NRA: Stick to the script

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 66-67

World War III begins and Buck Williams calls his dad.

That’s good. That’s a nice human touch. This is something we humans do when calamity strikes — we reach out to family and loved ones to make sure everyone’s OK.

After a 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook Costa Rica last month, one blogger there wrote, “Check the order of the calls you tried to make and draw your own conclusions. They say that in an earthquake, you first think of what you love most.”

So on the one hand, it’s nice to see Buck demonstrating such a basic human response.

On the other hand, the order of calls that Buck makes here is a bit strange. He seems both to have waited too long to call his dad, and to be calling him too soon.

Most urgently, there’s the matter of the now-forgotten cliff-hanger from the previous scene with Buck. He was on the phone with his wife, Chloe, who was racing to escape the attack on Chicago. That call was abruptly cut off:

But then he heard an explosion, tires squealing, a scream, and silence.

The very next line from Buck, three pages later, is, “Who’s got a cell phone I can borrow?”

Readers do not know what has happened to Chloe and presumably want to find out. Since Buck doesn’t know either, we assume he’s asking for a phone so that he can call her, desperately wishing to know what happened — is she OK? Is she conscious? How is she? Where is she?

We expect him to be anxious to learn all of this — anxious to know if she needs him to race to rescue her. But instead he’s weirdly complacent about her fate. After “… an explosion, tires squealing, a scream, and silence,” Buck pleads for a cell phone so he can call someone else.

Verna went back inside to gather up her stuff. Buck waited in her car, making his phone calls. He started with his own father out west. “I’m so glad you called,” his father said. “I tried calling New York for hours.”

Oh, right. Poor Papa Williams out there in Arizona saw the CNN reports on the destruction of New York City and desperately began calling Buck’s Manhattan apartment to learn whether his son was dead or alive. That was hours ago. Since then Buck has gone car-shopping, checked in with computer guy Donnie Moore, printed out 5,000 pages from Bruce’s hard drive, and swung by the office to threaten Verna Zee. At any point during those many hours he might have called his dad, but he didn’t think of it until now.

And now Buck is sitting in the parking lot of the global news organization he supposedly runs due to his supposed status as a world-class journalist. Witnessing the destruction of the city of Chicago, he barks out a command to his staff — someone get me a phone! But his first phone call has nothing to do with the urgent duties and responsibilities of his vocation. It’s a personal call — a personal call to someone other than the wife who is, at this moment, possibly injured on some unknown highway.

This lends a strangeness to the whole conversation that follows between Buck and his dad. Neither of them sounds like someone who exists in the world of this novel. The momentous events surrounding them barely seem to register with father or son — not even when they mention those very events. One gets the impression of a phone call occurring under more mundane circumstances — after New York was hit with a snow storm, maybe, or after Buck has guiltily realized he missed calling on his father’s birthday.

“Dad, it’s a mess here. I’m left with the clothes on my back, and I don’t have much time to talk. I just called to make sure everybody was all right.”

“Your brother and I are doing all right here,” Buck’s dad said. “He’s still grieving the loss of his family, of course, but we’re all right.”

“Dad, the wheels are coming off this country. You’re not gonna really be all right until –”

Buck’s reference there to “this country” is, again, anachronistic. It has been well over a year in this story since “this country” ceased to exist. All countries (except Israel) were abolished to create the one-world government of the Antichrist.

But this conversation does not really occur in or apply to the world of this story. That’s not what it’s for. Buck and his dad talk as though they were two people living in our world — a world in which America still exists and no Rapture has convulsed the planet into chaos. They talk as though they share our world, rather than theirs, because this conversation is meant to contain a lesson — a model — for readers who live in our world and our context.

Buck and his father here are merely stand-ins. Buck represents the generic “saved” reader of the Left Behind series and his father represents that generic reader’s generic “unsaved” family members. This conversation is mainly just another of the many evangelistic marketing scripts sprinkled throughout these books. It’s part how-to and part pep-talk for readers, encouraging them to persist in “witnessing” to their unsaved relatives.

