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Excerpts from Gordon T. Allred Master's Thesis
The Making of Kamikaze

 

Chapter 1 - Conception of a book Chapter 2 - Interviewing and Querying Chapter 3 - Research Chapter 4 - Documenting Chapter 5 - The Rough Draft Chapter 6 - The Book Begins Chapter 7 - Creative Problems

Chapter 5
The Rough Draft

A great many writers agree that the biggest problem is that of getting started. Such was my own experience with Kamikaze. Once I had launched my project it was not so difficult sitting down to the typewriter on a reasonably regular schedule.

I had planned to write a double-length article for True. I had conducted lengthy interviews and many hours of research. I didn't want to "muff it," Consequently I began writing with a certain amount of doubt and fear. One problem asserted itself at the outset. Would slanting my account for True hinder me? Would it prevent me from writing honestly (being true to myself)? Would I be forced to cripple what creative ability I may have possessed to fit a style?

While studying the market, and slanting one's writing accordingly have certain advantages, there are those who contend that doing so necessitates a "prostitution of ones  art."  This was something I had to reconcile with myself before going ahead.

Eventually, I decided to write the article in my own way, attempting to satisfy True's literary standards, without forcing myself to conform to a pat style.  If there was any cutting or altering to be done, it was up to them.

Having satisfied myself, I began typing, and continued without a guilty conscience. The first day of writing, when I didn't know what to hope for or expect from my efforts, were the hardest. The beginning portion, "National Glider Champion” —stricken from the finished article but later amplified as the first chapter in the book—although a relatively simple account, was an excruciating struggle fraught with despair, anxiety, and backtracking

Another problem confronted me in the early stages. I had interviewed my subject for nearly four months, accumulating a loose leaf of notes on his eighteen-month sojourn in the Japanese Air Force. Upon beginning to write, however, a deluge of new questions came, so many that I became depressed.

Suddenly the task of writing loomed more formidable than ever.  Frequently it was impossible to write even a paragraph without being pestered by new questions, since my interviewee lived in Kobe, some fifteen miles from camp, without a phone, it was difficult to resolve these problems once he'd returned home at night, or for the weekend. Each time I paused or waited for clarification on a question, my thought trend was broken, and sometimes the entire writing schedule for a day or even an entire weekend.

After several such disruptions I decided to go over all the notes with Kuwahara, to question him more thoroughly. The thought galled, for I was anxious to push ahead with the writing. It soon became apparent, however, that no amount of detailed questioning would solve my problem.  Each time the writing began, new questions arose.  Nothing, as a matter of fact, so stimulated the right kind of questions as the actual writing process itself.

Consequently, I decided to go ahead with the rough draft without pausing for further question sessions. Whenever a question occurred regarding a name, place, date, statement, attitude, spelling, etc., I either left a blank space or wrote what seemed most consistent, then underscored the section in red.

When this entire rough draft, a very rough draft, of eighty pages was completed, it was time to meet with Kuwahara once more. We then convened every evening for over a week to resolve each question systematically. That way, there was far greater coordination of effort. As we covered the account step by step, other more pointed questions presented themselves, and new ideas facts cropped up which made for richer embodiment.
Kawahara then read the entire account in private, correcting any errors, offering additional suggestions.

By this time I had truly concluded that successful interviewing,  like all other skills, demanded practice. Had I been more skilled, many questions would have been solved during our initial discussions. Even so, the procedure I finally hit upon proved to meet expedient for my own purposes, for it prevented innumerable delays and interruptions over minutia, which had previously disconcerted me and destroyed the creative mood.

Only one personal problem arose in connection with what had been written. Upon going over the rough draft, Kuwahara felt that he had not been accurately represented on one very basic matter. He feared my portrayal indicated lack of patriotism on his part— something I surely hadn’t intended.

It was obvious that he loved his country, that he would die for it. The problem was one of also depicting a man who was not a fanatic, who detested war, who feared death, who hated some of the Japanese militarists for what they had one to his people. He did not believe, as did many of his associates, that death had any intrinsic value.

On the other hand, he was a man of valor and loyalty to his country, which was not as easy to reveal as one might suppose, even though we are now communicating on a fairly facile basis, and having long since eliminated the need for an interpreter. After a lengthy consultation, involving some deep probing on my part, the main conflict solved, and Kuwahara seemed satisfied.
 


Chapter 1 - Conception of a book Chapter 2 - Interviewing and Querying Chapter 3 - Research Chapter 4 - Documenting Chapter 5 - The Rough Draft Chapter 6 - The Book Begins Chapter 7 - Creative Problems

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