Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls

by Karl Friedrich
2011 McBooks Press

Method of selection: One-word titles

First sentence: Sally Ketchum peered over the edge of the cockpit.
You will enjoy if: you own many ironic T-shirts
Alternative uses for this book: use to fire a furnace that drives a turbine that generates electricity to run a paper shredder to shred other copies of this book

Other reviews: Book Babe, Iwriteinbooks’s Blog, Jules’s Book Reviews, My Aunt’s Bookshelf

This is a fabulous tutorial for writers on how not to start a novel. This novel is about female pilots during WWII, which one would expect to be an exciting story filled with lessons of history. The author even chooses to open the story in flight, and yet he completely drains all the energy out of the situation by wiping out any foundation of fact, emotion, or action. First, read this, the second paragraph of the work:

They were over Oklahoma by now. Or maybe it was still Texas down there. There was no way to tell, really…the pitifully dried-out browns of one were pretty much identical to the other. But the truth was that she didn’t care where they were, exactly. And she was pretty sure that Tex didn’t, either. Texas was behind them, or soon would be. Oklahoma was beneath them, or soon would be. And soon up ahead was sure to be a town that was near a field of adequate width and flatness and emptiness to set the Jenny down softly.

In case you missed why this is such laughably shitty writing, I will now paraphrase this entire passage, plus the first sentence, to demonstrate:

I watched the dog that was biting me.
The dog was a very large dog.  Or maybe it was a small dog biting my arm. Isn’t dog size all relative?  Four legs, fur and a tail and some other things…all dogs look pretty much the same to me.  But it doesn’t matter because I don’t really care about dogs, and neither does Spencer.  Spencer was riding his bike, or maybe he wasn’t doing that.  The dog was little, or maybe it was just a puppy. And eventually I might want to think about detaching the dog and finding a band-aid or some antiseptic or a doctor. Or maybe I’ll just go home and have lunch because I’m hungry but I might do something else.

See? This kind of writing is only useful when you’re making fun of this kind of writing. Every sentence is a carnival of cliches, passive voice, past perfect tense, and cumbersome, bloodletting syntax and word selection. Here are some standouts:

  • The hurricane force of the propeller and the blast of gases from the engine’s exhaust instantly lessened, thanks to the little cocoon of relative protection provided by the wooden cockpit.
  • She couldn’t see his face, but she knew from experience that it would be even grittier than hers.
  • Just like that, she’d gone from breathing but being dead, to loving life as much as rock candy.
It is so consistently bad I had to start a new category, “Shitty But Ironically Not”. Perhaps McDonald’s Hamburgers shouldn’t be publishing books.

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