“Cameron, let’s not get into this again, OK? I know what you believe, and if it gives you comfort –”

“Dad! It gives me little comfort right now. It kills me that I was so late coming to the truth. I’ve already lost too many loved ones. I don’t want to lose you too.”

I suppose the “loved ones” referred to there means Bruce Barnes. (And, maybe, Dirk Burton?)

The important thing here is the lesson: Your unsaved relatives may not want to hear what you have to say. They may be dismissive, suggesting that your faith is just something that “gives you comfort.” You have to confront that, insisting that it’s not about comfort, but about the truth without which they will be lost.

His father chuckled, maddening Buck. “You’re not going to lose me, big boy. Nobody seems to want to even attack us out here. We feel a little neglected.”

“Dad! Millions are dying. Don’t be glib about this.”

Buck Williams had advance warning of the beginning of this war. Ex-president Fitzhugh told him when and where it would begin, and he knew from his prophecy studies that it would come to claim the lives of “a fourth of the earth.” Yet Buck didn’t bother sharing this warning with anyone else — not even his wife or father-in-law. And he has yet to lift a finger to rescue anyone from the impending carnage.

But he won’t tolerate his father’s gallows-humor. That would be “glib.”

Oddly, everything that follows this condemnation of glibness is, well, pretty glib.

“Dad! Millions are dying. Don’t be glib about this.”

“So, how’s that new wife of yours? Are we ever gonna get to meet her?”

“I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know exactly where she is right now, and I don’t know whether you’ll ever get the chance to meet her.”

“You ashamed of your own father?”

“It’s not that at all, Dad. I need to make sure she’s all right, and we’re going to have to try to get out that way somehow.”

It’s kind of clunky, but this bit about Buck’s dad wanting to meet Chloe seems like a reasonable human conversation. Or, rather, it would seem that way if it weren’t occurring in the context of World War III, and if the new wife in question were not, currently, stranded and perhaps dying in an auto-wreck in a war zone.

But that context can’t shape this conversation because that might interfere with its utility as an evangelistic script:

“Find a good church there, Dad. Find somebody who can explain to you what’s going on.”

“I can’t think of anybody more qualified than you, Cameron. And you’re just gonna have to let me ruminate on this myself.”

This scripted quality infects almost all of the dialogue in these books. Characters rarely seem to be in character, but seem, rather, to be dutifully reciting words given to them by the authors because those are the words they have been assigned.

I think this relates to another way in which the authors’ theology shapes these books. It’s not quite as direct as the effect of, for example, the fatalism that flows from Tim LaHaye’s idea of “prophecy,” but the persistently awful dialogue in these books, I believe, illustrates something about the authors’ view of God.

The authors’ understanding of God, I think, informs their approach to the godlike act of creating characters.

The parallel is obviously not precise, but every novelist or playwright is a creator who gives life to a cast of characters. When those characters are truly alive, they begin to speak and to choose and to act, and the writer’s job then is to race to keep up with them. Those characters will want to say things and to do things that the writer did not expect. They will be full of surprises. The writer gave them a voice but, having done so, that voice now belongs to them — to the characters and no longer wholly to the writer.

I’m reminded here of the lovely scene in the second creation story in the book of Genesis. In that story God does not seem to be either omnipresent or omniscient, God needs to check in with the creation and its creatures to see what they have been up to while God’s attention was elsewhere. God shapes the man and then breathes life into him — life which, having been given to the man, now belongs to him. And then:

Out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

The Creator is eager to see — to find out, to learn — what this creature will say next. This creature has been given life and autonomy and the Creator does not know what he is going to decide to say. The Creator finds this exciting and delightful.

If you’ve ever tried to write dialogue then you may be able to relate to that excitement and delight. When it’s going well, writing dialogue seems much more like transcription than like composition. The characters start talking and all you can do is scramble to get it all down.

When writing dialogue is not going well, the characters just sit there, mute, inert and lifeless, and you are faced with the laborious task of putting words in their mouths. And all the while you’re struggling to do that, you know that the words you have chosen for them will never seem as true or as alive as the words they would have chosen for themselves. The more you work to control your characters — to determine what they say or what they choose — the less real they seem.

