Some time ago I posted Jack-versus Enistein – a post that discussed whether it was better for a writer to be an expert, or a Jack of all trades.
Whilst I’m quite happy to be the latter, it occured to me that many of us will still have some knowledge of a subject that others may find difficult to research. If I was to include a scene in my next book where a character baked…for example…cupcakes, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking. Alright, sure… Google would probably be my first port of call, but there’s only so much you can learn from trawling websites. Some scenes need the personal touch that only an experienced friend can provide.
This idea popped up whilst I was leaving a comment for Setsu (Hello and thanks for the follow!), an expert in martial arts. I wish I’d known Setsu when I was crafting my scene in ‘A Construct of Angels’ that involved a swordfight between Michael, the constructed angel and his Anakim foe, the self-styled Damocles. Instead, I had to trawl the interweb for sword-fighting techniques, finally chancing upon a gentleman who had written a book on sword-fighting and who was able to give me a few pointers.
Later, when I was writing a couple of triage scenes for the same book, I was lucky enough to be able to send the relevant passages to a paramedic I’d met in York. I’d done most of the research about the (serious) injuries on-line. He returned them with complimentary notes, but suggested some useful improvements – most likely stuff that I wouldn’t have found on-line.
So, what do you all think about this; listing what you consider yourself to be fairly good at.
Perhaps you’re not expert, but we’re not writing reference books here. We just need enough to craft a scene that is reasonably accurate and fairly thorough. I would be the last person to consider myself ‘expert’ in anything. I’m sure that I share that feeling with many of you (aren’t most writers self-doubting introverts, after all?). But I have amassed a fair bit of knowledge of a few disparate subjects in my
twenty-five fifty years on Earth (who changed that line?).
So why not put that knowledge to good use?
For instance, I may be in a position to advise writers who are struggling to craft a scene that requires knowledge of *takes deep breath* quantum physics, or starship design – both subjects I love (yeah, I know. I’m a Geek. I admit it). I also love geology, cosmology, and a few other ‘ologies’ that I won’t bore you with here.
This is my proposal; Could you help a writer who was stuck for some details? Would you be willing to answer questions from other writers? Could you spare some time to read through some extracts and help them on their way? Could you at least point them in the right direction?
We could all benefit from this – and write better and stronger stories as a result. Think of this as a long-term project. It may not be something that would benefit your current WIP, but can you be sure that it might not come in useful for the next one?
So, to kick off, I’ll list what I can offer to other writers. If I can’t answer questions on these subjects immediately, I have a good stock of reference books to hand.
I have a good knowledge of;
Cosmology (star formation, beginning and end of the universe).
Quantum Physics (atoms, particles, energy and radiation).
Starship theory (drives, environments, construction).
Theory of time travel, plus cause and effect.
(Dare I say this?) Rocket Science.
Planetary behaviour including some aspects of geology and geography.
Some World War 2 history, mainly European Theatre.
And on a more day-to-day basis;
Vehicle mechanics, some military strategies, aircraft behaviour.
Chemistry, physics, engineering.
Movie-making (scene construction to post-production).
Factory production-line techniques.
Perhaps you could add to the list and we might build a healthy database of subjects that would give our writing that ‘expert’ touch.
It doesn’t matter if your knowledge overlaps with that of another writer – we all know different facts about similar subjects. List what you know, and a writer who is stuck can always throw out a question to more than one ‘expert’…someone is bound to know the answer.
If this is successful, ‘experts’ might be able to advise on single scenes (like my sword-fighting scene) and tidy up the facts a little.
I read recently how many film-makers are simply ignoring physical laws for the sake of drama (don’t get me started on ‘Independence Day’ – although I still love it, or ‘Armageddon’ – which drives me craaaazy).
Let’s be better than that.
Let’s get it right.