When I write, I like to push the limits. Doing so allows you to increase the tension and make a book more engaging and fun to read, obviously.
But at the same time, we all know the moment an author crosses the line into the unbelievable, you’re immediately tempted to stop reading. And not just that book, but possibly even future things the author writes. Thus I tread carefully, before I even get close to that line.
Nonetheless, here are my Top 3 push-the-envelope moments, which have unfortunately all been born out by reality after I published the book. Each in REALLY big ways. (And don’t worry, I’ll keep all three vague enough that they’re not spoiler alerts if you haven’t read the books.)
1 ) Prison breakout, Mexican Heat. In Mexican Heat, I needed to have a cartel leader break out of the country’s most secure prison. I knew there were real life instances of break outs in more moderate prisons, but it would be seriously unrealistic for my character to be placed in a medium-secure facility. So in Mexican Heat, I had to take my chances and write that he was able to break out of the country’s most-secure prison. I thought I could take some heat for this, but thankfully readers agreed that in a country with a drug war that’s killed more than 60,000 people, a prison break out wasn’t that unbelievable. And then just a year after writing the book, ‘El Chapo’ Guzman escaped — even after our country warned Mexico he might.
2 ) Friendly fire incident, Afghanistan. In Afghan Storm, in order to facilitate some future turns of events, I needed to have a pretty serious friendly fire incident occur. Friendly fire incidents had occurred several times in the past decade-plus, but we’ve gotten better at preventing them. Unfortunately, I needed this to be a pretty serious incident, which I knew would be pretty unlikely. But it had to happen to make the book plot work, thus I wrote what I thought was a push-the-envelope attack, instigated by the Taliban, and hoped I wouldn’t be lambasted for it being outlandish. But just days after finishing the book, a Doctors Without Borders hospital suffered a far more horrendous and difficult-to-explain attack.
3 ) City seized, Afghanistan. Finally, in Afghan Storm, I wanted to have the Taliban seize a major city. But I knew I was pushing my luck BIG TIME on this one. ISIS has been pushing into Afghanistan, threatening the Taliban. And the country has seemed to stabilize and suffer fewer major Taliban attacks in recent years. But I believed I could make this attack believable, so I strategized with a prior Army Captain (and good friend) and did plenty of research on how it might occur. I SOOO did not want to be ridiculed for this scene, or hurt the possibilities for this book, which I felt was easily my best. In the end, I went with my gut, but worried greatly about the entire scenario. How would readers react? How bad would the reviews be? Could I even lose readers over it? But as you all know, while the book was literally publishing, the Taliban captured Kunduz, the capital of one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. And they not only captured it, they controlled it for 15 days and freed hundreds of fellow militants from the local jail — neither of which I would have dared predict.
So on the positive side, my author career is likely safe for at least a little longer. But on the negative side, each of these things were horrendous events that have caused unbelievable harm and loss of life.
I can honestly say I wish none of them had come to pass, and that I was forced to vigorously try to defend such “outlandish” events in my books. That, certainly, would have beat the alternative.
Keep the faith,
Stan R. Mitchell
About me: Stan R. Mitchell writes some of the most action-packed, fast-moving gunfighter novels around. Tired of slow-paced, investigative novels that take 300 pages to excite you? Look no further! Stan is the best-selling author of 5 novels in 3 different time periods. He’s also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a former journalist who spent ten years in the newspaper business, learning how to hook the reader, cut out the filler, and just tell the story. In short, Stan is knowledgeable, he’s fast, and his books will blow you away. Don’t forget to subscribe for email alerts to keep up with his latest works.