(I used to say that such attempts by the writer to dictate words and choices for characters was like treating them like puppets instead of people. But I recently watched the delightful documentary about muppeteer Kevin Clash, Being Elmo, and I’ve decided that is unfair to puppeteers and to puppets.)

For the story to seem real, the characters must be allowed to speak and to choose for themselves. If they are not allowed the freedom to speak and act as they want and need to do, then they will cease to seem like characters and become more like chess pieces in a game they do not understand.

This doesn’t mean that the novelist or playwright abandons all control over the story. The writer still gets to shape the entire world in which these characters exist — what happens to them and around them, the options and choices available to them. (Conductor voice: “Transfers at this station for endless tangential discussions of free-will and determinism. Hold on to your passes.”)

This is, broadly speaking, one way to gauge whether or not a story rings true. When the author presents the characters with choices and the characters choose, the reader or audience accepts it as real. If the author seems to be manipulating those choices, or if the choices seem out-of-character, then the whole affair seems hollow. In other words, when the author does not seem to have learned anything from the characters, then the reader or audience cannot learn anything from them either.

Jenkins’ dialogue rings false because his characters never seem to have any agency or autonomy. In this scene, neither Buck nor his dad is free to say what he needs to say given the events occurring around them. Neither of them is allowed to say what it seems they ought to want to say or to choose what it seems they ought to want to choose. They’re just going through the motions of their assigned roles, dutifully reciting the script written for them by someone else.

That mirrors the theological views of Jenkins’ co-author. Tim LaHaye’s strange brew of prophecy and predestination also denies any human-seeming agency or autonomy. In LaHaye’s world, we are all just wooden characters in a bad novel, chess-pieces in a game played by someone else.

 

  • karasumaru

    first?

    (sorry, I needed to, just once..)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “Dad! Millions are dying. Don’t be glib about this.”

    Talk about irony!

    Buck Douchebag and Rayford Snarkypants have been totally “glib” from day one of taking jobs from Carpathia.

    Jenkins, you do NOT KNOW HOW TO DISASTER.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    In a book full of strawmen, Buck’s dad is a real standout. His behavior is just unreal, like he’s being written by someone who’s never had any contact with society before.

    In this case, it seems less like bad writing than a symptom of the bizarrely closed-off world of contemporary evangelical culture. I’m reminded once again of the evangelical clique from my high school, the tiny group of students whose interactions with we, the unsaved, amounted to little more than flinging accusations. Is this how they saw us? Were we just so many soulless monsters to them?

    But maybe that’s too grandiose. Maybe it is just bad writing. From what I’ve read, Jenkins does not view himself as a craftsman or an artisan. He’s just forcing these characters and their dialogue into the evangelical mold that LaHaye gave him. It could well be that – as an irredeemable hack – he’s does not envision his characters as characters, but merely as sign posts dispensing exposition for the convenience of his leads.

    Either way, I continue to be disappointed in Ellenjay’s complete lack of worldbuilding. I’m a longtime fan of dystopian literature, and while I’ve seen far worse, I have never seen a dystopia this boring.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    A great analogy, come to think of it, is the Soviet propaganda flicks I’ve seen getting posted to Youtube. They had a core of legitimate criticism, but overlaid was a totally bizarre and distorted view of how the US actually functioned as a society.

  • aunursa

    Characters rarely seem to be in character, but seem, rather, to be dutifully reciting words given to them by the authors because those are the words they have been assigned.

    That’s a great way of putting it.

  • flat

    God as a writer who is delighted about his creation.this article gives a whole new meaning to what Jorge Luis Borges said about paradise:

    I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
    Jorge Luis Borges

  • GeniusLemur

    Boy, every time I think L&J have hit bottom in some way, they break out a jackhammer. He’s apparently completely forgotten about his wife, who was obviously in both danger and distress the last time we heard from her, and calls his dad? Has he talked to his dad since that one (of course) phone call in the first book? Or even thought about him?

  • flat

     well you might better get used to it: the only thing ellenjay never dissapoints in: is in being dissapointing.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Don’t be glib about this.

