Ready, Aim …, by Ben Jeapes

Photo by NASA on Unsplash
My job was to write an adventure a) set in China b) during a typhoon. All other details were up to me.

I’ve never been to China and probably never will, but I have seen pictures of breathtakingly beautiful geography - mountains and rivers and ravines. I would love the excuse to research those, so I settled on Fujian province as a setting, which has a coast (all typhoons come in from the sea) and is apparently “eight parts mountain, one part water, and one part farmland”. I did more research and settled on the Wuyi mountains, which Wikipedia tells me are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, “characterized by beautiful winding river valleys flanked by columnar or dome-shaped cliffs as well as cave systems.”

Sounded good. Slowly but surely, the story took shape. Then I did a bit of research on typhoons too, and … clunk.

A typhoon gets its energy from the sea. The moment it hits the land, it starts to lose power. And the Wuyi mountains are a couple of hundred miles inland. So, they might experience a lot of wind and rain but they would not have the full typhoon fury thrown at them. Yet, the title of the story was definitely “Typhoon”, not “Blustery Day”. There was only one solution, really, if I was to be true to the brief. Don’t set it in the mountains.

Disappointing, but I’m glad I didn’t waste time turning in something the client would not have wanted. I could see that if I stuck to my existing course, I would miss the target. (All that research on the mountains is quietly tucked away for another day; nothing is wasted …)

A target is a very useful thing to have, and doesn’t have to be obvious. In Luke 9.51, Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem. By Luke 17.11, he hasn’t got further than the border between Samaria and Galilee, followed by a leisurely stroll down the Jordan valley. He reaches his destination in Luke 19. Yet, what might have seemed like purposeless meandering was in fact extremely purposeful. He found plenty of time for teaching and miracles but never once let himself be distracted from his target.

What is your target?

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 5 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer.


  1. Ah yes, it's so annoying when facts get in the way of a good story. Been there many times! But as you say, nothing is wasted. I hope you get to use all that research one day, Ben.

  2. We've all been there! Hopefully that research, tucked away for future, will one day prove useful in a surprising way.

  3. That was a great post, Ben thank you. Also reminds me how important research is, even when writing fantasy fiction for children, everything needs to be explainable even if I don't include that detail in the novel.

  4. I think I have a series of moving targets, but it keeps me going and most of the fun is in the journey any way.


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