So, there are upsides to living with, and being friends with, a pool of subject matter experts. The more interesting friends you make, the more you can take someone, sing “How’s that work?” and “So, what’s your opinion on that?” and “Hmm?” and enjoy the infodump of a person in full cry about their passion or profession.
There are also downsides. Like, there’s no excuse not to get something right. And possibly getting way in over your head on detail on something that was originally supposed to be scene setting.
Also, detail when you’re not ready for it. In mass quantities. Or subject matter experts who really want you to put their favourite opinion/item/concept/interaction in there, because they love it, no matter whether it fits the plot or not.
It’s been a long and trying week at work. I have barely written anything, and most of that was transcribing what I wrote last weekend longhand in a hotel lobby. (It turned into a full chapter by the time I finished fleshing it out and unpacking it.) But I’m getting to the point where I need to do an assault on a terrorist base.
The universe, you see, is laughing at me. I did not set out to write military scifi here. I set out to write a sarcastic meta-commentary on military romance books with actual competent people. Unfortunately, competent people are competent, and competent villains are actual threats needing military response, and before you know it, here I am trying to write military operations. Eep. As a retired army officer I know and love would say, “This is a learning experience.”
By the time I survive it, I will have learned a lot more about writing.
So I consulted a subject matter expert on military combat on what I’d need to think about in order to start fleshing out this whole section.
Okay, yes, I flopped down on the couch, blew out a breath, and said, “Love? When you have some free time…” (I know, not everyone is so lucky as to have married a combat vet. But I did, so I get this research free.)
The next day, I came home from work, and the light of my life, the man who keeps telling me “Calm down! It’s a good day; no one’s shooting at you!” meets me at the door with a hug, a kiss, a cuppa, and an excited look. “So, I’ve been thinking about what you asked me! Sit, sit, do you have your notepad?”
A page and a half of extremely condensed bullet points and shorthand notes later, I had the understanding of the rough timeline this would take, and the sinking realization that this wasn’t a single scene, this was an entire plot arc that covered the entire middle of the book and segued neatly into the climax, slotting perfectly into the other major plot arc in the book… (yay) This might be 8 chapters by itself, or more (uh…. I don’t think that’s yay. I wasn’t expecting it to be that long of a story.)
And he finishes it with “But I’m not an expert. For a much better set of eyes, ask Mutual Friend.”
Well, about three days later, I see Mutual Friend at the club where we both weightlift, and wander over between sets. When I tell him that Calmer Half recommended him for research, he muttered something uncomplimentary. I hastened to assure him that I was still trying to flesh out the setting and the basic details needed, so this was just a heads-up about a week or two out. He was mollified by that, I thought…
Tonight, after dinner at a meeting of the North Texas Writers, Shooters, and Pilots’ Association, I was happily digesting and eyeing the last bit of rum cake… when Mutual Friend piped up. “So, you’re supposed to be asking me about conducting reconnaissance and raids on terrorists! You’re going to become very familiar with the following terminology…”
Apparently, a week or two wasn’t in the cards. I pulled the trigger on his brain, and it was ready to unload. Sometimes, I’ve just got to take the help I get when the expert wants to give it!
And realize this ain’t no short story. It’s not a novelette, either. It’s going to be a full-blown novel by the time I get it technically correct.
I love my friends. I’m still going to pour a stiff drink before tackling all the unexpected windfall of help.