    This is one of those times Jenkins strikes upon an element of unintended verisimilitude. Many’s the bully who thinks their hateful, callous, unhelpful, unasked-for commentary is “just a joke geez lighten up” but god forbid (literally, some of them seem to believe) someone else introduce a moment of levity when Asshole McDickhead happens to be wearing his veryseriousface.

  • Twig

    In that story God does not seem to be either omnipresent or omniscient,
    God needs to check in with the creation and its creatures to see what
    they have been up to while God’s attention was elsewhere.

    In which the Garden becomes the Sims and God finds Adam setting off fireworks in the kitchen again.

  • aunursa

    “Your brother and I are doing all right here,” Buck’s dad said. “He’s still grieving the loss of his family, of course, but we’re all right.”

    The loss of his family? 

    His father is referring to his own daughter-in-law and grandchildren, a.k.a. Buck’s sister-in-law, niece, and nephew.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Good catch, aunursa! Perhaps sociopathy has a genetic component!

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    At least they remembered the Event. The way the characters have been behaving, I was convinced that Ellenjay just forgot the plot of the previous book as soon as they moved on to the next one.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    Yeah. I’m not one to say that there is one True order for the priorities of the heart and that everyone needs to love their spouse more than their parents but; your wife is the one in danger here Buck; and in fact your father would probably want you to make sure she’s ok first so that you can let him know when you do call him.

    As it is, you are right now using somebody else’s phone on company time to make weridly mundane personal call. You are surrounded by ‘Other People’ who would probably love to have that phone to check into their own imperiled loved ones while you make the sort of ‘check in with the folks’ that would be more appropriate during a football game.  What a fantastic asshole. 

    It seems that Ellenjay feel the need for a minimum number of characters to make the story sutably epic and just stuff some of the minor ones in there haphazardly. 

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Sociopathy is definitely a family trait with the Williams:

    “So, how’s that new wife of yours?…”
    “I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know exactly where she is right now…
    “You ashamed of your own father?”

    Yes, Mr. Williams Sr., it’s all about you! His wife, lost in the ruins of Chicago during WW3, may not ever meet you because of shame.  
    Yet again, the Memento effect is on display. It’s WW3, Buck is so afraid for his wife’s well being that he nearly assaults a co-worker, and then the lights flicker and go out, and-
    Buck needs a phone! Why does he need a phone? He can’t remember. It must be to call his father, and evangelize! That’s it. That’s what’s important! That’s what’s tattooed on his brain. His wife? What about her? 

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Placeholder…

  • GeniusLemur

    I think this is a sterling example of the ADD-like writing that characterizes this series.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Good point! I hadn’t really twigged to that, but you’re right – even amidst a huge disaster, it’s more important for Buck Douchebag to kick a door in Verna Zee’s face, misappropriate funds to buy a Land Rover, and then of all the things, to get asked about his wife by his father amidst nuclear attacks.

    I don’t remember if even Rayford had this much attention focussed on him during the story arc.

    There needs to be an “It’s All About Me!” TV Trope with Buck Assbag as the starring character.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Well, Buck knows Chloe is alive because her death isn’t in the script and we’re not yet at the point in the book where main characters start dropping left and right.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    If my spouse were missing, I would be incapable of focusing on anything else. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would distract me. I would hang up on my dad if I thought for a second doing so would improve my chances of finding my SO, and if I asked for a phone and someone didn’t give it to me, I’d very likely try to rip it out of their hands. I don’t always think clearly when someone I love is in danger. What I would NOT do is call someone else for a “Hey, how’s it goin’” chat. 

    There’s a scene with Matt Damon in the trailer for the movie Contagion that has stuck with me as a pure example of how real people act in a tragedy.

    Doctor: Unfortunately, she [his wife] did die.
    Damon : Right. So can I go talk to her?
    Doctor: Mr. Emhoff, your wife is dead.
    Damon: What are you talking about? What happened to her? What happened to her?!

    That’s real grief and fear. This thing  Jenkins & LaHaye call writing? That’s just shit.

  • aunursa

    I read ahead in Chapter 4.  Buck still has to call Loretta and Nicolae, then begin driving what he refers to as “Verna’s pile of junk” through the north side of Chicago before he begins to call the Range Rover’s phone (via speed dial) again and again.  Then two more phone calls to Verna at Loretta’s house.  The chapter ends with Buck receiving call from Verna.

