Tom Palmer's writing blog - How I write: how you write. Part Five
Posted by Tom Palmer
6 Jun 2011
“The fastest helicopters can fly up to two hundred miles an hour.”
Sometimes I need to write about something I know nothing about.
This week I had to write a scene for The Squad where five children travel three hundred miles and back across Eastern Europe, unseen, to spy for an hour. But they only have the night time to do it. Maybe eight hours. Luckily the children are trained by the military, so they are highly skilled. They also have the use of some military hardware if they need it. I had to work out how they would get there and back in the time they had.
Authors can do two things at this point. They can read up about the subject in books, magazines and on the internet. That’s useful, but it can take a long time. Also, they might never find the exact details that they are looking for. The other thing they can do is ask someone who knows the answers. An expert. That’s what I decided to do.
I know someone in the army, so, one afternoon we had this text conversation:
How far would an army walk at high speed in mixed terrain over three hours?
About 12 miles if they were carrying full kit. Though what’s the situation? It is possible they may get transport for that distance.
They can’t. They have to do it secretly. In woods. On tracks.
Well, they would be travelling slowly if they were advancing tactically, so maybe cut it to 11 miles, with the last mile being taken carefully.
Thank you. Have you ever used night vision equipment?
What were the colours like when you look through it?
Green. The one I have used is a monocle and you use it on your left eye. It attaches to the helmet and you lower it when you need it.
What sort of helicopter would be used to swiftly pick up the children after a botched mission in the desert? They’d be under fire. Preferably a helicopter that can fire rockets at the enemy.
What you would normally have is a Chinook, escorted by an Apache.
How fast would they travel?
The fastest helicopters can fly up to two hundred miles an hour.
After that conversation by text I had all the information I needed. I decided to have the children travel on foot, then by helicopter. And I knew how fast they would go both on foot and in the air. As a result my story is hopefully exciting, but also is more realistic than if I had made it all up. It is important to me that I get my facts right. Now I feel like I have.
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