There’s a lot I don’t know about a lot of things.
Most of the time, I’ll brazen my way through a scene I’m writing and eventually do enough research to ensure my premise won’t knock a reader out of the story.
This was the case last week. I’d pushed through several chapters and began to think that I might be really, really off base. So, with the help of the handy-dandy Yellow Pages, I found listings for local home/corporate security businesses. My story line required a high-end place, maybe with a store front, so that I could see some of the hidden cameras up close.
Many of these services had online presences and their websites gave me a little feel about their clients and expertise. From there, I selected the one that most intrigued me and picked up the phone. A nice, neutral receptionist answered. After explaining the following request might be a bit odd, I launched into my standard pitch about being a mystery writer and wanting to get my info right.
The receptionist asked me to hold. I played a couple of games of spider solitaire and waited. A young man came on the line and proceeded to answer my queries. He then offered to show me some equipment — his business doesn’t have a store front — if I wanted to come see.
Oh, baby. What an opportunity.
The next morning at 9 am, I pulled up to one of those purposely nondescript buildings, the kind you find in industrial parks around the country. The kind you’d never remember after you left. The door was locked. The nice receptionist clicked on something out of view and let me in. She also brought me a great cup of coffee. The young man with whom I’d spoken used a magnetic key to let me into a conference room with a gorgeous rosewood table, sat me down in a plush leather chair . . . and opened his world to me.
Covert cameras, digital versatile recorders, computer interfaces — he answered every single one of my questions. He took me into secured areas so that I could see some of the systems first hand. He brought out a video camera no larger than the last joint on my little finger and told me how and where such an instrument could be hidden. He showed me all the security cameras in his own building and then took me into another secured room where I could see the recordings. He used a joystick to move one of the cameras outside and we looked into a building about 1/3 mile away; I actually could see what the people inside were doing. It was creepy, fascinating and wonderful all at once.
One of the unexpected pleasures of writing fiction is that I get to learn all kinds of things that I never thought about before. I love going into food processing plants, agricultural research centers, government buildings and talking with experts about what they do. I’ve done it for years in my nonfiction — but fiction now affords me many of the same perks.
And, they’re ALWAYS a gas.
I hope in the comments you’ll share:
Readers: What are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned while reading a novel?
Writers: What are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned while writing your novel (or short story)?
I can’t wait to read what you’ve got to say . . .