    In other words, Buck spends almost the entire chapter on the phone.  Jerry Jenkins must have determined that he needed to add more phone calls in order to increase the suspense.

     

  • dj_pomegranate

    ” It gives me little comfort right now. It kills me that I was so late coming to the truth. “  Who talks like this?  No one talks like this.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    I’m still trying to comprehend someone using the words “gonna” and “ruminate” in the same sentence.

  • SisterCoyote

    Awwww, the car his coworker who he’s been shamelessly abusing and fighting with for months gave him, selflessly, in the aftermath of the destruction of their world… isn’t good enough for him?

    Poor, poor Call-me-Buck. What trials and tribulations.

  • Münchner Kindl

    “I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know exactly where she is right now, and I
    don’t know whether you’ll ever get the chance to meet her.”
    “You ashamed of your own father?”

    To make the jump from “I don’t know where she is right now” and after Dad is worried because of a war going on, to jump immediatly to the conlusion that Buck is ashamed of Dad is such Insane Troll Logic that Dad and Buck must have massive issues. I think there was some allusion in Book 1 when Buck tried to reflect on the emptiness in his life, but the pieces were all wrong: the authors/ hacks tried to go both for resentment of honest blue-collar workers against the intellectual college-educated (Buck) and Middle-class family disappointed that their son is not a real success.

    That still doesn’t explain what’s going on here. Either Buck has called his parents multiple times off-screen – instead of apparently completly forgetting them until now – and managed to piss them off; or they have a massive history of misunderstanding and problems and anger. But that would have lead to a different attitude on Bucks side and made the whole talk different.

    If Buck weren’t such a douchebag (if the authors weren’t jerks and hacks), it could work to call his Dad – maybe after buying the car, when he was standing around in the Church office, since the printer was doing it’s own thing – when bombs are falling and war is going on: “Dad, I know we’ve had our problems, but now this is different. Are you okay? Let’s forget all the past. I don’t know about the next days, but I will try to get to you once things have calmed down [and the Midwest middle of nowhere would be safer from aerial attack by the Antichrist - not from attack by God, but that is still a bit off], and we will talk things over. Okay?”

    That would work, both as human thing and as believable.

    The other problem is not only that the scene doesn’t fit, it’s yet another instance of the strawman. The redshirts might not know that they are in a rapture novel and therefore dismiss “God did it” as explanation for the weird things. But they should be intelligent enough to notice weird things and offer a plausible alternate explanation. Or even say “The scientists are still researching it, until we know more, I can’t form an opinion” about the rapture or the attack on Israel. (No supernatural explanation is necessary for a leader starting a war, or the deception involved in telling people that enemies attacked and shooting back was necessary).

    But Buck’s Dad is basically just “well I don’t believe it” which is not how real people think.

    That mirrors the theological views of Jenkins’ co-author. Tim LaHaye’s
    strange brew of prophecy and predestination also denies any
    human-seeming agency or autonomy. In LaHaye’s world, we are all just wooden characters in a bad novel, chess-pieces in a game played by someone else.

    FRED, I don’t know if you’re reading this, but I would like a seperate essay on the whole dissonance between fate and free will: it’s not only Jenkins/ La Hayes bad writing and bad theology that makes them talk about fate/ God’s will as being immutable; yet the main characters do act as having their own will. Sadly, not to save other people – but Buck does not really act like somebody who believes that revelation is true, and neither does Ray. You touched on this several times: living in an expensive apartment, putting furniture in storage …

    But this is actually a paradox that goes back thousands of years, to the Old Greeks and beyond to the first stories (though I know more examples from Greek myth): Fate was ordained for you, by the Morai http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moirai who were above even God Zeus; yet each Hero had a choice, too, what to with his life.

    Oedipus, for example, is a cruel example of prophecy being fulfilled – but was it because fate had to be fulfilled, or was the prediction made because Oedipus was the type of person to get road rage and slay an old guy for cutting him off in traffic who happened to be his biological father, but with a temper like that he would have gotten into trouble sooner or later anyway? Both interpretations are supported by the story.

