Sigh

One of the problems with writing a character who is a tech/computer whiz is that I have no idea how she does the things she does. And inevitably someone asks her. Usually it’s my protagonist, who should know better by now because all she does is look him in the eye and say, “If I explained it you wouldn’t understand anyhow, so why don’t we just say I did and you’re awed by the magnitude of my talent, and we’ll move on?”

I love Pandora, I really do.

But it doesn’t help that since she started working with tech-focused fae, together they’ve merged computer science and magic and now what she does is even more of a mystery to me. My protagonist and I just take it in stride. We have to. If we think about it too long we grow afraid of the opportunity for world domination, which would sidetrack the story.

3 thoughts on “Sigh

  1. The Walker of Rohan

    Hello!
    If I may add my 2 cents, being a computer geek (used to be a programmer and did tech support).
    Being too descriptive about what someone is doing on the computer can usually end up dating your work, or putting in the realm of the unbelievable.
    It’s a common thing in movies, where they have to make up some sort of flashy interface and show something happening on the screen (when it would most probably only be text).
    I find the best thing they can do is to not show (or describe) the screen and just have the character verbally describe what they are doing in general terms.
    Consider Lex’s hacking scene in Jurassic Park (the movie). I believe I rolled my eyes and shook my head at this one.
    They showed a flashy interface where she “flew around” to find a file. Nobody would use that. Ever. Also the fact that she identified it as Unix, which would have been very hard for a 13 year old to know at that time (not a home option, used mostly in universities and large corporations). The scene would be timeless and believable if they had just shown the side of the monitor and her typing away at it while giving updates to the others such as “…getting past the security now… searching for the file… got it… activating the fence power grid now…”.
    Anyways, that’s my suggestion, don’t get too detailed, assume the reader will fill in the blanks with his/her favourite operating system and interface (which will be more believable to them than if you tried to tell them about it).
    What the computer is doing is usually not important, it’s what the person is doing on the computer that is.
    Sorry for getting so long winded. What can I say? I’m a geek. :)

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  2. Talyesin

    When I was writing Squirrelman, the main character was an accountant.

    I failed accounting.

    Luckily, the fact that he was an accountant wasn’t even close to story, and only had occasional impact on his character (like insisting everyone keep their bills for deductions on the team’s taxes).

    So yeah. It’s an invaluable lesson in writing around a subject.

    Reply
  3. Owldaughter Post author

    Thanks for the input guys, but you’ve essentially confirmed what I’m already doing — the process isn’t important so I don’t bother describing it, the results are what move the story along. (If one described it step by step it would be a manual, not a novel.)

    My problem isn’t with writing the technology, it’s fully understanding what makes my character tick. I feel discomfort when writing about something (even peripherally) that I don’t understand. The only way I can deal with it is to keep reminding my brain that no one knows what a fusion of computer technology and magic would do, which means I get to make the rules so long as they’re consistent and universally applicable in this world. Muah-hah-hah.

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