More on the "As You Know, Admiral" Technique

 

The “As you know, Admiral,” syndrome is quite common in technothrillers. Heck, I’ve done it myself on numerous occasions. You know what I’m talking about—it’s when the hotshot pilot who’s about to take off on a suicide mission says something like, “As you know, Admiral, the Phoenix missile has a maximum range of one hundred nautical miles and flies at a speed of Mach 4.”

Now, don’t email me to complain that that’s not accurate. I don’t care. I don’t write missiles very often any more. 

The point is that there’s a character telling another character stuff that they both already know. Come on, the guy’s an ADMIRAL. You think he got those stars without knowing what a Phoenix can do? No – he didn’t, and you’ve violated a bunch of principles of good storytelling, including the ones about creating human characters.

Now, there ARE times when you’ll need to fill your reader in on technical details of some sort or another. That’s fine, with two caveats: do it in narrative, not dialogue, and don’t do it in the first paragraphs.

Because that’s what we’re talking about here, right? The first few pages.

One other small point about first paragraphs and worlds – many new writers lack confidence that they’ve actually created the world. They’ll do something, then do it again in another way just to make sure they’ve made their points. 

You’ll get over this with time. The immediate cure is to have an experienced writer look over your work.

 

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