    Lots of myths have fate, a chosen hero, and still free will by the hero to do the action.

    I wonder if this is only for the dramatic tension; or to make people actually do something; or whether there is a psychological reason. From catastrophic situations, we know that the human body and mind can only stand constant terror, fear, stress, pain for a certain amount of time. After that, things shut down: people fall into shock, or coma, or catatonia, or just sit and stare.

    Maybe it’s impossible for real people to cope with the idea “the earth will be destroyed in 7 years, we know it’s real, no escape”. Not only because it’s bad theology, so I would believe in Aliens with advanced tech more likely. I can’t imagine living in a world where things are immutably predestined, because the real world isn’t like this. (Popper used quantum physics to explain why nothing can be predicted, and therefore not be predestined, and therefore, we have free will. And no, it’s not Schrödingers cat.)
    It’s one thing to poke fun at characters in  a novel or TV show for being genre-blind despite dozens of episodes. But I can not imagine a rational person saying “Okay, I happen to live in a real zombie/ vampire/ magic universe, now I will act accordingly” because that’s impossible. It violates laws of physics, or biology.

    Even if there is real virus disease that mimics symptoms of zombies / aliens stealing people, saying “This is like zombies/ rapture” does not help: because it’s a different cause, it will need different solutions. And zombies/ rapture are stories: things are simplified and changed to make a better story. Real life solutions must orient towards real facts,; solutions to tropes that would work in stories would hinder that.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    It’s worth repeating here that phone calls – and letters, emails, text messages, broadcasts, etc – are all tricks that authors use to pad out their novels. Given how long these novels are and how little plot they contain, I have to assume that that’s the point. Each short, meaningless phone call adds two or three pages.

    There’s this hope that ebooks – which are usually shorter than print novels – might help dispel the “thick book = good book” truism. I’m not convinced, but I am ever hopeful if it means the end of this kind of writing.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Boy, every time I think L&J have hit bottom in some way, they break out a jackhammer. He’s apparently completely forgotten about his wife, who was obviously in both danger and distress the last time we heard from her, and calls his dad? — GeniusLemur

    “Only a Woman…”?

    And one Asian culture which was heavily into Confucian Filial Piety put it this way when in a “You can only save one life” dilemma:  “You can always replace a wife and children; you cannot replace your Parents.”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    In that story God does not seem to be either omnipresent or omniscient,
    God needs to check in with the creation and its creatures to see what
    they have been up to while God’s attention was elsewhere.In which the Garden becomes the Sims and God finds Adam setting off fireworks in the kitchen again. — Twig

    Or one of the Bill Cosby variants on that story:

    “If you have children, think about this.  You have just told the child to NOT do something.  Then you are busy somewhere else.  What is going to happen?  The Child is going to get in trouble.”

  • Laura 41

     ” It gives me little comfort right now. It kills me that I was so late coming to the truth. ”  Who talks like this?  No one talks like this.

    The same people who say “ruminate,” I guess.

  • Cradicus

    Fred I know what you’re talking about with characters, but I always liked Nabokov’s response when asked about this phenomenon by the Paris Review: “My characters are galley slaves.”

    http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4310/the-art-of-fiction-no-40-vladimir-nabokov

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    As it is, you are right now using somebody else’s phone on company time to make weridly mundane personal call. You are surrounded by ‘Other People’ who would probably love to have that phone to check into their own imperiled loved ones while you make the sort of ‘check in with the folks’ that would be more appropriate during a football game. What a fantastic asshole.   — Mr Heartland

    Or an Author Self-Insert(TM).

    It seems that Ellenjay feel the need for a minimum number of characters to make the story sutably epic and just stuff some of the minor ones in there haphazardly.  – Mr Heartland

    Ellenjay started out with a major strategic planning error:  Telling an epic story of literally Cosmic scope entirely from the POVs of the two Author Self-Inserts.  This requires the two ASIs to always be at the center of every plot Event.  Events literally not only worldwide, but Cosmic in scope.

