11 February 2013

Arguing With My Technical Adviser

Sometime last year, I asked my husband to join me in developing my story and to take on the role as my technical adviser. A perfect partner for this task, Tim brings to the table over 30 years experience as a criminal investigator, solving crimes such as larceny, rape, and murder. He also spent three years assigned to NCIS working undercover narcotics. Having him on board isn't going to cost me anything, right? It should be good, and we can spend more time together, wrapped up in productive conversations about my WIP. 

So, why does this warrant a blog post? Because, I've discovered that progress can be made, even when two people have complete different backgrounds and philosophies. You see, I've been a computer programmer and software developer for over 15 years. Nobody ever asked me why I designed something a certain way. I utilize the resources I have, the knowledge I've obtained, and my time. That’s it; and I have my product. Isn't that how it works in The Matrix? You need something? It's there.

Though my husband and I both perform analyses on a daily basis, our ideas and techniques which lead to success are completely different. His motivation and successes are based on the knowledge of people and how they operate. Mine are based on the knowledge of systems. Unlike Tim’s functional environment, mine has no feeling, no motivation, and no goal other than to perform as designed. 

Thus comes the argument:

"That won't work."

"Why not?"

"Because, the police captain would have no reason to show up at her house."

"I'm the writer. I can make him show up at her house. And then she's going to drug him."

"Oh really? With what?"

"I don't know yet, but he has to pass out."

"Why does he have to pass out? He wouldn't be there in the first place and now he has to pass out?"


"Okay, tell me why."

"Because, she has to get his swipe badge. She has to have a way into the secure area and his badge will get her in there."

"It's not plausible to expect a police captain to behave a certain way in order to make it easy for you to tell your story."

GRRRRRRAAAAAUUUGH!! Punch to the gut! 

I wondered why on earth I felt I needed a technical adviser. They just get in the way. I pouted all day long. If I were in law enforcement, I could definitely figure out a way into the secure area. I felt stuck, and my expert had no other advice. Of course not. I'M supposed to be the storyteller! He's the one who gets to shoot everything down.

It hit me so hard all air escaped me. Of course, I can find a way, can’t I? I’m a computer programmer

[system message from internal critic] Aha, Diane, but your protagonist is not a computer programmer; she’s a police officer.


I finally performed some research and discovered a realistic way to get my protagonist in the secure area (I’ll spare you the details for now), but it will take a little extra writing on my part. 

I now realize our protagonists must seek out viable solutions to their obstacles without the writer conveniently putting things in place which allow them to succeed, especially at the expense of another character's virtue. The character motivations of any secondary character are just as important, and I won’t soon forget this lesson. Had I insisted my technical adviser relinquish control and allow me to go my initial route, I'd have a pretty crappy scene, and I'd be considered a lazy writer. That is not my goal.

Do you have a technical adviser(s), or do you rely on your own research?

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