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Some very intelligent and talented people, in the world of literary arts, have offered advice on the subject of thinking ahead when writing a novel. I agree … and I disagree.

In the long term, I know where my story is going … precisely. But, in the short term, I often have no clue what PFC Fines (my gunner) is going to say next.

I’m currently working on Wings of Valor, a long novel on the subject of combat helicopter aircrews set in the Republic of South Vietnam circa 1965-68. Because the story is based on personal experience, I know exactly where t’s headed. I know the ending. I know which characters will be on stage during the final scene. But there is a great deal of filling between the outer layers of my Oreo cookie. Some of that filling is atmosphere, some of it will be ambient sound, and, of course, there will be an abundance of dialog.

My writing style makes limited place for intricate planning of character dialog. While I may find dialog context or content will require carefully structured composition at times, for the most part I feel it unnecessary.

Casting myself as Lee Farmer, the main character, I am often surprised, or moved by that which is said by another character. Lee may find a statement amusing, insulting, or born of ignorance. He may entertain unspoken thoughts about something said. He may find a statement to be amazing, amusing, or offensive. He may be offended, aggrieved, or discomfited.

So, for me, and my writing style, thinking ahead has its place in literary art, but not an extra-large place when it comes to character dialog. Too much planning makes Jack a dull boy, and takes the risk of writing a dull story.