    Compounded by the conventions of the entirely plot-driven Christian Apocalyptic genre:  The “main characters” are nothing more than mobile POVs, witnessing the Cosmic Checklist Event, then breaking the fourth wall to inform the reader how “What we just saw Fulfills such-and-such End Time Prophecy.”

    Put the two together, and you have a LOT of the story being told by “as-you-know” idiot conversations over the phone.

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    If my spouse were missing, I would be incapable of focusing on anything else. 

    I came home from working late one night last spring and my husband had a high fever and wasn’t communicating.  I was with him in the ER and ICU for the next 20 hours and no, I wasn’t thinking of anything else. 

    (He’s fine now.) 

  • JustoneK

    I say ruminate.  But I don’t talk out loud with people much…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I still can’t get over there being something like 10 phone calls in one chapter, all centering around Buck.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I think the fact that L&J so casually dismiss Chloe in Buck’s purview here is very telling about how they really think of women.

    Stupid jokes from Rayford about his “feminine side” aside, the fact is they really don’t value women very highly and think of them as merely appendages of either their fathers or husbands. (>_<)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Prost/100002434484052 Tony Prost

     if it kills him, why isn’t he dead!

  • TheBrett

    At least we finally see where Buck’s douchebaggery has come from. It’s a family trait that he shares with his father, but apparently not his brother (who is grieving the loss of his family, like a normal person).

    Aside from that, I wonder if Jenkins wrote this story in chunks. That might explain the bizarre disconnectedness of the whole thing, where Buck hears his wife get into a car accident, and then next chapter has forgotten about it and is calling his dad. By the time he started the next “chunk”, he’d forgotten tons from the previous one. 

  • Jessica_R

    “I don’t believe one writes for oneself. I think that writing is an act of love…”—Umberto Eco

  • Carstonio

    Sounds like the tradition by some male mariners to name their boats after their daughters but not their wives. I’ve heard this explained as their daughters will always be their daughters but the same not be true of their wives.

    The way Buck treats Chloe here suggests a view of wives as not just property but also household conveniences like appliances.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

     I myself have always found my characters to be profoundly intellectual creations, not invisible prisoners somehow breaking free behind my back.

  • Tapetum

     Hey! I use ruminate in casual conversation, and I don’t talk like that!

    I will grant that I rather suck at small talk, but I’m not that completely stilted. Mostly I just get mistaken for a non-native (or at least non-US) speaker of English, because I speak too correctly to sound comfortable.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

     Actually, no – he wrote these novels in unbroken streams, 20 pages a day. I suspect that the pace of the work is what leads to these incongruities. He probably didn’t do much planning and he obviously never rewrites anything, so if he discovers any problems during his “editing” process he has to fix it down the line. It would explain all the post facto explanations and retroactive continuity.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Years ago, in a real-life conversation about my atypical speech style, I commented “Yeah, I have long since resigned myself to being the sort of person who… well, who says things like ‘I have long since resigned myself to’.”

    The quote has resurfaced many times since.

  • walden

    “I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know exactly where she is right now, and I
    don’t know whether you’ll ever get the chance to meet her.”
    “You ashamed of your own father?”

    – This actually rings true if Buck has a habit of lying to his father and avoiding interactions.  If the father hears Bucks’ statement not as grave concern (which we may, because we’ve been privy to the early part of the chapter), the father may hear the statement simply as Buck blowing off further discussion of the family ever meeting Chloe: “she’s not here right now, and I don’t know whether I’ll ever bother to have you meet her. I’ll let you know”…then the father understandably challenges him.

    Certainly it’s  a dysfunctional conversation.

    And we know, by the way, that Buck is ashamed of his own father.

  • aunursa

    FYI: Buck’s mother is dead.

    In Prequel #2, when their mother is dying of cancer, Jeff pleads with his brother to return home from college … his mom specifically asked to see Cameron before she dies.  But the future GIRAT delays flying from Princeton to Tucson because he can’t pass up an opportunity to advance his career.  When he’s at the airport, finally ready to leave, Jeff calls to notify Cameron that he will be arriving just in time … in time for the funeral.

