The Battle That Never Was

I remember reading a novel where the author made a big deal of an upcoming battle. He spent chapters talking about how important the battle was. His characters prepared, dressed, and rode out to the battle site. I turned the page expecting a battle …

There was nothing. It was over. The story moved on and seemed to have forgotten all about the battle. There may have been some reference to it, but I don’t remember.

I do remember feeling cheated. It’s not that I’m a warmonger, and love blood and guts, but he’d set me up for a batttle, I was planning on something being there. There wasn’t even a clean up. The story just moved on.

I don’t remember which novel it was or what the story was about. I mostly remember the disappointment. I do remember the author. I never read any of his books again. Not good to disappoint me.

The TV show Terra Nova did the something, but they did a better job of it.

There were nine episodes leading up to a war between Terra Nova and the mercenaries coming from the future.

Terra Nova’s military forces are at the portal, armed and ready for battle. The portal was where new people and supplies from the future came. It was also the place where those who wanted to strip mine and destroy the land were coming.

The first people though the portal were good. The forth person was an innocent with a bomb strapped to him, which immediately blow up, taking the forces by surprise. The hero, Shannon, was knocked unconscious.

In the next scene, Shannon wakes up in the infirmary. He’s a little disorientated, has trouble standing, and can’t hear. He stumbles from his bed, out into the habitat’s courtyard to see the town’s destruction.

The town is war torn. The twenty-five foot fence to keep dinosaurs out is in shambles. Buildings have been blown up. There are creator size holes in the ground.

Then we see the victors, the mercenaries, come out on the porch of the main building and look over their conquest, and we know who has won.

I’m not sure what the author was thinking, but the writers of Terra Nova made a strategic move. They only had so much time. The season finale was only two hours to tie up lose ends and set up season two. (so far there doesn’t seem to be a season two) The writers chose what was most important and dealt with that: the gorilla war waged by Terra Nova, Shannon’s escape, and the mystery why the mercenaries leave.

If the writers had taken the time to show a battle, there wouldn’t have been room for the story. But they didn’t just ignore the battle. They showed the aftermath and slowly revealed the outcome.

The above author wrote many novels and I’m sure there were fans who read everything he wrote and were never disappointed. I also know my opinion is rarely unique. There may have been others who were just as disappointed as me. You can’t please everyone, but at the same time, you don’t want to disappoint potential fans.

Writing is a balancing act. You need to know what is important and what’s not. But if you build up to an event that leads to something even more important, and don’t have the room to write about both, don’t ignore one for the sake of the other.  Give a quick explanation for the one while giving detailed time to the most important.