As a new author, one of the things I am concerned about is building a reputation for writing with realism. One thing that I do is center my story around things that are relevant in the news today. My stories are fiction and there is ample room for creating imaginary events and other happenings but I want my readers to be able to envision something like this happening in our world.
Seeking that realism, I also want to research areas that I am not familiar with. In my first novel, Wayward Patriot: Preserving the Vote, a significant part of the premise involves a new registration and voting system that is high-tech and very secure. I was blessed to have a neighbor who is a cybersecurity expert and actually teaches in the field. Before describing that system in writing, I spent hours with him, having him describe where technology is in the realm of cyber security. Believing I understood everything, I used the technology and systems that he described designing an imaginary registration and voting system that used existing technology.
After I wrote that, I asked my son, who is a project manager in the field of software development, to read that section and give me his impression. He rolled his eyes at me and explained what I had obviously misunderstood through my conversations with my neighbor. With that input, I made the needed changes. I wasn’t so concerned that a cyber security expert be totally sold on this new system, but I did want the description to be believable by most people who work in the technology field. I didn’t need to get into the weeds when I developed my voting system but I wanted to ensure that there were no glaring errors that could distract such a reader from the story.
I did the same thing relating to my character’s interaction with the police. In the book, some of that interaction was, let’s say, less than forthright. I sat down with a police sergeant that goes to my church. He was very helpful in telling me his gut reaction to the scenario I described to him. I was able to write a more realistic police response to the story.
In my mind, providing realism avoids creating a distraction, for some readers, which could take away their ability to enjoy the story.
While working on my next book, I have already spoken with a medical doctor, a former deputy chief of staff for a US congressman and I have connected with the mother of a girl who is on the autism spectrum, who I will be interviewing soon. There will likely be other research that will be necessary to make the book as realistic as possible.
I have also found that there is nothing better than face-to-face interaction with people to understand their areas of expertise. Google searches just aren’t the same.