  • James Simmons

    Your observation about characters having a life of their own matches my own recent experience.  I’m working on a novel.  I don’t know if its any good, but one thing I do know is that I don’t know exactly what the characters will do until I actually write it.  I think about what I want the characters to do beforehand, but in the end they say and do what they want.  The stuff I’m going to have to go back and rewrite is where I forced them to do something.  When the characters know what they want to do the writing is easy and it seems to be something I can imagine somebody reading.  When I started writing I had a title and some ideas of what would happen.  Totally different things have happened in the story, but they fit the title and the themes I’m trying to write about better than what I originally thought of.  Characters that I thought would be minor turn out to be important.  Sometimes characters seem to want to do something and I have to go back and give them a reason for doing it, and of course having a reason changes what they actually end up doing.

    The nice thing about writing a novel this way is its fun.  The author is both reader and writer.  If I finish the thing and end up not liking it that’s OK.  Maybe the next one will be better.

    On the other hand deliberately writing something like the scenes in these books would be unbearable.

  • Carstonio

    That’s a reasonable theory. Buck’s evasiveness reminds me of my own when people who know my family of origin ask me how they’re doing. Without going into the very long story, I have very little interaction with most of them.

    If I didn’t know much about Buck or Chloe, I might have assumed that Chloe was from a different ethnic or religious group and that Buck Sr. wasn’t known for accepting people’s differences.

  • aunursa

    Your observation about characters having a life of their own matches my own recent experience.

    Yes. By contrast the characters in Left Behind don’t have lives of their own outside of the scenes in which they appear.  The reason that Buck’s brother is still in grief over the loss of his wife and kids isn’t just that he hasn’t inherited the sociopathy.  He and his father were offstage since early in Book #1.  To author Jerry Jenkins, they are in suspended animation until their appearance here.

    Jerry Jenkins composed the prequels such that most of the characters is in place ten years before the beginning of the Left Behind.  Rayford, his co-pilot, his supervisor, the company president — all maintain the same positions at Pan-Con Airlines for 10 years.  The only change is that Hattie Durham advances from a newbie to senior flight attendant.  In a similar manner, Buck and his colleagues (Stanton Bailey, Jim Borland, etc.) all “tread water” for several years leading up to the Event.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Ladies & gentlemen, I give you Cameron Camoner, Unreliable Narrator in action!

    “Dad, it’s a mess here…

    “By ‘mess’, I mean that every major business is still open and operating as normal even while bombs drop…”

    I’m left with the clothes on my back…

    “…and the new cell phones we’re buying, and the state-of-the-art laptops, and a fully-loaded Range Rover(tm), and my government-issued no-limit credit card…”

     and I don’t have much time to talk…

    “…to you”

    I just called to make sure everybody was all right.”

    …even though none of you are in immediate danger like I am. Did I mention that I’m in immediate danger? And that I’m calling you, not to tell you I’m OK but to check in on you? Because that’s totally what I’m doing. From the middle of danger. You know, where bombs are dropping and stuff.”

    “Dad, the wheels are coming off this country…”

    Buck is obliquely referring here to the impending earthquake, famine, and other supernatural disasters which will affect every person on the planet regardless of nationality. He is not referring to the recent terrorist/insurgent attacks made on U.S. soil by the former P.O.T.U.S. and militias.

    “It’s not that at all, Dad. I need to make sure she’s all right, and we’re going to have to try to get out that way somehow.”

    “…because it’s never been easy for me, a world-famous journalist, to fly to Arizona; I have certainly not demonstrated any ability to travel during difficult periods like the Event, and I am totally not the son-in-law of a former commercial airline pilot with connections both in the airlines and in the new government. 

    “Find a good church there, Dad. 

    “You know, a church where most of the congregation along with the pastor all vanished. A church where the assistant minister, the one with a past troubled by pornography or drugs or something, looks really rumpled most of the time, and sweats a lot when he speaks so you know he’s earnest. That kind of a church!” 

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    ” It gives me little comfort right now. It kills me that I was so late coming to the truth. ” Who talks like this? No one talks like this. — dj_pomegranate

    Side effect of everybody (even those HEATHEN) all thinking and speaking in fluent Christianese.


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