"The Storm Warrior" - A Fictional Storm Chase Shor

Apr 16, 2004
Austin, Tx

I originally submitted this to another section of Stormtrack, but since the topic is almost dead I don't think anyone would notice it. It is a bit of creative writing I did in the form of a short story. It took a bit of effort so I wanted to get some opinions of if anyone likes it at all, or at least parts of it, etc. Details about the story and what inspired it follow:

Lately we've been focusing on discussing the merits of the Wichita Kansas article entitled 'Tornado Tourists Hamper Rescue Efforts', and other such recent potentially anti-chaser publications.

Anyway, the old line that I used to see (I believe as part of someone's signature comment) was 'When Chasing is Illegal all Chaser's Will Be Criminals'. Something got me thinking about that and our discussion and it sounded a bit dramatic so I decided to attempt to be creative.

I previously posted the lyrics to 'Riders on the Storm' by The Doors. Take a look over those lyrics because it is appropriate for my character in the short story entitled 'The Storm Warrior'. This title possibly inspired by one of my old fav 'B' grade movies with Mel Gibson of 'The Road Warrior'. I suppose our chaser is a similar type folk.

Anyway this is a fictional narrative. All names, places, events, relationships, etc are all fictional and made up for this story. Any resemblance to any place, or event, or people you know is just that - a resemblance and does not represent actual fact.

I tried to keep it interesting, but I don't write much anymore. Please forgive the punctuation particularly regarding quotes, etc cause it's along time since college English and I've forgotten the exact syntax and mannerisms of use. Hopefully it is still readable.

I provide this for your entertainment, thought, and consideration. Hopefully no one will be offended by it. I could type it all in, but I think it would be too long. So instead I provide for you the URL as I have posted it to my webpage.

Come on folks...at least 40 have read it, but no commentary. A simple 'It sucks', or 'Loved It' will suffice plz.
Well, my specialty just so happens to be English, so out of the kindness of my heart I will give you some opinions on this story.

This story is typical of many you see in a creative writing class, in that someone has taken a life experience and written it down (while changing the names of persons involved). Of course, you have introduced an element of fantasy into the story by setting it in the future, which is a plus for you. You need to decide first of all who your audience is. Is it the general public? They wouldn't know half the terms in there. Is it storm chasers? They wouldn't need to be told that a mushroom-looking atomic cloud is called a supercell. Decide, then write for that audience.

Unfortunately, I found it difficult to connect with your character, Jason, because he does not seem level-headed, and is something of a loose cannon. The choices he makes are typical of someone considering suicide, in which case he would have tried to drive INTO the tornado, not stop and film it. Of course, if you are trying to portray Jason as someone who is slightly nutso, I suppose this description of him might have significance. I would strongly suggest cleaning up this aspect. In the present version, the ONLY thing which would make sense would be for him to commit suicide.

The story seemed "preachy" at times, which means that I felt while reading it that your point was not to entertain or inform, but to convince your audience to take action on the matter at hand (regulation of chaser activities). You might consider greatly reducing that aspect of your story.

There are slightly less important details which need cleaning up, but overall I feel this story certainly has potential. I would suggest making your feelings about just who Jason is and what he is trying to accomplish more evident. Focus more on the future aspect, as this is what your reader is most likely to be interested in. Make the story more about Jason and his future world and less about you trying to convince your audience of a point you're trying to make - if it's well-written they'll get the point, and won't forget it.

Let me know if you revise it, and I'll be more than happy to provide, free of charge, another masterful critique.
Storm Chaser's Perspective

I understood this story from a storm chaser's perspective. It's about how the future of storm chasing would be like if the states passed laws banning storm chasing.

That would protray Jason as either a renegade storm chaser who would not believe in following the normal rules of storm chasing or someone trying to keep the spirit of storm chasing alive. The news media in the future will only report that an illegal storm chaser was caught and shot to death on sight. :cry: Let's hope today's storm chasing does not lead us down that ugly road!!

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Sounds like Bryce gave you a good, honest critique and those are hard to come by. I haven't had a chance to read your story yet but I will this weekend.

I've found incorporating chasing into fiction exceptionally difficult. First,, it's hard as hell to render the sense of passion and wonder we have for severe weather in such a way that the reader feels it too. Readers connect with characters, not clouds, and even if you write a balanced, well-motivated character and show him or her in the throes of chasing obsession, there's still a gap where the reader will think, "But they're just clouds." Think of all the people who know you well and still don't understand why you waste so much money and time chasing.

In fiction, it's not enough to write that "Arthur loved chasing more than life itself." You have to SHOW that he does, and what's more, render that in scenes such that the reader really believes it (and it's hard to believe), and actually feels some of that passion themselves. A tall order.

