Monday, March 4, 2013

How to exploit friends and influence strangers: Part 1

Writers like to ask questions. It’s an occupational hazard. When you spend X hours a day asking characters “why did you do that?” it sort of becomes second nature. We’re not trying to be nosy pests. We just can’t help ourselves. When there is a quandary that the internet can’t solve, there is no shame in turning to your friends. Heck, a lot of times it’s better and faster to turn to them first.

I have a good mind for trivial information but there are a lot of subjects that for one reason or another, I know jack squat about. As fate would have it, those tend to be the subjects that my stories require me to research. For example, I was free writing a scene wherein my protagonist needed to get someone to tell her the sensitive information she needs. The obvious solution was to get the informant tipsy enough to become chatty. The problem was that the informant was not a casual drinker or the sort of person that would frequent bars. That ruled out all the usual imbibables.

The informant however, was the sort of person that would occasionally indulge in a glass of good whisky. This presented me with another problem. I don’t know anything about whisky, quality or otherwise, and since I don’t drink there was no way for me to find out first hand. Fortunately I have friends that do drink and within a few minutes they were able to give me the information I needed so my protagonist could get the information she needed. Yay!

Sure, I could have Googled the answer but sending a text message isn’t laborious. Plus, I didn’t have to waste an hour sifting through search results and one of my friends gets the satisfaction of knowing their help was instrumental to that scene. It’s a win all across the board.

So, how do I keep track of which friends knows what? That’s easy. They’re my friends. I already know their hobbies and interests. You don’t need a knack for trivia to keep track of that. Sure, I could keep a list (and if that helps you, by all means, do) but since I do have a knack, I don’t need to. Besides, it would be a bit creepy if any of them saw such a list on my computer.

Of course there is always going to be a topic that none of my friends have a working knowledge of and that’s ok. In those circumstances I can turn to the internet or professionals in the field to satisfy me. If I were an introvert, this wouldn’t be a go to method for me. I’d probably stick to library books and Google in that case. Since I’m not an introvert and have many friends, it would be idiotic not to crowd source whenever possible. Just because I can’t afford an assistant doesn’t mean that I don’t have lovely people willing to volunteer for a few moments. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

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