief History of Just About Everything" for another.

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13. Aug 10, 2016

### BBerson

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Out of print, about 15,000 sold, I think.

14. Aug 10, 2016

### Victor Bravo

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****... that's more than I sold in non-fiction. Good on her. Speaking only for myself, and nobody else, I always swear that I could have made a lot more money flipping burgers at the Golden Arches than I made as a book author, over the same period of time. I can't recommend trying to be a professional book author to anyone ever. For every fiction or non-fiction book writer who makes a good living there are 10K who starve and have their heart and soul trampled on.

Sour grapes ? Definitely yes...... Inaccurate ? Not a chance.

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15. Aug 10, 2016

### Orrem31

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I have really enjoyed David Freed's fictional work on his Cordell Logan series:

Flat Spin (2012)
Fangs Out (2013)
Voodoo Ridge (2014)
The Three-Nine Line (2015)

16. Aug 10, 2016

### Orrem31

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Some recent aviation non-fiction I enjoyed:

Unbroken
by Laura Hillenbrand

The Aviators
by Winston Groom

Hauling Checks
by Alex Stone

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17. Aug 10, 2016

### Wanttaja

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Bingo. I've had two novels published (still in print) by a small press operation. I don't make much on them, but at least I didn't have to do the book production myself nor pay for the printing.

All the time, I have people tell me, "Get your rights back and publish them online yourself!" But when I ask how many copies their books have sold, I see sheepish looks and hear, "well, fifteen or so...."

I've had more than that sold by the publisher, and they list them in the catalogs for people to buy. Plus, they sold the audio rights to a company a few years ago, and I got more from THAT than I had on the royalties for the book itself.

I've got a couple other novels on the back burner, one touching peripherally on homebuilding. Going to retire pretty soon, and then I'll see if I can get one or both finished and send them to some agents. I think self-publishing works well on niche publications, but most of the e-book novels I've read haven't been very good. I think it takes pressure from having to prove the book is worthy (with an editor or agent) before the book is published to really get good stories. Otherwise, the author can get sloppy and the work suffers.

Ron Wanttaja

18. Aug 10, 2016

### Jerry Lytle

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Fiction or otherwise an author has to have the ability exaggerate the high points, make them really stand out. I witnessed a non-event and then read the write up in Flying, totally two different scenarios.
Setting: Eugene Oregon; time, many years ago.
There existed at that time a large open area south east of the terminal. I would guess it at about 40 acres, give or take a little. Along the south border was a row of tee hangers, a row of power lines could be seen beyond the county perimeter road. Same power lines that were directly in the approach to runway 27, a local non issue. At that time I was flying a Cessna 170A. I was used to landing in farm fields and on back roads in eastern Oregon. Flying down right down wind to runway 36 I would think how much I would like to land in that field. I didn’t think the tower would approve.
Come to the day of the event. I was watching the Goodyear blimp landing in that field, a real non-event, if watching a blimp landing can be considered a non-event.
Three months later Flying came out with an article by Ernest Gaan in which he describes in great detail his blimp ride, concluding with the chair gripping tension of landing that blimp in a postage size lot at EUG. Tension is high as the pilot had to make an almost vertical descent over the T hangers and surrounding power lines. Great story, but as mundane approach to landing a blimp as I have ever witnessed. I wish it had been more exciting, I would have walked over there and Hey! I would have met Ernest Gaan. He really knew how to write, but I read him with a grain of salt after that. I read everything he wrote until he passed, great writer.

19. Aug 10, 2016

### Victor Bravo

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Congratulations, hope the parachute is as golden as it can be.

20. Aug 10, 2016

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