I’ll tell you what I don’t know. A LOT!
Being a radio host for so long makes a person a professional information skimmer. There’s so much to read and consume to learn about, well, everything. And only now that I’m no longer a newscaster or show host do I realize how much effort I had to put into it. Because god help you if you get a fact wrong. It’s almost as if there are people lying in wait for you to make a mistake so they can pounce!
But it’s not just the pouncing. It’s also wanting to do a solid job. Anybody can throw a mic switch on and babble. I took pride in babbling information that usually stood up to scrutiny.
Many things you learn serve you well in the long run. There are also some you’ll use once and never again. But you can’t fake facts if you want to be credible. Figuring out how things work, from politics to a water bill to international diplomatic relations, is part of the job.
I thought about this as I began a major writing project a few weeks ago. It has put me on a steep learning curve. It’s more of a hairpin turn. I need to know the ins and outs of being an electrician.
I’ve met electricians, hired them, talked to them and we even have one in the family, our nephew Jordan. But that doesn’t mean I know jack squat about what they do. Certainly not well enough to explain it and convince anyone that I’m an expert. Jordan did a wonderful job putting a new electrical panel in our London house. An electrical inspector pronounced it sound. And that’s as far as my knowledge on that subject extends.
Google is my friend but some specifics are still difficult to find. My fictional electrician went to school a long time ago. How much did tuition cost then? How long did he go for? Apprenticeships have also changed since then. I have had to research everything from what he might wear on the job to his capabilities at different points in his career.
This project makes me think of Carolyn Arnold, our international best-selling crime fiction novelist friend whose 40+ books stand up to close inspection. It’s because of research. Carolyn has taken courses in forensics, has police friends she can call on with questions and puts concerted effort into weaving reality into her murder mysteries. It’s something the reader doesn’t notice because it’s done right. They have no clue about the amount of effort that’s gone into making the story seem effortlessly told.
That’s what I’m aiming for with my fictional electrician. I hope to learn so much about electrical work that the details flow out of my fingertips in a natural way. I know for sure there’s one fact that no one can argue with. I’ve named him Jordan.