Last year, I finally wrote a short story that included chasing, but chasing wasn't the main focus of the piece. There was a plot line and character develeopment that occured outside the chasing element. Even with that, my reader-friends told me there was too much chasing, too much technical informaiton. I dumbed it down and pushed it out until it was simply one element of my character's portrait. People are interested in chasing up to a point---particularly they dig the lingo that comes so naturally to us---but they tolerate only so much weather and then they want to know what happens next to the character, not if the storm morphs from a classic to an HP and drops gorilla hail.

It might be a limitation of the short story form that we can't involve a main character in something so esoteric as stormchasing or underwater basket weaving since we only have twenty pages or so to explain this hobby as well as telling a satisifying story. In a novel or longer work of nonfiction, it might be different. Over the course of a long story you might have enough time and space to evoke a chaser's passion such that the reader can share some small part of it. But I think it would still have to be grounded in the human side of the equation and not the meteorological. I had a great talk with Dave Hoadley about this in Denver. David has been thinking about these things from a writer's perspective for a long time, and if anyone has nailed some part of the chaser's psyche through language, it's him. I would encourage you to read everything David wrote for Stormtrack through all the years of the printed magazine. He wrote chasing accounts and other pieces with a human element that nobody has done as well since. He and I talked about how a book-length project could be honest, non-exploitive, and still interesting to read for nonchasers. No easy task. I plan to take a shot at it some day, but right now I don't know how.

All this isn't to say you shouldn't try. To the contratry, the very fact that it's difficult and defies so many conventions of creative writing pedagogy is exactly why you should. It's a credit to your story already that it sets for itself a challenging task. The one element all worthwhile fiction seems to share is risk.
Excellent and well thought out comments from you so far guys. I really appreciate the feedback, and will spend some time pondering. I'll probably reply in more detail as time allows.

A few brief comments though. As Bryce mentions the guy 'Jason' is a bit different. I mean he's a storm chaser so he kind of already looks at the world differently. He's not really suicidal - he's just passionate about what he does. Also it was initially somewhat politically motivated related to that 'Tornado Tourist' article / debate. However that was just a concept that I used to build a story around.

Amos, I've pondered the book idea too - but not sure how it could be pulled off to where it would truly be a good story. Maybe some day it will be clear.

This may not be the end of The Storm Warrior story. That was really a first draft I kicked out one night. I may eventually modify it some or perhaps embellish it more.
Ok, I mentioned above that Jason wasn't suicidal but that's not entirely true. He was passionate about storm chasing to the point where nothing else mattered. So, I suppose in that sense he could be considered somewhat suicidal.

Hmm...what are we when we drive under developing wallclouds? Didn't think I was suicidal...

Here's the lyrics by the Doors to "Riders On The Storm". I intended to preface anyone reading the short story with this song - for the purpose of setting mood:

Riders On The Storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin' like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Girl ya gotta love your man
Girl ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah


Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
I really enjoyed the story. I put off commenting until others started to comment though. hehehe

I read the story as a chaser would read it. I think you did a fine job portraying Jason. It's been a few days since I read the story and I still get a clear mental picture of the character. I see him as this futuristic, rustic cowboy/chaser type (5 o'clock shadow and all) that just wants to chase storms. In his moment of frustration with the status quo, he reaches his breaking point--it's chase and risk dying. He can't not chase. It's imbedded too deep in him.

I'd also be willing to help you with the grammar and punctuation. Got a 98 in Eng Comp. Creative writing may not be my cup of tea, but I can tell you how to use a quotation mark. hehehe (Note: forum posts and email are not indication of my writing skills.)

And of course, you can never ever go wrong with Jim Morrison.
OK, I'll throw in. I have no literary qualifications, unless having a published author as a best friend counts (it doesn't), but if you were looking for professional criticism, you wouldn't have posted it here. :)

The thing that stood out the most for me was the ponderous expository dialogue between Jason and Kyle on the subject of anti-chasing legislation. While it's true that you've got to convey that information (or at least some of it) to the reader in order for the rest of the story to make sense, their dialogue wasn't natural. Expository dialogue works when one character can be assumed to be mostly ignorant of the topic. In that case, you have the knowledgeable character conveying information and the audience essentially eavesdropping. In the story, though, both characters are chasers and would certainly be quite familiar with anti-chaser laws. I'd say cut way down on the dialogue. Make a reference to "stinkin' anti-chaser laws" in their conversation, sure, but leave it at that. Convey the rest of the information through Jason's thoughts or pure narration.

Regarding Jason's personality, there seems to be something missing. I know there's only so much you can put into a short story, but if he's really gotten to the point of shooting up police roadblocks - definitely not "normal" behavior - in order to chase a storm, he needs to be portrayed a little more darkly, as more of an obsessive type. He appeared to be basically an ordinary guy in the beginning, which made his later actions seem incongruous. Jason's straddling the line between hero and antihero, and he should probably be shoved a little more in one direction or the other. Help the reader to either sympathize with him or feel good in knowing that he got what was coming to him.

This post has gotten quite a bit longer than I intended, so I'll leave it here. All of this is just my perspective, of course. Do with it what you will.