Write what you know: Getting thrown off a bridge.

One common piece of advice is “Write what you know.” I remember on one episode of Writing Excuses (Writing Excuses 5.30: Writing Action Larry Correia said “One thing I really recommend because a lot of people hesitate to write action because of that old rule about write what you know, but nobody here has ever sword-fought a dragon. OK? So don’t let that hold you back.” That’s good advice, but sometimes, it really does help to know certain things. If you know me, you know I occasionally do crazy things that could get me killed, and that I do these things under the guise of research, so you’re going to get the benefit of that. These posts will be under the category “Write what you know”. Enjoy!

At one point or another, you’ll have a character who is falling from a great distance. Maybe they jumped off a building or were thrown off a bridge. Maybe there learning to fly. The fear of heights is a primal fear. It’s nearly universal, and for good reason. We understand, on an instinctual level, that if we fall from a certain height, we die. It’s self preservation. Of course, this fear can be overcome. If you’re constantly exposed to heights, you may not be afraid. Some people are just naturally not afraid. Some are adrenaline junkies. Still, there is a difference when you’re actually falling. I’m not talking about something like skydiving, where you’re too high for you to comprehend that you’re falling. In fact, it feels more like you’re floating. What I mean is the feeling you get when you fall off something like this:

Let me make one thing clear. There is no good reason to jump off this bridge. None whatsoever. I knew that full well when I decided to jump off of it. Now, I did have a parachute. Mentally, I knew that, but that’s not the same as the instinctual, gut wrenching fear. I had it here, and you can hear it in my voice.

I was supposed to put my toes over the edge and wait for the other guy to push us off. I looked down and was paralyzed for a second. There was an almost irresistible desire to back away. I knew that down was bad. There wasn’t anything more complex in my mind. It was just that. Down=bad.

When the guy pushed off, time slowed down. For what seemed like several seconds, I felt like I was floating. Then, it hit me. I was falling. A small shout escaped my throat, followed by a scream that was full of terror. I felt like I was falling for at least twenty or thirty seconds. In reality, it was about 3. Then the parachute was deployed, and we came down safely. The video from my point of view is here. Skip to about 3:15 to actually see the jump.

Submit a Comment