Left Behind Fridays Writing Seminar: There Are Continuity Errors. And Then There’s Forgetting WWIII

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This one is going to be fairly quick and easy.

Jerry Jenkins is on record as stating that he writes twenty pages a day, which means that he cranks out a 400-odd page book of the Left Behind series in less than a month, even with the day it takes to “edit and rewrite”.  This, in and of itself, is not something to boast about.  Everyone writes at their own pace of course, but if you rush along at such a breakneck speed and allow so little time for revision, you might end up with continuity errors like the one discussed in NRA: Steppin’ Out With My Baby, where you destroy Chicago as part of the opening salvos of WWIII in chapter 3, and have a character planning how to get back there in time for a friend’s funeral in chapter 8.

Part of the problem, of course, is that Lahaye and Jenkins vastly underestimated the sheer destructive power that they unleashed upon Chicago.  After dropping multiple 100-megaton bombs on O’Hare (which would, in itself, impair Rayford’s ability to return home), they imagine Chicago proper to look something like London during the Blitz, and the suburbs to be largely untouched, instead of all of northeastern Illinois being glassed, which is the more likely outcome.

Which doesn’t exactly make the situation any better.

Of course, other than “take your time, and allot more than a day for review and revision, or this is the kind of thing that can happen to you”, there’s not really much to say about that.

However, while that particular gaffe is the most egregious, the passage being discussed over at Slacktivist has other rich veins of wrong to mine.  For example, you can see samples of the behavior that makes Lahaye and Jenkins’s author avatars designated heroes.  In this particular case, Rayford Steele is wondering if he can make it back to the glassed ruin that is Chicago in time for the memorial service that he and the other members of the Tribulation Force (the alleged Christian “resistance cell” against the Antichrist) are going to hold for their friend and mentor, Bruce Barnes.  Doesn’t sound so bad?  Understand that, as the inner circle at New Hope Village Church, they’re going to be holding an official memorial service for him only, when millions, including other members of the Church (to say nothing of friends and family) have died.

You know that scene – you’ve seen and read it many times – where the selfish, hardened anti-hero sees something so horrific that it breaks even his calloused heart and moves him to do something?  Sometimes it awakens the last lingering shreds of his empathy and compassion, and he does what he can to help the victims.  More often, it awakens a righteous rage and a determination to bring down the bastard who did this, to set things right!

None of those things are happening to Rayford Steele.  That’s why he’s a Designated Hero.

Finally, this passage, along with Fred’s analysis, gives us an interesting bit of ethnographic insight into the fundamentalist Christian subculture of the writers.

Now, I’m sure that an actual fundamentalist Christian in Rayford’s situation – i.e., invited to dinner by the fiancé of  the Antichrist – would be concerned for the perfectly understandable reasons that Fred mentions: that he would anger the avatar of Pure Evil and end up messily dead.  But Lahaye and Jenkins are writing Rayford as an ideal (if recently-converted) Real True Christian, so his behavior and concerns are as L&J believe they should be: he’s afraid that, as a married man eating dinner with a woman neither wife nor relative, it might look improper.  It seems an odd choice of priorities, but Fred gives us the…rather shaky…Biblical basis for it.  And that, for a pair of RTC’s like L&J, is enough.


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