Today was like any other day: I woke up, descended thirty-five feet underground, and turned the key that launched a Titan nuclear missile in Tucson, Arizona. Y’know, Monday morning. Daily grind and all. Don’t know how I do it sometimes.
Does this look like a deactivated missile to you? Hmm?
MY ADVENTURE SERIES
For those of you who don’t know, the “screenwriter” job title is an official excuse for me to plan spontaneous adventures around the globe in the name of research. Last Monday, I fired 500 rounds at the largest indoor shooting range in the country and sat down with an expert who taught me everything I know about guns and how to accurately incorporate them into my movies.
This week, I descended underground to visit a decommissioned missile silo, was dubbed commander, and got to participate in a mock missile firing. So if this whole writing gig doesn’t work out, I’ll always have a job firing deadly missiles at America’s enemies.
THE MISSILE SILO
When the missile silo was active, protocol demanded that four workers stay within the silo at all times. There are certain zones where the workers may not be alone, for security reasons. In order to actually fire the missile, the commander and deputy commander must unlock their respective padlocks on the “Red Safe” and then pop out the codes and decipher those bad boys to decide where to fire the missile. They then turn the keys simultaneously and… nothing appears to happen, because between the control panel and the missile is eight feet of reinforced concrete walls. Deploying a nuclear missile won’t even spill your coffee sitting in the control room.
You guys have seen Lost, right? The penultimate television series of our lifetime? Of course you have. Well, the castaways stumble upon “the hatch” where a mysterious man must punch in numbers *or else*
Anyways, there are a lot of parallels between the silo and the infamous hatch. The punching in of numbers. The surprisingly spacious rooms. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lindelof & Co. visited a silo like this one while doing research for the show. Not that I’m planning my research adventures so that I can follow in their shoes and create a hit show with mind-boggling mysteries and crazy surprises that resonates with millions and millions of people and creates a legacy unlike anything that came before it. Silly readers, save your speculations for my next adventure.
Turn the key, spark nuclear warfare… but first you must type in: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.
Remember the infamous Get Smart motif when he’s walking down the hallway and all the doors fly open? Definitely felt like the Silo hallways. There’s a bajillion doors and only one opens at one time, and you’ve got to make phone calls between each door so that the current commander will buzz you in. (Can you hear me now, Alpha Tango Foxtrot?)
In order for the workers to get down to the Silo, they must make a series of phone calls. After they enter the gate, they have three minutes to get to the first phone call or else the security team will hunt them down. One of which is where they must burn a code they’ve been given by their superior officer. There’s a lot of intricate safety features that makes your head spin. If this was state of the art security twenty-plus years ago, what kinds of tech does the U.S. have now?
Being a writer requires you to live in your head (which can be a scary place at times). But you can’t shut out the outside world completely. You’ve got to keep your stories fresh and based on specific details in the real world, building your credibility with the audience and improving your ability to suspend their belief. Sure, making things up is entertaining, but the real world offers a wealth of story starters that us writers have to search for.