Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Technology and Science in Your Writing
Some writers are experts on science and technology. Some, like Lydia Kang The Word is My Oyster, is a physician as well as a writer and can tell you which drug will knock out a character for a few hours without killing her. She'll even answer your fiction related medical questions on her blog.
Writers with scientific expertise have an advantage over the rest of us, but even PhDs with specialties in hydroastophysicalinterdimentionaldynamics don't know everything under the sun and moon. Then there are those of us with no scientific or technical background whatsoever. We're often called English Majors.
At a recent online writers conference, I asked author Tom Grace how he researches technology for his novels. His answer was so fresh! So inspiring! So innovative! He actually goes out and talks to people. (Beats my usual method of poking around the internet.) He even went to the North Pole with a guy who studies the earth's magnetic field. Crazy cool!
Mr. Grace happens to live near a research university and designs research labs professionally, so he has access to some pretty smart cookies, but I'll bet we all have brains floating around our communities just waiting to be tapped into. Most people are quite happy to talk about what they know.
I joked about the internet, but really, it can be a great resource. Just don't let Wikipedia become your one stop shop. It's a nice springboard, but it's not complete and it's not always completely, absolutely, 100% accurate. Did you know that?
YouTube and other online video sites give you visuals right at your fingertips (eyetips?). You want your character to use a Swedish firesteel to light a fire. How can you write an accurate description if you've never seen it done? Bam! Several videos, some with witty commentary, right on your laptop. (Or you could just order a Swedish FireSteel from ThinkGeek and try it yourself.)
Magazines, such as Popular Science, that highlight the latest in technology are super fun and easy to comprehend even for the techno-ignorant, like myself.
And let us not rule out the power of the idiot box. Yes, even TV has something to offer when it comes to shows about science and technology. Let even your down time be for learning. You never know when an episode of Mythbusters or Futureweapons (is that one on anymore?) will pique your interest when it comes to your writing. Just keep a scrap of paper handy in case there's a need for spontaneous note taking.
When we next discuss science and technology, we'll focus on believability, world building, and fantasy writing.