A little knowledge is said to be a dangerous thing, but what about too much knowledge?  If you’re unsure, just pull up a chair next to a Star Wars geek and ask, “So, Tie-fighter or X-wing fighter—which is better in a dogfight?”

This is the tricky thing about realism.  Readers today are sophisticated.  They won’t take things at face value anymore.  You need to be pretty sure of your facts before you commit them to paper, so being an expert can have a lot of advantages.  If you’re an oncologist, who’s going to fault you on cancer treatments?  If you’re a cop, who’s going to pick holes in your investigation techniques?

That’s the upside.  What about the down?

As an expert, it’s easy to wax lyrical about your specialist subject and fill page after page with detail that only an expert would know.  This makes you sound like an authority on the fictional and factual matters at hand, but God, are you dull.  Suddenly, you’ve turned an exciting novel into a textbook (are you taking note, Tom Clancy?).

Sometimes it’s good to be an outsider to a subject.  You can rationally decide what is relevant and what isn’t.  When you’re an expert, it’s not always easy to remain objective and you have to walk a fine line.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a nuclear physicist, a cop, a pathologist or even a seamstress.  Give us insight, not a lecture.

Simon Wood

12 thoughts on “Expertise

  1. JDRhoades

    Well, the TIE’s faster and more maneuverable, but the X-Wing’s got better armament, longer range, and shields. So one on one, I’d have to say the X-Wing. Problem is, the Empire tends to swarm you with TIE’s and…oh, wait, that wasn’t the point, was it?

    Sorry. Never mind.[/geek]

  2. Ross Hugo-Vidal

    Gentlemen, and ladies,our household Star Wars armaments expert, 12-year old Spencer H-V, would like to weigh in. Here he is, in his words:

    The TIE fighter is less manuerable, it doesn’t have a hyperdrive(engine), and it has lessarmaments.You see, the Tie fighter has onlytwo laser blasters, whereas the X-wing has twoblasters, and two ion cannons.The X-wing also has missles.Dusty, I believe you have the Tie fighter mixed up with the TIE inter–ceptor, which makes the TIE fighter and X-wing look like bantha fodder(get it?).Signed,Darth Spencer

    …and there you have it from Julia Spencer-Fleming’s son. We think he has a future in action-adventure.Best,Ross (GREAT seeing you at BCon Simon)

  3. JDRhoades

    Simon, you bring up Star Wars on the Internet and this is gonna happen.

    Ross: I stand corrected. I know better than to try to argue SW technical specs with a 12 year old.

  4. Ross Hugo-Vidal

    Dusty, you see all your legal training has paid off. Was a litigator 15 years myself. Seriously, I did not have as much horse sense as you and DID try to argue tech specs with Spencer. He’s now my expert witness. I really enjoyed meeting you (and your delightful wife) in Madison. I don’t get out in polite society often these days (3 kiddos) so forgive any social fox-passes (the combination of Konrath,thai food, AND the Lee Child party was a figurative boilermaker); look forward to trading war stories one of these days. OK, maybe I’m kowtowing for an arc of SAFE AND SOUND for Julia, who REALLY emjoys your work, but don’t tell anybody… And I really enjoy your blog. Amazing how a Son of the South and a card-carrying flaming Yankee liberal can think along such similar lines. Except YOU’RE witty…


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